Name an aspect of the human experience, and there’s probably a horror movie out there that exploits our anxieties about it. Sleeping (the entire Nightmare on Elm Street franchise), procreation (Rosemary’s Baby), death (okay, pretty much every horror movie)—all well represented.
Foods we know and love may not always play lead, but they’ve made some memorable cameos over the years. Here are some horror movie moments when food (packaged food, in particular) plays a prominent part. (Spoilers ahead.)
Scream (1996): Jiffy Pop
The brilliant, brutal 13-minute opening of this Wes Craven classic is set against a casual movie night at home circa 1996, and features Drew Barrymore as Casey getting ready for a night on the couch by making a tray of Jiffy Pop popcorn on the stove. The popcorn isn’t long for the world, and neither is Casey. I saw Scream in theaters and I remember Jiffy Pop feeling weirdly anachronistic in ’96, when pretty much every home was outfitted with a microwave caked in a decade of Pizza Rolls splatter. But that very specific popcorn choice is part of what makes the scene memorable.
Urban Legend: Pop Rocks
In the 1990s, it seemed like approximately half of society earnestly believed that washing down a packet of Pop Rocks with a can of soda would instantly kill a person. The 1998 slasher Urban Legend riffed on that myth in a scene in which Damon (Joshua Jackson) consumes the combo to prove a professor’s point in a college course about urban legends (sign me up). I don’t know about you, but I always hated how much Pop Rocks spit he got in his own eye in the name of a gag!
Maximum Overdrive: Canned Soda
Stephen King once admitted that he was “coked out of [his] mind” during the filming of Maximum Overdrive, the only film he ever directed. And, baby, it shows. This movie is outrageous in all the best ways, and one of the most memorable scenes involves a homicidal soda machine going on a killing spree. Thanks, cocaine!
Get Out: Froot Loops and Milk (Separately)
Eating a bowl of cereal with a glass of milk on the side is weird, sure, but it’s particularly chilling when a budding young psychopath is doing it. In Jordan Peele’s 2017 masterpiece Get Out we learn that there’s something very wrong with Rose (Allison Williams) and her ostensibly very liberal family. Once that’s been revealed, we’re given a peek at the real Rose, an emotionally stunted weirdo who sits in her room eating dry Froot Loops with her fingers, sipping milk out of a straw, and listening to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. “There’s something kind of horrific about milk,” Peele said in an interview. “Think about it! Think about what we’re doing. Milk is kind of gross.”
The Lost Boys: Chinese Takeout
Even though they’re technically dead and subsist on human blood, do vampires still eat food food? It probably varies by film, but in The Lost Boys, Chinese food is on the menu for the reckless posse of punk rock vampires who terrorize Santa Carla, California. I don’t know a single child who didn’t double check their takeout boxes of rice and lo mein for maggots and worms after watching this scene.
This brief scene from Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, in which everyone’s favorite bioexorcist uses a candy bar to lure a fly to his cute lil burial site, always made me want a Zagnut, even though I’d never had a Zagnut. What’s a Zagnut? It’s a candy bar of crunchy peanut butter coated in toasted coconut flakes, kind of like a Chick-O-Stick or a Butterfinger that someone dropped on the floor. Ultimately, probably best suited to being fly bait.
The Shining (1980): Jack Daniels
Oh, look. It’s one of the best movies ever made, horror or otherwise. Recovering alcoholic and hotel caretaker Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) starts edging toward the deep end and the ghosts of the Overlook are there to give him a nice lil nudge. In this chilling scene, Jack is treated to the hair of the dog that bit him, Jack Daniels on the rocks.
Mandy: Cheddar Goblin
Panos Cosmatos’s revenge thriller Mandy is trippy, gory, and disturbing, but it has its delightful moments too, like this faux commercial for a boxed mac and cheese called Cheddar Goblin. You won’t find DeVane Cheddar Goblin Mac and Cheese at a real grocery store—which is a bummer considering it has 60 percent more cheese than leading brands and is barfed into your bowl by a small green homunculus with razor-sharp teeth—but you can certainly buy another brand and pretend you’re eating goblin upchuck.