When I lived in DC, I took at least two showers a day because of the swamp heat and humidity. Even then, after reaching what could technically, numerically be called adulthood, I would find myself checking cautiously behind the curtain (from time to time) for psychotic serial killers.
The bathroom, and the bathtub in particular, is an incredibly vulnerable place. After all, we are (usually) alone. We are cornered. We are naked.
Many films have exploited this vulnerability, but not all of them do it for fear. In fact, it turns out that where we spend .6% of our lives can also be an incredibly poignant space. It can also be hilarious. Many films have killed characters in the bathtub, but only a few could float to the soap-covered top as the best of the best.
As with anything dealing with death in films, there will be a lot of spoilers. So beware. And beware of that clown living in your sewer system.
8. Bowman from Leviathan
Although it was rightfully lambasted in one of the first Junkfood Cinema entries, Leviathan includes a great bathroom suicide. In the shower room we were acquainted with earlier (when the film uses an examination as an excuse to see some nude boobs), Doc heads toward a hissing sound that will most likely kill him. Instead, what he finds in the steam-filled room is Bowman, a young woman who has decided to slit her wrists instead of shuffle off her mortal coil as a fish monster. According to the script, “the death effects [sic] him greatly.” It affected us greatly, too.
7. Phil Connors Attempts to Escape Groundhog Day
Although it’s one of the funniest films ever made, it still lands near the bottom of this list (getting on it is a triumph in and of itself). During the middle of the film, Phil has decided to off himself in order to escape the horrid repetition of life on his least favorite snowed-in holiday. What results is a montage of hilarious suicide attempts ‐ including a very calm, deliberate moment where Phil steps into a full bath, makes himself some toast and promptly electrocutes himself.
6. Stan Attempts to Escape It
There’s something ultimately horrifying about Tim Curry in clown make-up. That’s a given. However, up until this scene, it was unclear whether it was scarier than offing yourself in your own shower while writing a message to the future in your own blood. It’s not grisly because we never get to directly see it, but that’s part of the brilliance of the scene in which Richard Masur’s Stan chooses suicide over facing the inter-dimensional terror clown again. It’s shocking to see the writing on the wall.
5. Loneliness Kills in Rules of Attraction
It’s starting to feel like this should be the list of best bathtub suicides (and there’s one more to come) but there are few things as startling as watching a character slip away in their own human soup. In the case of the anonymous girl from Rules of Attraction, it’s her love of Sean Bateman and his continually ignoring her (and her heartfelt love letters) that forces her hand. She slices a deep cut down the length of her wrist after drawing a hot bath only to be found later and kissed by Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon).
4. Acid Bath from Slaughter High
It’s not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s still something magical about a moronic girl stopping to take a bath when her friend has just had his stomach blown wide open by acid-laced beer. She gets what’s coming to her in the form of acid spewing forth from the tap, and she dissolves like the Wicked Witch of the Dumb Slasher.
3. Arvid’s Vinyl Death in Swing Kids
Even though you can now turn your ashes into a vinyl record, there are few moments more purely dramatic and heartbreaking than when Arvid (Frank Whaley) ‐ the guitar-slinging Swing Kid ‐ slices his wrist open with the jagged edge of a Benny Goodman LP. The lock-step march of Nazis have taken over Germany, his friends, and his music. Once he sees he has nothing left to live for in a life under the SS, he uses the one beacon of joy in his life to end it.
2. Death Makes Tod’s Shower his Final Destination
After successfully dodging death on a plane by listening to crazy best friend Alex Browning (Devon Sawa), Tod (Chad Donella) commits the fatally banal act of getting in his shower. A leaky toilet, a shaving cut, and a laundry line leave Tod with his eyes bulging and the coroner calling it a suicide. It’s an important lesson in never spilling shampoo in the shower while you’re choking to death.
1. The Shadow Outside the Curtain
The most iconic bathtub death scene in the history of film is the famous violin-accompanied stabbing of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) in Psycho. Nothing even comes close. The black and white showing the hint of a shadowy outline, a darkened face behind a tattered wig, the raising of that damned knife. It all works to create something that’s incredibly frightening, but beautiful and artistic in a way that has our eyes glued to it. And we thought it was just another peeping tom.
What did I leave out?