5 Memorable Moments: Head Trauma

Movies of all genres contain different levels of violence. Back in the day, one would have to go to the horror genre to get blood, guts and gore. As films became more graphic in their depiction of violence, society’s exposure to this content has desensitized viewers, leading to even more extreme content in an attempt to provoke a shock and a visceral response from the audience. The impact of this trend is also reflected in the MPAA’s current day ratings. 2017 is delivering many PG-13 ratings for films that would have easily been rated R just a decade before (KONG: SKULL ISLAND is a great example).  This observation struck me while selecting five notable scenes for this article.  Here are 5 examples of explicit head trauma from 5 very different genre films.

This Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman directed classic, THE TOXIC AVENGER, displays a brutal head crushing scene. What makes this so disturbing is how it comes about and who the perpetrators of violence are. The recipient of the grotesque melon crushing is a young innocent child riding a bicycle. The murderers are good-for-nothing delinquent teens, making a game out of killing people with their car.  It’s a stand out moment of darkness in an otherwise over-the-top horror comedy infused with a comic book sensibility.

Giannetto De Rossi is the Pablo Picasso of cinematic horror moments. His ability to deliver realistic makeup effects on film are second to none for the era in which he worked (all before CGI). From ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) to a wide variety of Italian exploitation films including THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE (1974), THE BEYOND (1981) and ZOMBIE (1979). This example from Lucio Fulci’s THE BEYOND happens in an intense scene situated in a sterile morgue.  Dr. John McCabe (David Warbeck) perforates the front of this female zombie’s cranium with his Magnum. It’s a wonderful piece of art that cements an indelible image of violence in the viewer’s mind.

This long running horror franchise is full of gory special effects, with some good and some not so good. In the case of the Steve Minor directed FRIDAY THE 13th PART III, most are not good. I include the following head trauma moment because it’s laughably bad, as is most of the picture, but delivers on a gruesome concept.  As seen in the image below, a character’s head is crushed to a point where the internal pressure causes an eyeball to burst out of his skull (all in miraculous 3D during this film’s original theatrical run). I’ve disliked this entry in the series for many years. The film is poorly made and the characters are unanimously unlikeable. However, over the last decade or so I’ve grown to admire its schlocky charms.

Directed by Jim Wynorski, this classic genre picture recently received an amazing Blu-ray release which makes this head explosion better than ever. The high definition print of the film proves that the effect itself was way ahead of its time in both execution and technique. This practical effect has not aged at all, punctuating the goopy, messy splatter of exploding brain matter. Leslie (Suzee Slater) is out wandering the mall after hours looking for her boyfriend Mike (John Terlesky), not realizing he’s already been killed. As she approaches his shadowed corpse, a malfunctioning security robot blasts a searing laser beam into her head, exploding it to bits. It’s an absolutely wonderful thing to experience and completely unexpected if seeing the picture for the first time.

GAME OF THRONES (2011 – present)
I’ve not seen one minute of this series but from what I understand, I need to be watching it. Pay television has developed a number of long form cinematic stories delivered as serials, thus qualifying for mention. This head trauma represents a modern day example on film. Although the camera turns away for a brief second during this devastating event, the sound effects are enough to make you cringe during the off-camera head crushing before the camera returns to drive home the aftermath of the violent act.

There you have it, 5 examples of head trauma. There are certainly many more examples and this will likely be followed up in the future. If you have a head trauma you’d like to share with us, please comment in the space provided below.

Contributed by: Mike Murphy


  1. Eyeball trauma disturbs the crap outta me. No one wants to lose their vision (even if they are going to up the ante by having their skull crushed in). The CHOPPING MALL head explosion always amused me because the victim is shot in the derriere before the noggin and her back end doesn’t explode. Where the logic in that? Why didn’t we get butt trauma?

  2. Perfect timing. I recently just saw the film LIFE in theaters and that had it’s share of general gore attacks but I was made particularly uncomfortable when the creature attacked a test rodent. It was really disturbing and a great example of the ultra-violent and graphic depictions to make the audience squirm.

      1. Content Rating (MPAA)
        Rated R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror.

        IMDb says something like 30 f***s were made but honestly, language is such a minor thing I didn’t realize how often it was used and unsure if it really deserves a ‘R’. I think the “sci-fi violence” probably played more in the ratings than language.

  3. You to forgot the most amazing head trauma effect ever filmed, Maniac! Tom “the asshole” Savini’s incredible shotgun to the face effect blew me away back then, yet it still holds up and one of the most intense and memorable practical effect in horror history. His work speaks for itself, but as a person I would probably avoid doing an interview with him, success has gone to his mustache and plastic surgery.