If you've seen one victim running away from a psychotic killer who is armed with knives/chainsaws/their spiky fingernails, you've seen them all. Horror movies are filled with scenes of run-run-run, stab-stab-stab, and too many times, characters become victims before they have a chance to take action.
Not these horror movies. Here, for the 21st of our 31 Days of Halloween posts, are scenes in which characters use their brawn, their wits and their weapons to keep the bad guys at bay. They don't always win, but they do fight the good fight.
To keep the list down to a reasonable read, we're limiting it to up close and personal combat, and one fight scene per series. A shout-out to films like Bubba Ho-Tep, I Am Omega (starring Marc Dacascos), Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors, and others, whose fight scenes are unavailable online at the time of this writing.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
From Dusk Till Dawn has multiple fight scenes, as one would expect from a movie where the characters are holed up in a bar, trying to survive a vampire invasion. But our favorite is this one, a no-holds-barred fight that involves multiple characters, multiple weapons, and multiple deaths, not to mention one horrific struggle against a reborn rat creature.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Shaun of the Dead is one of the funniest horror movies ever made (and we know, because we've seen quite a few). And yes, the characters spend more time running and hiding than actually fighting. But there's one real fight scene, where our heroes have to defend themselves. Let's just say, don't stop them now.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
When you think of Freddy vs. Jason, you might think of the propane tank fight scene, here. That was fun. But the previous fight was even better. Freddy, who is about to dispatch Lori, is interrupted by Jason…and his machete. Watch as Jason drags Freddy through—and I do mean through—a burning cabin.
The Horde (2009)
This French film starts off with some police seeking revenge against the Nigerian drug dealers who killed one of their own. But soon after finding the drug dealers in a condemned building, they also encounter wave after wave of the undead. This fight scene, between a female cop and a female zombie, is one of the more memorable, energetic fights in a film where the humans absolutely refuse to go gently into that good night.
They Live (1988)
If you google "best fight scenes," this six-minute fight scene from the action/sci-fi/comedy They Live, will invariably appear in your search results. When a drifter (played by former professional wrestler Roddy Rowdy Piper) learns that we have alien overlords who can be seen with special glasses, he has to convince his friend to try them on. Soon, he has to convince his friend—with his fists.
Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (1974)
Hammer Films churned out horror/thriller movies like Die, Die My Darling, Pirates of Blood River, Dracula AD 1972, and other subtly titled titles. The quality was, shall we say, variable. But then there are movies like Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, which at first glance is a typical vampsplotation movie. Look again, and you'll see an extremely well choreographed old-school sword fight.
Fright Night (2011)
Charley's next-door neighbor isn't exactly who he appears to be…until you think he's a vampire, in which case, yeah, okay. In Fright Night, Charley goes up against the vamp to save his girlfriend, with a wisecracking, barely sober magician (played by David Tennant) in tow. The ultimate fight isn't as lengthy as we'd hoped for, but there are times when Charley is positively on fire. (While we couldn't find an embeddable clip, you can watch it here.)
Underworld: Awakening (2012)
Although there are many terrific fight scenes in the Underworld series—four films about the vampire Selene and her battle with werewolves (lycans) and other vampires—we have a fondness for this one. Because really, how many times do we get to see a hulked-out werewolf toss a car at a vampire's head?
Resident Evil 5: Retribution (2012)
As with Underworld, the Resident Evil series has multiple fight scenes. But of all of the outstanding scenes that stand out in Alice's five-film struggling against the Umbrella Corporation, this one, from the last movie, is one of our favorites. Why? Many horror movie fight scenes are so poorly lit, they're almost impossible to see the action. This fight scene differentiates itself by being set in a highly visible white corridor.
Don't be surprised if you haven't heard of this two-hour Japanese gorefest about reincarnation and zombies; Versus was a direct-to-DVD release in the United States. The fight scenes are marred by too much camera action, and the film/audio quality isn't all that good (although the Blu-Ray release improves it). But this stylish and extensive fight scene, with katana, guns, fists, and feet, deserves to be seen.
Child's Play (1988)
On his sixth birthday, Andy receives a doll possessed by the spirit of a serial killer, but no one believes the boy when he claims the doll, Chucky, has killed the babysitter. But soon his mother and a policeman do…and they learn that Chucky has to kill Andy in order to become human again. This fight scene is a little over the top—after all, it has human-on-puppet action—but there's actual grappling. And Chucky's death is just as satisfying as other horror movie deaths.
Silent Rage (1982)
Silent Rage, starring the many black-belted, bearded martial artist Chuck Norris, is about a small-town sheriff who has to fight a super-powered psychotic. We can tell this fight scene is set in 1982: Although Norris obviously has the moves, the sheriff's girlfriend is not what you would call convincing.
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Evil Dead 2 is your movie if you like to shriek with both laughter and fear. The sequel to an iconic cabin-in-the-woods horror movie, our hero, Ash, has to take on demons, and memorably, his own possessed hand. The scene where Ash's hand beats down Ash is one of the funniest fight scenes you'll ever see, horror movie or not. Who's laughing now? All of us.
(Don't forget Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness.)
Dog Soldiers (2002)
British soldiers on a training exercise find that the Scottish hills are alive…with the sound of werewolves. It isn't long before the soldiers are under siege. They stand their ground. But not for long. Although most of the fight is fought with guns, the soldiers manage to get a few licks in before some of them are well and truly licked. Start at 57:01 and end at 1:02:00.
Bloody Mallory (2002)
This B-movie is full of French cheese, and we mean that in a good way (if movies about an attractive demon hunter and her pals who have to rescue the Pope are your Emmental and not your Velveeta). Here, Mallory confronts the immortal vampire, Lady Valentine. She doesn't go down without a fight.
30 Days of Night (2007)
What an awesome premise: In 30 Days of Night, vampires arrive and attack a town north of the Arctic Circle during the night that lasts 30 days. The ultimate fight isn't available (damn you, YouTube), but it doesn't mean there isn't some human/vamp action. Here, a small group of humans have to defend themselves against one vampire. If you're sensitive to gore, start at 1:38 and end at 2:11
Zombi 2 (1979)
Zombies aren't the only things that the characters of the classic Italian horror, Zombi 2, have to worry about. There are also sharks in the waters surrounding an island where their hunt (for a missing yacht owner) has taken them. Welcome to the only shark-on-zombie fight in film history, where we learn that zombies aren't the only apex predator.
(We sincerely hope the guy who played the zombie was paid extra for his underwater antics.)
Blade is a not-quite-human, not-quite-vampire, Daywalking killing machine who needs to stop the vampire apocalypse with all of the tools at his command. This includes his barely contained rage…and a drug that causes vampires to explode. The action in the first two Blade movies is fabulous, fluid, and a treat to watch. (Insert your own comment about Blade: Trinity.)