There are lots of things that can make a murder clever: its timing, its method, its context in the story, et cetera. We get sort of used to horror content showing us lazy murder after lazy murder, things like a masked man stabbing someone or a gunshot to the chest. It’s boring, we’ve seen it all before!
When getting a little creative, you can come up with all manner of smart ways to pull off a kill. Here it doesn’t matter if the kill is against a good guy or a bad guy, the living or the undead: the only criteria is that, by god, it has gotta be clever.
Making the most of your characters is a must. You’ve got to show the audience how and why they thought to carry things out this way, and us viewers need to really feel something when the deed is done - whether that’s disgust or impressed shock. Gory does not equal intelligence, but at the same time when is a death not a little bit gruesome? Even if they are a bit stomach-turning, at least these murders have more than a little brain power behind them.
10. Margaret Booth Gets Chopped And Shredded - American Horror Story: 1984
Even though the ninth season of American Horror Story features a dramatised version of real life serial killer Richard Ramirez (A.K.A The Night Stalker), the most hateable character by far is camp owner Margaret Booth.
Having herself committed the infamous Camp Redwood massacre years ago, then framing the innocent groundskeeper for her crimes, she continues her reign of terror for years following. She earned herself a lot of enemies.
Even in spite of their interpersonal issues, everyone trapped at the camp as ghosts bands together to bring about her end. The problem is that if you die on the campgrounds, you’re trapped there; and nobody wants to be trapped for eternity with Booth.
They cleverly line up a woodchipper, aiming it so that the ‘chips’ will launch out over the territorial line so her body and soul won’t be kept trapped inside. Chopping off and chipping each of her limbs, they finally decapitate her and throw her body (then head) into the chipper- hoping that she will be out by the time her few seconds of head-only sentience end.
It’s smart. It didn’t work because of their poor execution (if you’ll excuse the pun), but had they chucked her head out just a few seconds earlier they would’ve committed a smart, brutal murder.