SMOOSHED. THEN WHISKED OFFSCREEN.

Watched some Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008) the other night. A T1000 killer robot is crossing the street, just a couple of steps behind Sarah with killing on his cyborg mind, when Bang! a bus or truck crashes into him and carries him offscreen, putting him out of commission just long enough for Sarah to escape. The T1000 is presumably unable to keep track of traffic and chase Sarah at the same time, or perhaps in this instance it was programmed to decommission its urban pedestrian subroutines upon reaching kill-zone proximity to its prey.

First time that I saw this particular accident/plot device/action sequence – smoosh-and-carry-offscreen – as I recall, was in one of the Final Destination movies. Nice! I thought at the time. Something new. Also the second and third and fourth times that I saw the smoosh, in whatever the movies that used it, I continued to think, Nice! For example, I remember a romantic comedy in which the husband was a real jerk, but Crunch! he was removed expeditiously in the first reel by a taxi cab.

So who dreamed up this little sequence – this deus ex machina via dumptruck? A tip of the hat to him or her, whomever it was, though when the T1000 got bonked the other night, I noticed that as my How-is-Sarah-going-to-get-out-of-this-one? was answered, my reaction was no longer Nice! but Oh, ok, right, that one.

Considering that Connor must escape impending death by machine multiple times per episode, it’s no surprise that the writers use traffic as a tool in this way. Similarly, Sarah runs over her pursuer at least once, driving a truck of her own.

(Note to self: watch one of these smoosh sequences frame-by-frame.)

A few points that may or may not be true:

– The accident only occurs when/if required by the plot. Sort of like when necessary information appears on a TV screen in the movie, or issues from a car radio, just when the protagonist needs it. Smooshing has never happened just for fun. Yet.

– The victim is carried off from left to right (in U.S. films), because the accident always happens in the lane closest to the camera. If the body goes from right to left, check to see whether everyone in the film appears to be left-handed.

– When this accident happens to the hero, he or she is bounced up onto the hood, hits the windshield, and goes over the top of the car (it’s never a bus) to land on the pavement behind, momentarily stunned. Didn’t this happen in The Rocker (2008), for example?

– Is this sequence just a variation based on the cartoon character who looks both ways, steps into the street, and is mowed down?

– A study has been done. This action sequence was first used mostly at the end of the movie, but now is thrown in as soon as is needed, whenever.

– Because the universe is synchronous, the moment that I began typing this blog entry, an article appeared in Slate about getting hit by a bus, though interestingly, the article does not mention getting hit by a bus in the movies – only in literature.

So anyway, is it time for new wrinkles? Or have the wrinkles already arrived and I’ve just missed them? Ways to move on:

– Victim is in the center of an intersection and is carried off in two perpendicular directions (one-half each) by two trucks or buses.

– Two victims, one bus? Siamese twins, perhaps, or a couple?

– Slo mo?

– Put the scene in a western? Stage coach roars by? Amish couple on a flatbed wagon, hauling knurled flour back to the homestead to make pone, carry off pedestrian who is squooging through the main-street mud?

– Victim dances out of the way of the truck, gets carried off by cyclist in the bike lane, with some voiceover PSA dialog or angry cyclist blue language?

THIS JUST IN: (a) Jesse Stone: No Remorse (2010) – Character is hit by car and flies off to the left, not to the right! Only in Boston; (b) Life On Mars (2006) – Character is hit, doesn’t not fly left or right but directly away from the viewer. Movies continue to evolve!

AND: Polanski is too cool for the trope but not for the mechanism. In The Ghost Writer (2010), he keeps it offscreen, with just the foley.

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2 Responses

  1. The hero does generally roll off the top of the car, but that doesn’t automatically guarantee he’ll live. Don’t forget the old ‘saving someone else from being hit.’
    Like say in Cruel Intentions. One of the best car hitting scenes.

    Oh, I know, Stranger than Fiction. The whole point of the film is that the hero doesn’t get killed, and he’s hit by a bus.

    Nice article. Very interesting thoughts.

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