Casting a solid vote of confidence for the basic instincts of, well, nearly every big-screen slasher victim ever, a studious look at how best to survive a showdown with a chainsaw-toting maniac has arrived at a very scientific conclusion: Run… run like hell.
Consulting with a professor of movement sciences, Inverse unveiled that well-considered finding, alongside a boatload of semi-useful information about what a would-be victim’s mind and body, as well as the killer’s, are actually going through in the horror genre’s most evergreen scenario.
When Leatherface yanks the pulley on the ol' woodcutter, flight, it turns out, is preferable to fight — at least for the average, unsuspecting victim. “It’s hard to know exactly how fast someone would be running” if the average person became the target of a lunatic, says Columbia University’s Carol Ewing Garber, Ph.D. “But I would be running as fast as I humanly could run, so your usual runner might be going somewhere around a six-minute mile.”
The likelihood of a drastic imbalance between a maniac’s in-the-moment physiology and body processes and those of an intended victim has everything to do with how a chase plays out. Garber said there’s great potential that the victim could face a marked disadvantage, thanks to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system — the part, that is, that they can’t control.
“I would say whenever there’s a case where there’s a lot of stress and fear, any exercise with running or carrying will probably take more energy,” she explained. “Your adrenaline will be flowing, and heart rate and breathing will increase just from the stressful experience. It would be more than if you were just running without someone chasing you.”
Compensating for that setback is the simple fact that your crazed pursuer is, well, crazy, and will be dealing with the added weight of a chainsaw, their murder weapon of choice. Thanks to the saw’s added weight and anatomically dislocated center of mass, the killer’s body simply will ask more of them than yours will.
Add to that the momentary surge of adrenaline you’re likely to get from being chased in a death race, and even an out-of-shape person has, oh, about 15 minutes’ worth of extra energy to resolve their do-or-die dilemma. But after that, all bets are off.
“Where they’re really frightened, the adrenaline might help them go a bit farther, but I would guess they probably would have to stop,” she said. “That person’s probably not going to make it.”
Thankfully, there’s hope for those determined to remain vigilant for all those late-night, through-the-woods excursions to strange and unfamiliar woodsheds. Just get in ass-kicking shape — and then stay that way.
Distance runners already have a head start if a terrorizing dart through the forest turns into a lengthy, cat-and-mouse slog. But stepping up the pace in your training can’t hurt. “[A]dd some high-intensity intervals, so that way you have the ability to change speeds,” she advised. “As the guy is getting close, you need to sprint to get ahead of them.”
Now you know why all those college kids in the movies never make it to see the dawn: They spent too much time partying, and not enough in the gym.