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'Death Becomes Her' Is Way Weirder Than You Remember

Updated June 7, 2021 156.8k views13 items

It seems bizarre that the producers and designers behind Back to the FutureStar Wars, Forrest Gump, and countless other timeless blockbuster films would provide their talents for such a bizarre camp classic. Panned by critics for its "hollow satire" and lack of character depth, Death Becomes Her was not widely appreciated until it developed a cult status, bolstered by horror fans and the LGBTQ+ community. As the film receives more of a sympathetic and nostalgic reputation decades after its release, it's hard to understand why people didn't get into it when it first came out. 

Granted, it was incredibly strange. The unprecedented use of CGI for comical and gory effects, Meryl Steep and Goldie Hawn repeatedly disfiguring one another, and ominous socialite mansion party scenes give this movie an unsettling vibe that may not be everyone's cup of tea. Despite this, many of these attributes are what have made it a loveable classic and a cultural touchstone in the greater landscape of camp. 

  • Helen Has A Gaping Hole In Her Stomach

    Tensions are high when Helen realizes that Madeline has foiled her plan to be the youngest and most glamorous of the two, so she decides to take action.

    As Helen and Ernest discuss their plan to stage Madeline's end, Madeline steps in and shoots Helen through the stomach, only to realize that she too has become immortal. 

  • Famous Departed Celebrities Pop Up At The Climax Of The Movie

    When Lisle accosts Ernest by the poolside, she offers him her potion of eternal life. Though he is unsure and frightened by the prospect, Lisle invites him to the party upstairs where “all of her clients” are in attendance. 

    Some notable clientele include Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, Elvis, James Dean, and Greta Garbo, all of whom had passed by the time the film premiered in 1992. This suggests that in the Death Becomes Her universe, they were all kept alive and in their physical prime by the potion. 

  • Helen And Madeline End Up Completely Mutilated

    The final scene in the film takes place at Ernest’s funeral. At this point, Ernest has long since escaped the unhinged immortal women, and his life is celebrated as though he had a normal and fulfilling one with family and friends.  

    During the ceremony, Helen and Madeline's faces are fully obscured by long black veils to hide how cracked and deformed their faces have become without Ernest's plastic surgery services. They hobble when they walk, they are missing extremities, and they ultimately lose their heads falling down the stairs in the final scene of the film.

  • Madeline Takes So Many Men From Helen That It Drives Her Insane

    In Helen's final scene where she is still married to Ernest, she tells him, "I just had to see if you could pass the Madeline Ashton test." He chides her for sounding silly and jealous - and the next scene pans to Madeline and Ernest's wedding. It then becomes clear to the audience that Helen is about to fly off the rails. 

    Sure enough, the following scene shows a dazed and overweight Helen getting evicted from her home and placed in a psychiatric hospital, where she is singularly obsessed with Madeline to the great chagrin and frustration of her caretakers and fellow patients.

    During a confrontation with her therapist, the therapist implores Helen to "eliminate" thoughts of Madeline, but Helen interprets this as "eliminating" Madeline entirely.