Like all of our good ideas, this one came up in our work Slack. If you had a choice, would it be better to be Blobbed to death (i.e. killed by the The Blob, in the Steve McQueen classic, The Blob) or Thinged to death (i.e. murdered and taken over by the alien from The Thing from Another World/The Thing)? And yes, obviously, “Neither, thanks!” is a valid response, but if you had to choose?
And like so many Slack conversations, this turned into a serious discussion of the deaths in various science fiction, fantasy, and horror universes, and which ones would suck the most. Here is our absolutely comprehensive and irrefutable list, ranked from worst to, well… tolerable? Please give us your death preferences (deatherences?) in the comments.
Various Traps, Saw
Look, all the deaths in this franchise suck, plus your last days are spent with this horrible puppet in a fucking Saw movie. PASS.
Bowel Disruptor Gun, Transmetropolitan
Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s Transmetropolitan is known for some wonderfully edgy late-90s antics, but Spider Jerusalem’s bowel disruptor doesn’t bear thinking about.
Watching the Tape, Ringu
You’re trapped in a horrific cycle: you can race against the clock to show the tape to someone else and infect them, but then you have to live with the guilt of what you’ve done. But if you don’t do that, you’ll have to face Sadako/Samara when she crawls out of the TV and that’s going to SUCK, and then when they find your body your face will be frozen into a horrifying rictus.
Curse of the Hom-Dai, The Mummy
Being mummified while you’re still alive is bad enough, but being mummified whilst alive and then locked in a sarcophagus with flesh-eating scarabs??? The stuff of nightmares. And if that wasn’t bad enough, per Imhotep himself, apparently that’s only the beginning? That is not promising.
Getting Chest-Bursted, Alien
Better than the Dreaded Curse of Hom-Dai, for sure, but only marginally.
Kryptonite Poisoning, Superman
You probably don’t need to worry about this one? But it looks unpleasant.
Getting Pod-Personned, Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Technically you’re still alive—but is that really you?
Getting Gom-jabarred, Dune
This probably won’t happen to you, either? But Baron Harkonnen kinda had it coming. #TeamAlia
The Thing, The Thing
Taken over by a horrifying alien creature and used as a puppet to infect your former co-workers. Although… I guess depending on the co-workers this one could actually be a form of fun retribution.
Memory Leakage/Decapitation/Head Blowing Up, Johnny Mnemonic
All of the possible side effects of being a Mnemonic Courier sound terrible.
The Blob, The Blob
Squished and suffocated to death by homicidal aspic. Probably better than getting Thinged, but not great.
Choosing Poorly, Indiana Jones Universe
Never outsource your Grail lore! Even the most basic Sunday School student could’ve told you that gold cup wasn’t the right one, but nooo, you had to be a big shot!
Anyway, this one is going to make you age super fast and turn to dust. Not ideal.
Eaten by Denethor, Steward of Gondor, The Return of The King
OK, sure, this one only applies if you’re a cherry tomato. But still!
It haunts us.
Bad Writing, Game of Thrones
IT’S MY LIST.
Unplugged from The Matrix, The Matrix
You most likely wouldn’t know this was happening? You’d just be living your life in The Matrix and, from your perspective, die a natural death. So it’s kind of sad, but also think of how good the steak will taste on the way.
Death Star, Star Wars Universe
A relatively quick and merciful death! And definitely better than having your arms torn off by Chessmaster Wookiees or being slowly digested by a Sarlacc over a thousand years.
Eaten by Audrey II, Little Shop of Horrors
Yeah you’re gonna die, but your death will feature dinner and a show!
And it’s definitely better than getting eaten by Denethor.
Radiation Poisoning, Star Trek Universe
This is a drawn-out, realistic, pretty traumatic death. But if you’re a Vulcan, you can just tuck your ka away in a friend’s head for safe-keeping!
Being rude, Hannibal
OK, the part where Hannibal kills you is not going to be fun, but think of the meals he’ll make from your corpse! And if you’re really lucky you might end up in Will Graham’s stomach. #Goals
A Volcano, Joe vs. The Volcano
Obviously this one’s going to be really painful for a second, but at least you’ll know the Waponi are safe. And it’s definitely better than letting the Brain Cloud kill you.
The Entertainment, Infinite Jest
In Infinite Jest, if you watch a short film called “The Entertainment” you’ll become so addicted to it you’ll sit in front of your screen in a stupor, slowly dehydrating and starving to death, filled with such bliss the idea of turning it off won’t event enter your mind. (I am trying so hard not to mention Inside right now…awww, fuck.) The good news is, you won’t know that’s happening, so really this is only a bad death for the people who find you.
DEATH BY SNU SNU, Futurama
Come on, we had to include it.
Greeted by Death, Twilight Zone, “Nothing in the Dark”
In the episode “Nothing in the Dark”, an elderly woman lives in a state of panic, barred inside her apartment, convinced that intruders are coming to get her. But the person who’s coming to get her is Death, as played by young Robert Redford—and he’s actually a pretty great visitor once she calms down.
Greeted by Death, Discworld
THE LAST SANDS HAVE DRAINED THROUGH YOUR HOURGLASS. BUT BEFORE YOU CAN END UP WHEREVER YOU BELIEVE IT IS YOU WILL GO, A RATHER TALL SKELETON WITH A HORSE NAMED BINKY WOULD LIKE TO SEE YOU OFF.
YOU SHOULD TALK TO HIM ABOUT CATS. HE LOVES CATS.
Greeted by Death, The Sandman
While these last three Deaths tie for #1, I have to admit that Death’s collection of Emperor Norton I is probably my favorite Death in literature.
How did we do? Did we miss a particularly gruesome death? Or is there actually a pleasant one we missed? Let’s have a rousing discussion of mortality in the comments!
Originally published September 2021.