man holding knife

The Silliest Horror Movie Deaths Ever

Just in time for Halloween, we break down the science (or lack thereof) behind three of the most ludicrous death scenes in horror films.


There’s something undeniably appealing about watching a classic gory horror movie on Halloween. Maybe it’s the old jump scare tactics, the apparent stupidity of the main characters (no, don’t split up!), or the often ridiculous ways in which people are killed.

Of course, as scientists, we are sometimes cursed – forced to analyze horror movie death sequences for their plausibility instead of simply enjoying a movie with friends. Today, I share this burden with you. Here are three of my favourite “that would never happen!” movie moments.

Urban Legend – Dog in the microwave

Urban Legend holds a special place in my heart as the very first horror movie I ever watched. In the movie, people die through re-enactments of, you guessed it, urban legends. Though I remember many scenes from that movie, one that stands out is the dog exploding in the microwave (don’t worry, you don’t actually see much).

The legend goes that an old lady decides to dry off her wet dog by putting it in the microwave. Obviously, it doesn’t work out quite the way she imagined.

But would a dog really explode in a regular old home microwave? No!

Microwaves work by using electromagnetic radiation in the microwave frequency range to excite molecules within the food. The excited molecules vibrate, producing thermal energy, and the food heats up.

There is a common misconception that microwaves heat food from the inside out, but this isn’t true. Microwave radiation penetrates food from its surface inwards. That’s why you sometimes have to take your food out and stir it, so it isn’t burning on the outside and cold on the inside. The misconception originates from the fact that some types of food just absorb more of the passing radiation than others. Water for example, absorbs more than fats and sugars, which is why your jelly donut will end up with burning hot jelly on the inside while the pastry is still cool to the touch.

Two things have to happen for something to explode inside a microwave: 1) the inside has to heat up faster than the outside, causing a build-up of pressure, and 2) there has to be nowhere for the excess pressure to escape.

Your donut won’t explode because the pastry is porous and the excess pressure from the hot jelly has no problem escaping. An egg, however, has a watery inside encased in a hard shell and will explode if microwaved.

A dog in this case is more like a donut – there are plenty of places that the excess pressure could escape, otherwise you’d have a huge problem anytime your dog had gas. Skin is also elastic, meaning it can deform instead of rupturing, unlike an eggshell. On top of all that, a dog is also a lot bigger than a donut with lots of water in all of its cells, which means it would take more power for the microwaves to penetrate to its insides; probably more than the average home microwave can put out.

All this to say that microwaving would definitely not be good for the dog, but if this was real life, Parker would have had plenty of time to save his dog before anything crazy happened.

(Please never put your pets in the microwave).

Cube Zero – Death by razor wire

The Cube movie franchise uses this method of killing quite a few times, but this is the one I find the least believable.

The cube is a devilishly engineered maze of identical cubic rooms, most of which are equipped with a deadly trap. In this particular scene, Bartok is trapped by a mesh of thin cables that, of course, eventually cut through him, leaving him in pieces.

Now, I have no doubt that a thin wire can cut – that is what cheese cutters do, after all. The issue is that these wires cut straight through human flesh and bone like a hot knife through butter, and they do this with absolutely no speed whatsoever.

The cutting power of a wire has to do with the amount of force per area it’s able to generate. The faster it’s going, the more force it has. The thinner it is, the less surface area that force is diluted into. Theoretically, a wire could cut through anything if it was thin enough or moving fast enough. Of course, this isn’t taking into account material limitations – a thin wire is probably also weaker, meaning it would likely snap before slicing through bone.

But this scene has none of the requisites for a clean cut through flesh, even assuming no material limits. First, we can see that the wires don’t look that thin. Second, they are moving at a snail’s pace, starting from a stand-still directly in front of their victim. If anything, Bartok would have some cuts and might bleed out if an artery was nicked.

Mindhunters – Death by liquid nitrogen

I’ve saved the best for last. This is hands down my favourite, most unbelievable horror movie death of all time, probably because of all the times I’ve worked (safely) with liquid nitrogen over the years. I saw this movie on TV and literally had to rewind and re-watch this scene to make sure I hadn’t missed something.

To summarize, the killer has put together a Rube Goldberg style machine that climaxes with a tank of liquid nitrogen falling over and spraying the legs of one of the main characters. Almost immediately he is frozen to the spot and shortly afterwards falls backwards, shattering into several pieces that are apparently frozen solid.

I have so many problems with this scene, I’m not sure where to start.

First, liquid nitrogen would never be stored in a gas cylinder like the one shown – it would be in a tank. Second, getting sprayed with liquid nitrogen would never freeze you to the floor. The guy would have had no problem simply walking out of the vapor cloud. In fact, because your skin is warm, liquid nitrogen often vaporizes before it even hits you, allowing cool science demos like this one.

Lastly, it would take a long time for liquid nitrogen to freeze a human leg solid enough to make it shatter, especially if the leg is only being sprayed with liquid nitrogen and not submerged in it. It definitely would not have frozen the entire rest of the guy’s body while only being sprayed onto his shins.

Nevertheless, I still enjoy a good (or not so good) horror flick. Hope you have a fun one planned for tonight!

‹ Previous post
Next post ›

Malgosia Pakulska is a freelance science writer, speaker, and blogger. She completed her PhD in Professor Molly Shoichet’s lab studying drug delivery systems for spinal cord regeneration after injury. She is still passionate about research and wants to share that excitement with the public. When she is not in the lab, she is experimenting in the kitchen and blogging about it at Smart Cookie Bakes.