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Top Ten Terrifying Versions Of Death


Terrifying Forms of Death Throughout Media

Arguably one of the most terrifying concepts in horror stories is Death itself. A fear so primal and ancient that it has provoked many desires and aspirations for an afterlife. Death comes in many shapes and names throughout the history of civilization, with ancient myths going between personifying Death to otherwise make it a neutral force of nature. Death has been a theme and a personified force in literature, movies, and games since the creation of these medias.

Death is arguably the source of all fears and phobias utilized in horror. Everything everyone is potentially afraid of is stemmed from the instinctual desire to survive. Death is considered the first conscious fear and is the ending outcome of many horror stories. Even if a hero prevails or the world is saved, Death is unavoidable, unbeatable, and generally the final moments of any movie, from horror to drama genres.

Death appears in different ways when represented or personified in media. In ancient myths around the world, Gods like Hades and Hel are the patrons of their respective underworlds and judge those in their final rest. Other entities such as the European depiction of the grim reaper and Japanese Shinigami tend to serve the power behind death as psychopomps or soul collectors.

10. The Angel of Death Who Saves Hellboy

In the film, Hellboy: The Golden Army, the Angel of Death looks like a skeletal, hooded nun with no eyes on its head. It does have a series of them lining its feathery wings, making its design connected to traditional Slavic Faerie Folk in the Hellboy series. It has a raspy almost legion-like voice that carries mystery and suspense.

The Angel of Death only had one major scene but its presence and unique appearance made it one of the most memorable creatures in the film. Before saving Hellboy it warned Liz of his possible fate as a destroyer of the world. When Liz remained devoted to saving him, the Angel reveals that the blade shard was already removed and Hellboy will recover for the final battle.

9. The Final Plague of Egypt

Dreamworks’ Prince of Egypt is an animated retelling of the story of Exodus, prominently showing the conflict between Moses and the Pharaoh Rameses II. Rameses’s refusal to free the enslaved Hebrews provokes the plagues to ravage the kingdom. Despite the suffering from the plagues, Rameses still refused, resulting in the final and most devastating plague, the death of every firstborn Egyptian child – including his only son. 

Death is manifested as an ominous white shroud that appeared in the darkest night of Egypt. Moses and the Hebrews avoided Death’s touch by painting the front of their doors with the blood of lambs as it swept across the kingdom. Death’s portrayal in this scene is one of pure cosmic horror. Unlike the other plagues which could be interpreted as natural disasters, Death felt like a true supernatural event and its impact to the story and characters is felt throughout the rest of the film.

8. The Imposing Reapers in Kid Icarus Uprising

Although they look like cute cartoon grim reapers with a slightly alarming theme song, the reapers in Kid Icarus Uprising are not to be underestimated. They are the major threat in the Reaper Fortress where their leader, a massive Reaper resides. Reapers will actively search for intruders and once they see Pit, they’ll go ballistic and attack with reckless abandon. Reapers are incredibly tough despite being early game enemies and must be avoided unless Pit’s weapons are at a higher level.

7. Pinocchio’s Meetings With Death

In Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, the titular character has an unfortunate tendency to die. With each death, he stays longer in the underworld, ferried by four skeletal rabbits and spends some time with Death. Death is interestingly shown to be related to the spirit that brought Pinocchio to life, often speaking about her sister’s actions in dismay. 

Her appearance is based on the monstrous sphinx with horns, a forked snake headed tail, and a masked face that’s similar to her sister. Despite her frightening appearance, Death is cordial, polite, and is one of the few figures that Pinocchio truly listens to with advice he takes to account, especially on how to appreciate his life.

6. Nito, The First of The Dead

In the first Dark Souls game, one of the major Gods of the setting is the morbid Gravelord Nito, a massive skeleton-like figure armored with a mountain of corpses. Nito has power over death and is considered to be a misery spreading Grim Reaper. Compared to the other Gods after ending the age of the dragons, Nito is morally neutral to the events of the world. He’s only interested in bringing natural death to the world and taking care of his undead servants.

When players face him in the boss fight, Nito can perpetually summon and resurrect skeletons to menace the player as he wields his formidable skeleton sword and the power of his miasma. Nito is an imposing figure with a design that very much reflects the dreary nature of his power over death.


5. Ryuk The Shinigami & His Death Note

In the anime Death Note, Ryuk is an intimidating shinigami that drops his Death Note in the human world out of boredom. This leads to Light finding it and using it against criminals and corrupt men. Ryuk finds Light’s carnage and delusions of grandeur entertaining, ultimately playing along and giving him rules on how to use the Death Note effectively, from making sure the cause of death is written to the exact time and place. 

Ryuk is a ghastly figure with lanky arms and a dark robe. He bares a perpetual grin and red, lidless eyes that quietly observe Light’s descent to madness. Ironically, he will be the one who writes Light’s name in the book once he was driven to the brink by the authorities, having been driven insane by his God Complex.

4. Puss in Boots Laughs in The Face of Death

In the animated film Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, Puss has gone through eight of his nine lives from stupidity and recklessness. In his final life, our feline hero fought and lost savagely to a mysterious wolf wearing a cloak and wielding two sickles in a bar. Throughout the rest of the movie, The Wolf announces his presence to Puss on his journey with an eerie whistle and some allusion to his true nature. 

It is soon revealed in a confrontation at the Cavern of Lost Souls that the Wolf is in fact Death. Fed up with Puss wasting his lives recklessly, Death decided to go after Puss’s last life. Charming yet sinister, Death can quickly shift the mood of any scene he’s present in, reminding Puss that he is an ever present fear for the once arrogant legend. Death’s presence makes him one of the more compelling characters in the film and his rivalry with Puss in Boots drove the story plot with Kitty Softpaws and Perrito.

3. Trevor Belmont Faces Off Against Death

In the finale of Castlevania season four, Trevor Belmont fights a vampire-like spirit that feeds on the death of living things. This entity describes itself as Death and even looks like the traditional appearance of the Grim Reaper, being a skeleton with a crown on his skull while wearing dark robes and wielding a scythe. Death can also grow in size and power depending on how many souls he’s able to consume. Death is personified as an arrogant monster with the mouth of a sailor and the cold disposition of an overlord.

Death disguised himself as Varney when in Dracula’s court and is implied to be responsible for manipulating events that lead to Dracula’s war on mankind, from the execution of his wife to the expulsion of the belmonts. Even after Dracula’s death, this entity continued its manipulation for the count’s resurrection through Saint Germain and the Infinite Corridor. He is by far the most important villain in the show, being the driving force of the final arc and Trevor’s last opponent. 

2. Malthael, The Reaper of Souls

Malthael was once the Archangel of wisdom in the Diablo series. Events of Diablo 2 led to his fall to darkness and following the events of Diablo 3 he returns as the primary antagonist. Driven mad by the revelation of mankind’s demonic legacy, Malthael is convinced to become the Angel of Death and wipe out demons and humans from the world. He is one of the pivotal antagonists and is very inspired by Grim Reapers.

Malthael’s design and personality is similar to other popular forms of Death. He is in a dark, hooded cloak and wings shrouded in a cloudy form. He wields two curved swords that can suck on the lifeforce of mortals. Malthael is ultimately responsible for restarting the Eternal Conflict after shattering the Black Soulstone and releasing the Great Evils.

1. Death in The Final Destination Series

In many films and games, Death is a personified force that can be faced, confronted, maybe even stopped by the sheer force and will of the characters. Death in Final Destination is nothing like this. In the films, Death is a silent, shapeless form, closer to a cosmic entity than any other known version. When the protagonists get a premonition that helps them save some of their friends from the gruesome fates Death prepared for them, it will stop at nothing to restore the balance they disrupted with their survival.

The rest of the Final Destination plot line generally follows the premise that Death is manipulating the environment to cause extremely violent, accidental deaths. These tend to get more ridiculous each installment along with the obscure ways the protagonists attempt to cheat Death. No matter what they do, Death has a way to trap the characters, outwit them, or bring them to their inevitable fate.


Final Destination (2009) Official Warner Bros. Trailer

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Guillermo Rosario