Give Em the Hook: Ranking the Top 7 Hooks in Horror Movie History
The meat hook has gone hand in hand (yep I did that) with horror cinema for decades. There are lots of compelling reasons why the meat hook is such a horrific tool of violence. Not the least of which is its resemblance to the scythe, the grim reapers tool of choice. Some of our scariest bad guys come equipped with various hooks to slash their victims to ribbons. Here is our list of the scariest meat hooks in horror movie history.
7. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
This 90’s horror staple gave rise to two sequels one of which went straight to video. Jennifer Love Hewitt along with Neve Campbell became a new and really awesome generation of scream queens. The killer in this movie sports a hook used primarily for fish and other meat. It is certainly not the only weapon he uses but makes for some really entertaining and genuinely scary moments. While not the scariest movie I have ever seen I certainly look back on it fondly. “What are you waiting for”.
6. Candyman (1992)
Borrowing heavily from the Bloody Mary urban legend we are introduced early on to the classic movie monster. By repeating his name into a mirror we can summon the hooked horror. Candyman played by the incomparable Tony Todd, was a product of a racist mob back in the 1890s. After cutting off his hand, the mob effectively murdered him with bees. Now he has a hook to replace that hand and wields it with a cold brutality that makes this movie truly terrifying. In horror movies, we have come to associate the meat hook with lynchings and funeral pyres. Candyman capitalizes on this history. Candyman is not afraid to discuss interracial politics and does so with a sexual energy that allows the relationship between Tony Todd and Virginia Madsen to be so much more than just a traditional slasher film. A sequel Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh explores more of the history behind the titular monster but never quite attains the level of dread that the first film creates.
5.Three on a Meathook (1972)
Three on a Meathook came out of the great grindhouse movies of the 1970s. This is another movie based on the life of Ed Gein. The scene the movie uses as the title is pretty darn horrific and predates some of the movies we highlight on this list. We aren’t saying newer movies stole the idea but the imagery certainly looks similar. Hanging humans from meat hooks is such a powerful image because it reminds us that the serial killer treats people as another form of livestock to be harvested for their meat, skin, or hair. It’s a concept we are not necessarily used to and it’s pretty darn disconcerting. You can stream this and a number of other grindhouse movies on amazon right now.
4. Scream Bloody Murder (1973)
Returning back to the hook for a hand motif we get the really disturbing and violent Scream Bloody Murder. In this case, the lead character loses his hand in a farm accident that is less accident and more precursor to mayhem later. Fred kills his father early in the movie but while committing the act of patricide loses a hand. When outfitted with the hook it looks to be less a disability and more an added tool in his arsenal. The idea that hooks for hands tend to turn disabilities into tools of violence is certainly an interesting theme but it has more to do with society’s fear of those that are different than an actual symbol of empowerment. Scream Bloody Murder is available free down below.
3. Hellraiser (1987)
Now we are getting into the good stuff. The use of hooks of all kinds populates the Hellraiser films. These movies really accentuate the gore that a hook could cause. Clive Barker is one of the founders of modern horror and the dread and sheer panic piercing someone’s skin could provoke is palpable in this movie. If anyone has accidentally gotten stuck with a fish hook this movie will trigger really bad memories. The visceral nature of hooks really seems to be the reason for their presence. They are not a symbol of some sort of socio-political idea but rather a symbol of violence itself. Again we never think of ourselves as lured by bait and then caught by a hook but that is the entire purpose behind the Hellraiser franchise. For Pinhead it’s like hooking fish in a barrel, or maybe like hooking fish in a box. The sequels are ok but the original is a must-see.
2. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Perhaps the most well-known meat hook scene in all of horror cinema. When Leatherface catches his victim and drags her into his kitchen we see the meat hooks first with a shot behind them. They are a part of the kitchen but surely not intended for our victim. Tobe Hooper than gives us a front of room shot that shows us the hooks in relationship to the victim. What separates this shot from others, this movie from others in the genre is that she does not die after being placed on the hook. Rather she continues to scream and cry while he butchers one of her friends. The idea that we could be powerless while confronted with our own impending demise is a universal fear made real by Leatherface. The idea the monster can render his victim immobile before doing the dirty work is revisited with the equally horrific Wolf Creek (2005). Our friends over at Shudder are streaming the movie right now. Get a free month but entering the promo code Signal. It’s totally worth it.
1. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Ok, I can hear the collective horror crowd groaning (not unlike the way zombies moan mind you), there isn’t a meat hook in the entire movie. You are not wrong. You don’t see a meat hook until the final credits but the end of Night is so utterly horrific the image of the meat hooks used to throw Ben and other black bodies onto the bonfire is incredibly powerful and nihilistic. Ben has survived the entire night only to be one more body the white posse disposes of. As the country struggles racially with what role law enforcement should play in communities of color Night of the Living Dead and its imagery during its closing credits is really iconic. I know Romero said he didn’t intend any of that. In my mind, it doesn’t matter. 1968 was a time of racial conflict. Ben is a victim of a white mob. There is no way around the meat hook as a symbol of white supremacy in the movie. Romero never secured the rights to the original film so you can totally watch it for free. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.
Lots of hooks. Lots of people to hang on them. As our monsters change their weapons rarely do. Which hook movies did we leave off? Would you have ranked them differently? What do you think they symbolize and why are they so popular in our pop culture? Let us know on our Facebook or Twitter pages. Until then let us share what we think is the scariest hook movie of all time.
As the Television Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.