VidCritz: The Out-of-Nowhere Bus Crash

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by Matt Singer
February 5, 2013 3:13 PM
3 Comments
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VidCritz is Criticwire's home for interesting video essays and criticism. Because, really, who wants to read? 

Two movie characters are in the middle of a conversation. One steps into the street, says something unintentionally ironic or prophetic, and gets flattened, out of nowhere, by a bus (or car, or police buggy). It is, without question, one of the dumbest and most obnoxious clichés to emerge from the last twenty years of film and television -- nothing but a cheap shock tactic deployed by desperate directors and writers. And in the supercut below from Pajiba, editor Harry Hanrahan pretty much destroys it like a person caught in the path of a speeding automobile.

It's astounding how no one in modern movies ever hears a multi-ton vehicle barreling towards them at forty miles an hour, or how these vehicles never brake or swerve before they plow into these people. That's what bugs me about these moments -- not that they happen, but that these supposedly surprising moments are, in fact, completely predictable. Are two characters having a heated discussion near a city street? Did one of them walk into traffic without looking? Did the soundtrack get weirdly quiet so it can jolt you out of your seat? THEN SOMEONE IS GOING TO GET HIT BY A BUS.

Hanrahan's next assignment (because I like to assign things to people who don't work for me): a supercut of the out-of-nowhere bus crash's dark doppelganger, the We-Just-Got-Hit-By-Something car crash, where someone driving a car is suddenly sideswiped by another car (or bus, or police buggy) they never see coming. Here's an example from "Adaptation." That one drives me crazy too.

Read more of "Hit By a Bus: A Supercut by Harry Hanrahan."

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3 Comments

  • jingmei | February 6, 2013 10:56 AMReply

    Actually every car accident works for their story lines crucially so they have some reasons not everything is totally "out of nowhere" for sure, although this is a funnyly interesting article.

  • Steve Packard | February 5, 2013 5:55 PMReply

    Wow. That is quite a compilation, and yes, most are pretty bad, but I have to defend at least a few of those incidents as being realistic examples of what can happen when a person runs into traffic without looking. People can and are struck and killed by vehicles.

    A few do fit that pattern - person is fleaing or something, runs into traffic and is hit by car, which does hit breaks and skid, but there's not enough time to stop. That's not entirely unrealistic.

    But yeah, 90% are complete crap

  • Michael | February 5, 2013 5:48 PMReply

    Great collection. Though to be fair, some of those are sorta cheats. For instance, the first one from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (not the one where Summer Glau is hit) was either Sarah Connor or Summer Glau's friendly terminator character deliberately hitting a terminator with a car. I'm sure that's not the only deliberate crash in there, but deliberate crashes shouldn't count since they don't really fit the cliche of the random collision.

    Also, though I suppose it technically counts, to be fair to Kenneth Lonnegan, the "Margaret" bus accident didn't completely come out of nowhere; rather the whole film revolves around the factors that caused the crash.

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