I’m not a fan of people having bits chopped off onscreen even if they’re really evil, in which case chop off all the bits, just do it in another room.
But I’ve noticed a trend in movies that takes giving someone the finger to a whole new level. Yes, digit-docking is a thing.
You can see why – directors can show shock and pain when real-life agonising traumas (stubbing your toe, cystitis) would simply be too much. And they don’t inconvenience the cinematic victim too much, who can still do most things apart from, say, fast typing, or counting to ten.
Watching Guillermo del Toro’s recent brilliant fish fantasy got me thinking about my fave finger removals – by men, undead feminist vampires, men, men, and giant fish-men:
The Shape Of Water (2017) – Mute cleaner Elisa falls in love with a half-man half-fish creature who she keeps in her bathtub. Watching this in the cinema, my flights of fancy about having a giant bathroom all to myself without a small child crashing in and shrieking “Mummy I can see your boobies! Hurhurhurhurhur”, was interrupted by the on-screen amphibian biting off two of evil Richard Strickland’s fingers.
To make matters worse, when Elisa is asked to clean up the mess she finds the severed fingers and decides to store them in her crumb-filled lunchbag. Unsurprisingly their reattachment by surgeons is done more in hope than expectation.
Your Move (2017) – The directoral and screenwriting debut of Luke-Goss-From-Bros, it turns out he’s not a good writer but he is a good actor. Struggling to locate his kidnapped family, there’s a tense stand-off (well, more of a sit-down really) between family man David, and the abductor.
And someone gets a finger cut off, after the kidnapper screeches “I Owe You Nothing!” and Luke takes the joke very badly.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014) – Feminist vampires are the best vampires, and really something I can get behind. (Never in front. I may be blonde but I’m not stupid.) Saeed, an evil drug-dealing pimp, invites The Girl round for an evening of mutual neck-nibbling, not understanding he’s about to have a finger bitten off. Then – too late – he realises that was the good bit when she kills him.
Wolf Creek (2005) – Actually not a fave, as this is a film so unnerving that once I’d watched it I threw the DVD in the waste paper basket, then emptied the waste paper basket into the wheelie bin, then sat wibbling in a corner until bin day when the refuse collectors came and finally took it away. Based on several true-life murders, Mick Taylor (John Jarrett) drugs and abducts two British women tourists and a young man, torturing them at his hideout. And someone loses some fingers.
I can’t tell you more than that because I’m not prepared to go back and refresh my memory with this one.
The English Patient (1996) – “I saw you… when I had thumbs. And you had a face.” Technically a Non-English Patient (sorry to spoiler it if you haven’t seen it after 22 years). Ralph Fiennes, back in the day when every interview with him had to remind us that “it’s pronounced RAFE NOT RALPH!”, starred in this Oscar winner as a Hungarian count who has been horribly burnt in a plane crash in Africa, the culmination of a doomed love affair.
Waiting to die in an Italian monastery, tended by nurse Hana (Juliette Binoche), he is visited by David Caravaggio (played by “IT’S WILLEM NOT WILLIAM!” Dafoe) who reminds him of his part in events which led to Caravaggio having his thumbs sliced off.
The Piano (1993) – I loved this film and I still listen to the soundtrack, which you’ll be pleased to know isn’t enlivened by the screams of someone having a finger cut off. Mute scotswoman Ada (Holly Hunter) is sent by her father to New Zealand with only her young daughter Flora, her precious piano and a huge bonnet, to marry the curmudgeonly Alisdair (Sam Neill).
But after giving piano lessons to neighbour George Baines (Harvey Keitel) she falls in love with him, and as a punishment Alisdair chops off her index finger so she can no longer play. It’s a horribly chilling moment but don’t worry! Love, and metalwork, conquer all.
Warlock (1989) – Julian Sands is a warlock who travels through time from 17th century Boston to modern day (well it was when it came out) Los Angeles where he meets Lori Singer from Footloose.
He puts a spell on her and she ages to 40 in about 5 minutes, a bit like when you have a baby.
The warlock, as well as having a thing for older women, also takes a shine to her housemate Chas’s ring, and chops of Chas’s finger to get it. And this is why you should always have a tube of cream in your bag for your ring (if you’re a mum you’ll have several tubes of handcream in your bag already, along with 587 other things, but you won’t be able to find it. So you should really buy another one, just in case.)
The Hitcher (1986) – Or its official title, The Original Hitcher, to prove you don’t mean the later, rubbish Hitcher remake. Young Jim (C. Thomas Howell), forced into a game of cat and mouse with John Ryder (Rutger Hauer), a murderer who wants Jim to end his killing spree, takes refuge in a diner. Settling down with a plate of fries he narrowly avoids finger food, when he finds a severed digit in his dinner.
I haven’t seen the later version but I imagine it uses triple-cooked chips made with organic potatoes, served on a bed of rocket in a pink satin ballet shoe as a comment on something or other to do with society.