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How Much Fake Blood Has the Horror Movie Industry Used?

Sissy Spacek in Carrie (1976)
Fake blood (and Sissy Spacek) in Carrie.

United Artists

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Answer by Kynan Eng, who specializes in tech startups and research, neuromorphic engineering, mobile big data, and VR:

My best guess is that 619,920 liters of fake blood (around one-fourth of an Olympic swimming pool) have been used in the production of “proper” horror movies—ones that had a commercial release, such as Carrie. This is based on 17,712 horror movies, 5 liters of blood per horror scene, five horror scenes per movie, plus two scenes requiring blood for set-dressing. Note that these numbers don’t include movies with lots of blood but no horrror categorization, such as 300, Death Race, or Rambo.

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Below are my detailed calculations and some weakly justified assumptions.

In January, Amazon told me that it had 17,712 horror DVDs and 2,982 horror VHS movies (and a few laser discs). EBay told me that it had 120,496 listings of horror DVDs. I am going to assume that every horror movie ever made has made it to DVD, and every horror movie is either sold on Amazon directly or via one of its affiliates. If something has been lost in time, it doesn’t matter because we as a planet generate far more horror than we ever did before. I am a bit concerned that using Amazon means we may miss some horror movies from China, Japan, and India, but I can’t think of an easy way around it.

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There are of course a wide number of ways to die horribly in a horror movie, requiring different amounts of fake blood. However, a quick search for professional fake blood reveals the “Nick Dudman Standard Blood 5 liter” container of washable, nonstaining blood (for $459.99!). Since movie makers are practical people who work to a budget, I am going to assume that, on average, they buy one of these containers for each slasher scene in their movies, and hope that they get it right within five to 10 takes. Yes, some scenes will use epically more blood, but others might not use any at all, so it will probably even out.

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Based on my personal history of watching horror movies, I am going to assume that the average horror movie contains five scenes requiring blood:

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  • The scene-setting kill at the start of the movie
  • The easy kill of the hapless scientist or life partner or loser passing by
  • The takedown of the first professionals sent in to take care of the threat, reinforcing the fact that the threat is serious
  • The empathy-building kill of a popular character who was supposed to survive but didn’t. Alternative: narrow escape of hero character.
  • The epic final showdown

Two of these scenes will occur in a place where there is already a lot of blood lying around, which will require more units of fake blood. So we have a total of seven blood-scene-equivalents.

CGI hasn’t been around that long, and it’s cheaper to use real fake blood. Blood is expensive to simulate well. So we can ignore virtual blood.

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