Dave, Joanna, and Neil argue their respective picks for the worst character decision in a horror movie on the latest episode of Trial by Content. This week’s debate is inspired by the release of Jordan Peele’s Nope.
The list of pretrial dismissals this week doubles as a handy survival guide to stay alive in horror movies.
Some highlights include: always keep running (Helen Shivers, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar in I Know What You Did Last Summer), only use human doors (Tatum, played by Rose McGowan in Scream), and, of course, NEVER go back inside (Kristen McKay, played by Liv Tyler in The Strangers). Seems easy enough, right?
Also, the Category Crown goes to Randy (Jamie Kennedy) from Scream, who at least knows some of the rules. The Category Clown goes to anyone and everyone who chooses to trust a clown—this one’s for you, Georgie.
The listeners once again came out victorious in last week’s debate for Best Summer Movie Year Ever, setting a new Trial by Content record by becoming the first competitor to win the total poll three weeks in a row.
The listeners right now, after pulling off the elusive three-peat (probably):
Joanna took home second place, which means that she goes first.
Joanna: Millburn, the biologist, touching the Hammerpede in Prometheus
Before revealing her pick, she decides to set the scene a little bit.
“I’m here to talk to you about the controversial installment in the Alien franchise: Prometheus,” she says. “Most of us here on the podcast actually kind of like it. A lot of people hated it, but we like a lot of it.”
After briefly giving Prometheus its flowers, she quickly begins to ridicule one of its characters for touching what she hilariously refers to as the “penis monster.”
“The previous Alien movies involved space truckers or space mercenaries—this crew has five scientists on it. One of them, the biologist, played by Rafe Spall—Millburn is the name of the character—sees a penis-looking creature come up from the ground and says, ‘Oh, I should touch that,’” Joanna says, mockingly. “Even as the guy smoking weed next to him says, ‘Don’t do that, man,’ he continues to go forward. Then, it hisses and it opens—now it looks like a vagina—and it is hissing and darting at him and he still decides to touch it.”
Neil: Mayor Larry Vaughn not closing the beach in Jaws
Neil, the self-proclaimed “Listener Assist King,” takes a far more political approach.
“It’s time for me to tell you about my pick, which is Mayor Larry Vaughn’s decision to not close the beach. It’s not just a single decision. It is a concerted effort with multiple steps,” Neil says. “In his quest to choose the town’s economy over public safety: he threatens his own police chief, he gets the local press to bury the story, he reopens the beach after 24 hours, he rejects the knowledge of the expert, and then he directly encourages people to go into the water where a giant shark awaits.”
He reminds both the hosts and the listeners that Vaughn actually returns in Jaws 2 and continues to put the townspeople in danger.
“And friends,” he says, “to make matters worse, this same character comes back in the sequel and does the exact same thing.”
Neil concludes by blaming the entire Jaws fiasco on the mayor’s short-sighted decision to keep the beach open.
“Beaches will be open for the weekend and all those shark deaths will be on Larry Vaughn,” he says. “All but one death in the movie is directly credited to this one mayor who just can’t keep his city safe.”
Dave: Addison putting both hands in the Razor Box in Saw II
Dave not only takes aim at the terrible character decision, but also at the shaky decisions made by the people behind the camera.
“My pick is a movie filled with bad decisions from both characters and the filmmakers: It’s Saw II,” he says.
He then describes the life-or-death situation Addison (Emmanuelle Vaugier) finds herself in.
“Strangers are trapped in what appears to be a booby-trapped house that is leaking poisonous gas that will kill them in three hours. Their only hope is to free antidotes from death traps hidden throughout the house,” he explains. “Which brings me to Addison, who enters a room with a glass box hanging from the ceiling and a very obvious key lock that unlocks the top of the box.”
Dave then makes it very clear how foolish her thought process was.
“Before she fully notices, though, she pulls on the syringe for the antidote and pulls the syringe apart, spilling the antidote in the box, making it useless,” he says. “Then, instead of using her spare hand to free her trapped hand, she makes the dumbest decision in horror movie history: She puts her other hand in the second razor hole, trapping her to bleed to death.”
Be sure to check out the podcast below for more from Dave, Joanna, and Neil, including their full opening statements, cross examinations, listener submissions, and closing arguments!
Don’t forget to vote for what you think is the worst character decision in a horror movie after you’ve listened to the episode! You can vote below, on The Ringer’s Twitter feed, and in the Spotify app, where you’ll find Trial by Content. The winner will be announced next week!
This excerpt was lightly edited for clarity.
What is the worst character decision in a horror movie?
This poll is closed
Joanna: The biologist touching the Hammerpede in ‘Prometheus’
Neil: The mayor not closing the beach in ‘Jaws’
Da7e: Two hands in the razor box in ‘Saw II’
Listener (Chang): Ash blowing off the wizard in ‘Army of Darkness’
Hosts: Dave Gonzales, Joanna Robinson, and Neil Miller
Associate Producer: Carlos Chiriboga
Additional Production Supervision: Arjuna Ramgopal
Theme song and other music credits: Devon Renaldo
Blog post: Kai Grady