In honour of the upcoming Blu-ray release of Blood Diner from Vestron Video (review may or may not be done), Ryne Barber from The Moon is a Dead World and of course, your’s truly from Mind of Tatlock, chose to write up a list of ten diner scenes taking place in horror. The list isn’t meant to be a Top Ten (Chop Ten?) or anything, as some of the flicks listed would never end on it otherwise (cough Legion /end cough). Nevertheless, the below films all feature a diner scene that lent some importance to the film in one way or another. You’ll probably notice that our writing styles are different (i.e. Ryne is great at writing and I’m more on the “gooder” side of writing), but if you’re curious, the first five are from moi, and the next five are wonderfully written by Ryne. Having said all that, let’s order our meal and read on…
The Hitcher, released in 1986 (what remake?), takes place more on a dusty, desert road than in a diner, but one scene in particular that lands as a fan favourite among many people is the scene of C. Thomas Howell confronting Rutger Hauer’s John Ryder in a diner. The scene only runs about 3-minutes, but the menacing and commanding performance from Rutger, along with Howell’s destroyed and shattered Jim makes the scene captivating. It is a tense 3-minutes of filmmaking from director Robert Harmon and writer Eric Red (Bad Moon). As most already know, Eric Red went on to do a lot of great films, but it seems Director Robert Harmon, not so much, unless you count a shit-ton of Jesse Stone flicks.
1988 saw the gory remake The Blob hit the screens and it was the diner scene that a lot of people remember. Taking place in the back of the diner, a cook works on declogging the sink drain, but ends up being horrifically sucked down into the drain by the Blob! It’s a gory, bloody scene that brings a grin to gorehounds everywhere. The Blob was not able to make back it’s entire budget when it premiered, but it now lives on in cult status thanks to Blu-ray releases from companies like Twilight Time and Umbrella Entertainment.
In the Mouth of Madness
Considered one of John Carpenter’s last great films, In the Mouth of Madness (1994) opens with a diner scene that works to hammer home the horrors awaiting the audience. John Trent (Sam Neill) sits down for coffee with a friend and begin discussing the disappearance of author Sutter Cane. As the discussion unfolds, an axed maniac walks out of a store across the street and slowly makes his way to the window of the diner. As soon as the name Sutter Cane is spoken aloud, the axed maniac bursts through the window and calmly asks John whether he reads Sutter Cane. It is a crazy scene that gets the blood pumping for the rest of the flick. Another interesting note from the scene is hearing John mention that nobody pulls his strings. Foreshadowing the rest of the plot in the opening is ballsy and John Carpenter makes it work.
Of course, you knew Maximum Overdrive was going to be on this list. The entire movie takes place inside and outside a truck stop/diner. Based on Stephen King’s short story Trucks, Emilio Estevez battles “deadly comet-powered” machines and one mean looking truck, all the while AC/DC blares out of your speakers. It is a cheesy flick, but dammit, it is a fun flick. For some god-awful reason, Stephen King’s story was once again made into another flick, which used the short story’s title: Trucks (1997). Although, the less we speak of that monstrosity, the better the entire world will be.
Sidenote: The above video does not take place at the diner, but boy, do I love that scene!
Another movie that takes place entirely in a diner is the Angels vs Demons failure Legion. The film was not the success the company was hoping, but that does not mean there wasn’t one or two cool scenes in the flick. One scene that really stands out is the creepy old woman, who turns out to be not as nice as she seems.
Jeepers Creepers’ diner scene is a turning point in the film; it comes at a time when both Darry and Trish realize that their pursuer isn’t just out for a little fun, nor is he exactly the type of person who gives up on his prey when they’ve managed to escape from his clutches. More than that, though, it’s where director Victor Salva incorporates more characters into the film – much of Jeepers Creepers centers on only Trish, Darry, and the Creeper, but this diner scene adds a group of people to give the viewer a false sense of security. Salva breaks up the tension with a little comedy as well, noting how unaccepting small town communities can be when confronting an outsider. But there’s no safety in Jeepers Creepers’ diner. The best thing to do is find help when you’re being attacked, right? The diner seems like a bastion for our victims, but instead they’re just leading the Creeper to a buffet.
Children of the Corn
Children of the Corn opens on its diner scene, set in the small Nebraska town of Gatlin. Director Fritz Kiersch gives the viewer an idyllic sense of community; it looks like a nice place to get away from the troubles of the world, a rural setting opposed to the bustle of big city living. The diner, the watering hole for this town, is peaceful; a child drinks a delicious-looking milkshake, and adults enjoy their coffee. Yet Children of the Corn saps the innocence from these kids, immediately giving them sinister intentions – Isaac, framed in the diner’s window, can be seen staring as he orders the children’s attacks, while a young waitress pours poison into a coffeepot and a young boy grabs a machete from behind the pinball machine. The diner scene evokes one of the most viscerally disturbing images within Children of the Corn; this is mass murder, and made to look so easy. Set in such a communal place, it forces the viewer to question the trust we place in the fellow humans around us, and even our own children.
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
There’s a lot to like about this scene from Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning. Billy is a total douchebag, and so it’s not surprising that he gets to drive that pimpin’ car or that he gets murdered by Jason in such a brutal way, with an ax to the center of his head. Coke will also do that to you, just probably a lot slower. But then there’s also the interior diner shot, making use of a higher vantage point to symbolize Lana’s vulnerability and an eerie red glow from a neon sign hanging in the window. Notice how messy that diner is – a pretty standard hole in the wall for a smaller town. Missing from this clip, too, is a nice unwarranted topless scene from Rebecca Wood as well, who I’m sure gave many young men wood at this point in the film.
Ultimately, Lana’s death is somewhat disappointing considering the visceral attack on Billy previously, but one must admire the final zoom out on her body, painted in that lurid red lighting. If there’s anything to learn about diners here, it’s that one should probably not do coke in the parking lot.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
When A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master begins, it seems like Kristen will yet again be the main final girl fighting against Freddy in the Dream World – and it also appears that Kristen had some drastic reconstructive surgery, since Patricia Arquette wasn’t able to come back to reprise the role. But The Dream Master has other plans, and Alice quickly takes Kristen’s place as the protagonist of the film. She’s a diner waitress, and the diner’s represented so well throughout that it almost becomes a character itself. In fact, the Crave Inn is named after someone very important to the film series – Wes Craven.
More than that, though, the diner comes to represent Alice’s worst fear in life: that she’ll grow old and still have the same crappy waitress job. It’s a sentiment that many people, young and old, share, especially in the growing economic turmoil: they don’t want to be stuck in a job they hate forever, wishing that they had done something else with their lives. Leave it to The Dream Master to use a diner as a window into a nightmare shared by every human being holding down a job.
Tales from the Crypt: “What’s Cookin'”
“What’s Cookin'” is a great episode of Tales from the Crypt, and not just because it’s got a handsome Christopher Reeve starring as its main character. The short tale, written by A L Katz and adapted from a William M. Gaines comic, takes almost nothing seriously, with a tongue-in-cheek humor that finds its protagonists running a failing squid diner, dedicated entirely to squid and nothing else. They’re working on perfecting squid-on-a-stick, too. It’s no wonder that their diner is flagging fast, so they decide to enlist the help of human meat in order to get people talking about their food. And of course, it works to bring in everybody in the neighborhood!
“What’s Cookin'” has Tales from the Crypt’s signature brand of dark humor, and while the anthology series is often hit or miss depending on the storyline, this is one episode of the show that works perfectly on all levels. Those small diners that pop up around town, hawking their mysterious meatloaf? It’s probably best to let other people try the food first. Unless you’re not afraid of a little soylent green.
Can you think of any other horror films or TV shows that feature diner scenes? If so, please comment below. No, really, comment damn it!