Qlassic Qliches: The “Unexpectedly Hit By a Bus” Scene
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 17, 2007
How’s my driving?
Has there ever been a horror movie named after some sinister-sounding street? I mean, yeah, Nightmare on Elm Street, but I’m just talking about the street name being just the title. Something like Shadow Street, or Destiny Street, or at least Premonition Street, the name doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s both foreboding and highly improbably. The point is, it would have the following, Don LaFontaine-voiced tagline, which would play in every single one of the previews:
“Look both ways before you cross…PREMONITION STREET.”
In recent years, half-heartedly crossing the street has become one of the deadliest pastimes in all of pop culture. If you’re willing to believe the last decade’s worth of movies and TV, bus drivers are reckless, blood-thirsty assholes, not nearly as concerned with public trasnportation as they are with steamrolling any sap unlucky enough to get into an intense argument while very slowly crossing the street. It’s always a classy manouever, guaranteed to electrify audiences, and most of the time, good for a few minutes of quality chrotling. The best, and to my knowledge, pretty much the only examples:
Zeljko Ivanek in LOST: Classic That Guy Zeljko Ivanek (one of the Drazen Bros. in 24, the DA in Homicide, some guy in Swordfish) only lasts one episode in his LOST guest stint as Juliet’s jerko ex-husband. After Juliet semi-seriously proposes that the only way she’ll be released from her current job is if ex-hubby, her boss, “gets hit by a bus”. They have an argument outside the lab, and wouldn’t you know it, Ivanek takes a couple wrong steps into the street, and KABLOUEE. LOST is exactly the show that should be using the Unexpectedly Hit By a Bus deus ex machina, though, so it comes off looking a little less ridiculous than some of the other examples, but still, you’d think a couple of super-genius doctor types would know about the dangers of middle-of-the-road passive-agression.
Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls: “Do you know what everyone says about you? They say you’re a home-schooled JUNGLE FREAK, who’s a less-hot version OF ME! Yeah. So don’t try to act so innocent! You can take that apology, and SHOVE IT UP YOUR–” Smack. This is by far the most surprising of the UHBAB scenes, because even though the set-up is beyond perfect (Regina, McAdams’ character, even does the slowly walking back across the street after intiially storming it in anger), who could’ve seen such a violent and horrific scene coming out of fucking Mean Girls? Not to mention that it implies the sudden death of one of the movie’s main characters (and I think Cady, Lohan’s character, even states it), seemingly well before the movie’s resolution. Of course, it turns out to be a fakeout–the death, not the bus crash, which leaves her badly injured but somehow fails to finish the job (despite the fact that the bus seems to really be rampaging down the parking lot, for some reason).
Some Crazy Chick in Nip/Tuck: This was the first of these that I was easily able to predict. Sean had a one-night stand with a prospective nanny, who, unlike all the other totally sane and easily rationalized with female characters on Nip/Tuck, turned out to be a total nutjob, threatening to tell the cops, as well as wife Julia, that he raped her. But, just before she’s about to shout this to the world, guess who decides to have an argument in the hospital parking lost. This one was by far the most predictable–since I’d had the other ones under my belt, once she does the slowly-walk-back-across-the-street, it was pretty obvious that Sean’s problems were gonna be over in a few seconds. One of the most necessary for the sake of getting the character out of the way, though–one thing Nip / Tuck will never have a dearth of is scorned ex-girlfriends wanting to start shit.
Some Self-Righteous Chick in Final Destination. You could call this, with fair accuracy, the Citizen Kane of Unexpectedly Hit By a Bus scenes. One of the survivors of Flight 180, girlfriend of the even more self-righteous dick character played by Dawson’s Creek‘s Kerr Smith, decides she’s not gonna let this curse ruin her life, and if they want to spent the rest of their existences arguing and fighting with each other, well, they can just drop fucking dead. Death/fate/the universe (who was the villian in Final Destination, exactly?) disagrees, however, in the form of a not-braking-for-animals-or-dumb-blondes bus. The first time I watched it with my friends (on Halloween night–hey, we didn’t know it was gonna be one of those movies), we must’ve rewound the thing a dozen times, played it in slow motion, analyzed every aspect of the editing and mise en scene. I could’ve sworn at one point I saw feathers fly out when SRC got hit. It was the first major example of its kind (there’s one in Felicity, but since Russell sees the bus coming before it hits the guy, it doesn’t have nearly the same impact), and no other would or will ever match it for shock value and closeness to legit ROFLMAO status.