Summer Movie Body Count: 'Conan the Barbarian' and 'Fright Night'
As many of the writers at EW can attest, we live and die by the notion that the pen is mightier than the sword. Of course, we’d last roughly about thirteen seconds into Conan the Barbarian if we went around wielding some Bic in the face of blood-thirsty warriors (Sword: 1, Pen: 0). We’d probably need something a little sturdier to ward off Colin Farrel’s handsome vampire in Fright Night, too (Vampire: 1, Sword: O). Still, the power returns to the pen’s hands by the time we roll around to the big screen adaptation of One Day…and a main, beloved character gets written off in a truly depressing way. We…win? You know the routine, PopWatchers: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for Conan the Barbarian, Fright Night, and One Day!
Let’s just say this first and foremost: If this Conan had let this Conan fight his battle during the heated late night war showdown over at NBC in 2010, the whole thing wouldn’t have ended in tours and documentaries and shows on TBS, rather, a whole lot of impalings and beheadings and stabbings. Alas, Coco fought his own battle and all the gouging and maiming was left for Conan the Barbarian.
Conan (and narrator Morgan Freeman!) wasted no time getting to the action as we meet Conan’s dad Corin (Ron Perlman, who does a significant amount of damage here and again in next month’s hyper-violent, hyper-awesome Drive) on a bloody battlefield as he and his fellow Cimmerians fight a warlord and his minions to protect an powerful, evil mask made from the skulls of former kings (Makes sense to us!) Before the opening credits role, Corin slays nine opponents with his trusty sword. His pregnant wife manages to stab an enemy, but not before he gets in one slice at her. When she demands that she see her baby before she dies, Corin, being an ever-so-doting husband performs a god awful, but surprisingly quick C-section (One cut into her side and, voila, baby! Science!) After she announces her son’s name (“He…is….Conan”) Conan’s mom dies from her stab wounds and impromptu battlefield surgery and Corin raises his son over his head, Lion King-style.
Flash-forward to Rascally ‘Tween Conan (Leo Howard) who finds himself in a bit of a predicament when on a warrior training mission. The task? Keep a raw egg in your mouth while you fight and whoever still has their egg in tact at the end wins. Remember in high school when you had to carry an egg around in a shoebox and if it broke it meant you were an unfit pretend teen parent? Sorta like that. Anyway, on said mission, Conan goes rogue and runs into a band of enemy warriors who roar like lions (not figuratively.) Still, they’re no match for Conan as he bashes in the skull of one the lion men on a rock and then takes out five of his companions with axes and a giant trident. Then, to prove to everyone that he’s a bit of a
sociopath true warrior, Conan brings back the decapitated heads of his victims. Youths!
Things take a turn for the worst for Lil’ Coney and the Cimmerians, however, when evil leader Khalar (Avatar‘s baddie Stephen Lang) and his equally terrible daughter Marique roll into their village–which inhabits the missing piece of the mask–and start slaying up a storm. In all, there are 18 human deaths by way of swords and arrows and one horse death when a totally jerky enemy stabs one. After the bloodbath, Khalar captures Corin and ties him up in a fashion so that if he moves a cauldron of hot, bubbling liquid fire will melt his face off (and not in the awesome way.) Conan comes in to save his dad and while he is unable to do so, causing Corin to be liquified by the magma, he does get in one good swipe at one of Khalar’s hired goods by cutting off his nose. Just to spite his face.
When Khalar, who plans to revive his dead wife, who was burned at the stake for her sorcercy, by getting the blood of a “true blood” and mixing it with his evil mask (sure!) and his terrible daughter take off, Conan is left to a massacre of his people (he steps over roughly twenty dead bodies, but since we don’t see their actual deaths, we won’t count them.)
We then skip even further ahead to Beefy, Shirtless, Grown-Up Conan (Games of Thrones‘ Jason Momoa), who along with his trusty pal Ukafa, frees slave villages. When they roll through Zingaron they take the lives of 8 masters by way of sword impaling and then, take all the newly-freed and conveniently topless slave ladies to a party. Naturally. There, in the midst of mead-swilling and arm wrestling, Conan crosses paths with his nose-less foe, who arrests him. In prison, Conan takes care of 11 guards through hand-to-hand combat and even more slashings and forces his nose-less enemy (after torturing him for information by sticking his hand in the hole where the nose should be) to swallow the key which would unlock all the prisoners and slaves. They, in turn, rip him to shreds.
As Conan marches onward, we meet Tamara (Rachel Nichols, who you might remember as the green gal from Star Trek) a “pure blood” woman who lives with monks and is told she will soon meet a warrior (Guess who?!) Before they do meet Khalar and a grown-up Marique (Rose McGowan, in a full-on Mortal Kombat meets Hot Topic motif) invade the monastery and cause some harm as they bash 5 people with Thor-like hammers and smashes in the lead monk’s skull on the floor. Marique, not to be outdone uses her Wolverine/Freddy Kruger-like right hand to slash the stomach of one woman and claws the face of another, killing them both.
Tamara makes an escape and en route to freedom comes across Conan, who makes it juuust in time as the baddies are hot on her tail. Conan slays 8 more of Khalar’s men, including one who is dragged behind a horse on a rope and smashes into a rock. After their meet cute, Conan treats Tamara like a lady and whispers sweet nothings like “Keep quiet and do as you’re told!”, “Woman, come here!” and then puts a rag in her mouth to get her to stop talking. While it doesn’t count for our tally, Conan definitely slaughters romance.
After slingshotting one of Khalar’s creepy henchman at him, he and Conan meet for a proper duel. Only, Khalar fights dirty and sends forth an army of sand monsters. Conan makes 11 of the sand zombies evaporate, while Tamara kills two all by herself. By nothing short of wonderful coincidence, Ukafa has an escape pirate ship ready and waiting for them when that battle ends. When a crew of growling enemies come aboard to try and steal Tamara, 15 get killed by Captain Conan and his crew, including two who have the easiest deaths in the movie and get thrown overboard.
The next morning, a post-coital Tamara (who literally had a roll in the hay with Conan after the ship docks and they she got to express how much his kind words meant to her) gets kidnapped by Khalar (but not before she stabs one too-slow guard with a knife.) Before Conan can get to her, he must go through a treacherous lair, which includes a guard (complete with evil villain laugh!) and a mysterious water monster. Conan manages to get past the beast, while 5 unlucky people, including one poor soul who gets chopped right in half, do not.
When Conan arrives at the cave (which is shaped like a skull, no less) where Khalar is going to sacrifice Tamara for her blood and turn her into his dead wife (Who wouldn’t buy this story?!) he lays his sword into a security guard and takes his garb. When Tamara is freed, she comes face-to-face with Marique, and during their heated cat fight (hey, there were claws in this case), chops off her arm and throws her over a banister where she is impaled through her chest by a spike. Tamara’s last words to her? “Die”! Tamara is nothing if not direct.
With Marique out of the picture, it sets the stage for one last battle between Conan and the man who killed his father. On an unsteady bridge that hangs high over a fiery, rocky grave bellow, Conan and Khalar fight (with double swords…all the way!) while a screaming, Tamara hangs on tight. When Khalar lets his guard down for one moment, Conan pushes him off the bridge and into a long descent to the pit below. So, in total there are 107 on-screen deaths in Conan the Barbarian, and while it’s a valiant effort, he’s still no match for Captain America, who offed 112. Oh, Conan, if only you’d killed 6 more people!
Our obituarists recorded 13 deaths in Fright Night — there initially appeared to be more, but most of the “deaths” were actually people who were turned into vampires, and were then turned back into humans following Colin Farrell’s exposed-heart stake death at the end of the film. (The only other notable deaths were Poor Vampire McLovin’s stake death and Christopher Sarandon’s Homage Cameo-cide.) And last, but not least, there’s the unassuming One Day. Which while it only has one technical death (Dex’s mother Alison, played by Patricia Clarkson, dies of cancer, but it happens off-screen), it’s a doozy. After nearly twenty years of a will-they-won’t-they flirtatious friendship, Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) finally wind up together. A year into their marriage, the happy couple try their best to have a child until one day, Emma makes the fatal mistake of riding her bike and gets hit suddenly, and rather loudly and violently, by a vehicle (it’s on par with Meet Joe Black‘s jump-out-of-your-seat hit) and dies right there in the street while her husband waits at a restaurant where they were going to meet for dinner. Now you see why we wanted to change the ending?!
That brings our new total for the summer to 866 deaths. Will we make four digits? Check back in a few days, as Colombiana and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark compete for your attention during the August doldrums.