Skeletal Goop

Skeletal Goop: 8 Great Examples of the Cinematic Art of Bony Monster Melting

Even if you love every genre, every corner of film, everyone has those things that they just naturally gravitate toward. Some people are always down to eat up a Western, some people never say “no” to a MeetCute rom-com, and for me, personally, I will never not enjoy a movie in which a monster melts down to a skeleton. There are plenty of movies that feature melting as a general highlight (most of them horror, but not always—here’s looking at you, RoboCop) but there’s something extra special about when a character in a movie melts down to the bone. It’s like a Tootsie Roll Pop where, instead of a chocolatey centre, you get a Halloween decoration. 

There are tons of movies with terrific, even iconic melting sequences, dating all the way back to The Wizard of Oz. From The Incredible Melting Man to Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, there are so many great examples of melting in movies, but skeletal goop always takes an already great movie melt to the next level. When bones are tossed into the mix, gross monster melting becomes an even higher art form, and it’s those bone-in melts I want to examine today. The crusty skeleton is like the “X” marking the spot on a treasure map. The journey is always different. Some creatures melt in a slimy way, some are chunky, some burn, some boil, but the destination is always relatively the same. And it is always a treasure in its own right.

Mileage may vary, of course, but I would watch a supercut of monsters melting like a Halloween season yule log. But the best way to get across the kind of scene I’m talking about is just to start getting into the scenes themselves. There are of course so many terrific scenes in which a creature or human being melts down to a skeleton, because movies are kind enough to provide multiple examples of a thing like that, and I’m sure there are great sequences I’m forgetting to include. These are simply the ones that stand out the most to me. Also, if you’re the kind of person who does not like to be spoiled on decades-old films, consider this a warning. Each of these moments come from a movie, and are therefore things that happen in those movies, and I’ll be examining them, whether you’ve seen them or not. Now, with all that said, let’s get goopy.

Gremlins 

Gremlins is one of the first movies I think about when I think of monsters melting down to a puddle of meat and bone, as I often do. It’s a perfect example. When the Gremlins first popped up and Mrs. Peltzer whipped their asses like a maternal Rambo, we got treated to some great creature deaths. Gremlin in a blender, Gremlin in a microwave, a Gremlin head burning up in the fireplace, and then that was pretty much it until the end of the movie. The rest of the Gremlins get trapped and blown up in a movie theatre or are occasionally shot by one of their own.

But it’s an unwritten rule of the monster movie that your lead monster, your Big Kahuna, has to have the best, most elaborate death scene, and Gremlins is no exception. We’ve had the rules beaten into our heads all through the movie, but we’ve seen what water does, we’ve seen what happens when they eat after midnight, but up to this point, we haven’t actually seen the fatal effects of sunlight in action. We haven’t really seen what sunlight does. And what does it do? You guessed it. Skeletal goop. Bonus points to this one for going the extra mile and letting the skeleton melt too.

Gremlins Melt

Leprechaun 

Oh, man. Leprechaun is a top personal favourite in the skeletal goop pantheon. One of the most underrated things about this franchise, in general, is that each entry has a different way of killing the Leprechaun, which is always described as the only way to kill the Leprechaun. In the second, it’s wrought iron, in the third, you have to destroy his gold coin. But the original does it best. In the first movie, the Leprechaun can only be killed by a four-leaf clover, ideally shot from a sling-shot directly into his mouth, causing him to melt down to a green suited skeleton with little gold buckles on his shoes and fall down a well.

This best part is that he pops back up out of the well for one last jolt, then hints at a sequel by saying he’ll be trapped in this well until he finds the magic that can break him out. None of which happens in the sequel, but the plot is picked up again nearly thirty years later in Leprechaun Returns

Leprechaun

Howling IV: The Original Nightmare 

It sounds absurd, considering the general reputation of the Howling sequels, but I swear to you that Howling IV has one of the coolest, most inventive, most unique werewolf transformations of all time. The movie itself is, as the title suggests, sort of a low-budget rehash of the original, with the central caveat being that it’s a much closer adaptation of the book. And it is. In this one, after the lead character’s husband is turned into a werewolf, we get to watch his first transformation in full, and man is it brutal. And gross. And just chock full of skeletal goop.

This is one of the coolest approaches to a werewolf transformation I’ve ever seen. There’s no scientific thought to it, it’s purely supernatural, and yet it has a weird kind of logic. Basically, his entire body melts down to a puddle, down to a skeleton and then the skeleton melts too. Then a werewolf skeleton grows out of it, and the entire body rebuilds from the ground up. I love the idea of melting to a puddle and restarting from scratch. Plus, we kind of get two kinds of skeleton here, so this is absolutely a benchmark achievement in skeletal goop.

Howling IV

Necronomicon 

Necronomicon is an incredibly overlooked Lovecraft-inspired anthology that truly needs a proper Blu-ray release. Directed by Brian Yuzna, Christopher Gans and Shusuke Kaneko, it consists of three segments with a wraparound that fantastically features Jeffrey Combs as none other than H.P. Lovecraft himself.

It’s got a stacked cast in addition to Combs, with Bruce Payne, Richard Lynch, Dennis Christopher, David Warner, not to mention FX supervised by Tom Savini and created by John Carl Buechler, Christopher Nelson and Screaming Mad George and then, on top of that, as the true cherry on top, there is a great sequence in which David Warner melts down to a skeleton, from the segment “The Cold,” based on Lovecraft’s “Cool Air.” 

Necronomicon

Raiders of the Lost Ark

I mean, come on. It might not be horror, but it’s Nazis and they qualify. This isn’t just one of the all-time great, arguably most iconic gross melting sequences in cinema history, it’s also a fine piece of skeletal goop. These Nazis melt right down to their shiny, bigoted skulls. There’s not a lot to say about this one, because everyone knows it, but it would be impossible not to include it.

Raiders

Return of the Living Dead 

What we have here is a fine, unique example, something that definitely counts but is unlike any other example on the list: perpetual skeletal goop. Return of the Living Deads Tarman, one of the best zombies ever committed to celluloid, is in a constant state of melting down to a skeleton. He’s definitely melted, he’s definitely bony, but it’s not a process that begins or ends when we’re watching him on the screen. Given that, he is one of the finest examples of skeletal goop, preserved at that perfect midpoint, like a mascot for this one very specific thing that happens only sometimes in monster movies, occasionally. 

Return of the Living Dead

The Evil Dead 

What Stephen King billed as one of the most ferociously original horror movies ever made definitely lives up to the hype, though it wasn’t so much hype at the time, but more of a desperate attempt to get people to go see this little, unheard-of Drive-In movie. Thankfully, people did, because The Evil Dead is all kinds of iconic. It gets overshadowed by the more overtly comedic sequels with a more heroic, egotistical Ash, but this first film is a low budget masterpiece and features a gross melting sequence for the ages.

This is almost arthouse skeletal goop. There’s no logic, no rhyme or reason to it, and it’s a mix of everything from practical makeup to stop-motion animation. The melting bits are so gross, especially when something that looks like either cottage cheese or guacamole or some unholy combination of both leaks out of the sleeve. Eventually, we’re left with skeletal remains that then have demon hands burst up through them, which is how every movie should end.

Evil Dead

Fright Night 

Here it is. I’m not one to try and play favourites, but let’s be real, this is the example. This is the Mona Lisa of skeletal goop. I’m talking, of course, about Billy Cole’s death scene in 1985’s Fright Night. This is the scene that sparked so many fans to ask the question, “No, really, what the hell was Billy Cole?” Charley and Peter mistake him for human because he walks around in the daytime, but a shot to the head disproves that theory.

When they stake him in the heart, though, we’re treated to a melting sequence for the ages. Billy melts into a puddle of green slime, chunks of tender flesh falling right off his charred bones, and then as a special treat, we’re left with a perfectly preserved skull. This is what it’s all about. This is art. Granted, I can’t speak for everyone, but this scene is, to me, the pure essence of skeletal goop.

Fright Night

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