The one true consistency to horror has been it's ability to draw certain physical/emotional reactions from it's viewers. For the longest time, it lived specifically off of the "BOO! =AHH!" theory, which is obviously still it's bread and butter. But as time has gone on, we've calloused as a people and need a little more stank on our scares. Enter H.G. Lewis and the word gore into our everyday vocabulary. With the introduction of blood and guts, horror made some HUGE changes in it's approach to scares. Sure, there was gore, in one capacity or another, before H.G. Lewis's films, but never in such a visceral, colorful, and tasteless manner. For some folks, it was the end of a "classier" era. Regardless of which side of the argument you stand on, the entrance of true gross-out gore altered the course of horror's history (and it's many sub genres).
For me, I stand on the side of gore. I'd love to give you a long, arrogant dissertation as to how much gore has crippled the genre, but frankly, I love blood and guts. Being a voyeur as I am, there's something soooo exhilarating and titillating about watching any nameless victim disemboweled in the name of film. Gore introduces a different kind of fear. It plays on the physical rather than emotional, to draw it's reaction. That physical reaction being the gag reflex. Gore has been a source of contention for the better part of 40 years with film fans, but still is one of the largest draws to a box office. Classics like The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Dawn of the Dead as well as lesser known genre favorites like Snuff, Maniac, and Blood Feast had people clamoring for a chance to see what sent people "running from the theatres puking". Marketing gimmicks like barf bags and menacing pre-film disclaimers piqued curiosity and became a lucrative format to work within. And have we become snobbish sophisticates who are above such juvenile pratfalls? Hell no! Hostel, Hannibal-you name it, just a couple modern pop culture pieces that have banked and bled all over their audience (the latter of the two drawing a lot of heat due to it's Academy-award winning cast.). It's here to say, and has had a strong resurgence over the last 5 years, gaining a new moniker (gornography). This same pallet by which fans judge a classic or not (at least, nowadays) is the reason for this latest blog o' mine. This is a list of the grossest films I've encountered. Some are gross for strange reasons, some are obvious. Either way, over time I've experienced some sick shit and these are the standouts. Grab a garbage can and enjoy!
Baby Blood aka The Evil Within (1989)- The French have become some of my favorites when it comes to gore as of lately. Where there obsession with over-the-top effects started, one can only guess but I know where it started with me. This sick little bastard, which I first viewed on VHS under the title "The Evil Within", featured some repulsive action. The story is centered around a carnie of sorts (played way too strongly by Emmanuelle Escourrou) who becomes impregnated by a demon parasite from the dawn of civilization who needs to be reborn into a human body: the catch is, the demon needs to be nurtured into it's full bloom by human blood (duh). Against her will, our expectant mother goes on a killing spree to nurture her little evil seed to life and the blood is provided via loads of horny, greasy, sweaty Frenchmen. It's a hilarious ride through this sleazefest that comes with gallons of blood and for some reason, a lot of really unattractive actors and actresses who incessantly sweat. The first time I watched this, I was eating pizza (hand of god) and lost my appetite for it. I broke out the DVD a few months ago and it's still gross. Seek this one out for a good laugh. Imagine early Peter Jackson and Evil Dead tactics set in an angular French slum and you've got the trappings for a fun one.
Feed (2006)-Okay, so this is one of those gems that caught a buzz in internet horror circles and caught me, like a sucker, but paid itself in full. I'm not a big fan of director Brett Leonard but it made up for his track record of shitty movies with this puker. The film is a modern setting revolving around a detective from Australia (?) who investigates bogus/dangerous cyberporn. He stumbles upon a fetish known as "feeders/gainers", which involves VERY large women who are loved and adored by men. Loved and adored too much perhaps, as the film's antagonist streams a live feed to paying viewers who get to witness the fattening up and eventual death's of these women. As you would expect, the eerie anonymity of the web becomes the true bad guy in this flick as our cop hero is lead on a wild goose chase to find our modern day Buffalo Bill.
This film owes alot to flicks like Seven and Silence of the Lambs but unlike those two arrogant twats, is not afraid of being a balls out gross horror film. The "gore" in this film is not so much whats on the inside being ripped out as it is what's on the outside being forced in. Some of the force-feeding and visuals of food were almost too much for me to bear at points. I distinctly remember watching this film with my wife during her pregnancy and both of us being outright repulsed. Leonard was able to tap into a modern vein with the internet-driven story and do up some truly disgusting visuals. Definitely not for those of you with an easy gag reflex.
August Underground's Mordum (2004)-This film series has gained itself quite a lot of notoriety over the last few years in the underground (no pun intended) with good reason. It's arguably, some of the most shocking shit that's been made in ages. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with the idea Toe Tag Pictures and it's cash cow. For an independent company who has kicked decency in the nuts, there seems to be a lot of self-importance attached to these folks and their movies. But alas, this is not about them but rather about it-it, being their film. Mordum was the second in this series of "snuff" films which follows a serial killing duo on their exploits, and at times, lack thereof. Shot digitally and then degenerated to give you a truly, grainy, realistic experience, the film doesn't have a title sequence. It doesn't role credits or back itself with an atmospheric score. It just starts like a home video and doesn't let up. Some of these effects and set pieces were so fucking intense, I almost wanted to look away (almost). Writer/director/producer/founder/star Fred Vogel doesn't try to create atmosphere. There's not a plot line to follow (I mean that in a good way) nor any character development to emotionally attach yourself to. The movie just assaults your senses over and over and over again. Vomit, feces, penile removal ala medical scissors, entrail penetration, necrophiliac pedophilia-NOTHING is off limits. Toe Tag's background in effects proved what they are strongest at because if one didn't no any better, they'd think they were seeing reality play out on the screen.
I can't recommend this film in good conscious, because, quite frankly I don't watch it in that state. It's a crowning achievement for these guys and in my opinion for the genre ( I say this, because I can't stand what they've done post-Mordum). Vogel really outdid himself on this one and challenges the best of horror directors by not letting up through the entire film. Just a few personal notes: Not only have I told people who've asked to borrow it no, but I also had this film sober up an entire day's worth of drinking for me. Plenty of my friends thought they were tough guys who could handle this film and asked me to turn it off. At some point in horror history, the AU films will go down in it's history as being waaay ahead of it's time. Until then, I will honor this film a modern gore masterpiece. Don't seek it out...
The Girl Next Door (2007)-There's a lot of different pieces to this puzzle that I'm gonna sort out for you before I start up. This film is based on a Jack Ketchum novel, which is based on a true story about the torture of Sylvia Likens and her younger sibling (the actual aforementioned story was the basis for a film called "An American Crime"). Already a story with some strong history, the film is gross because it's so real and so depressive. The masochistic way in which and entire neighborhood gangs up on a preteen girl and makes her their pariah is utterly sickening. But what's worse is the attitude taken by the rest of the people in the neighborhood. The film is set in the 50's/60's middle America lifestyle where ignoring the problem worked as well as solving it. I'm fully aware that this film exaggerates how the world conducted itself, but there is some truth to the story and it's just plain sad.
At any rate, The Girl Next Door is a film that poetically dissects the torture of a child. A woman who plays the aunt, watching out for the girl allows her children and others to abuse the girl, be it sexually, violently or otherwise. By saying this film is a mood killer is understating each and every frame of it. There are so many moments where the violence feels so real and grimy that you feel your own body tensing up as you watch. I'm certain most folks wouldn't classify this film as horror but it is in every sense of the word. The film also has merit because we are comforted in the hopefulness of knowing bad guys never win, right? Not necessarily. It plays out as an endurance race and whether or not the girl in our story survives is irrelevant. the damage is done and one never truly recovers from such atrocities.
I'll be the first guy to blow the whistle as a film that doesn't want to call itself horror yet has all the makings and "no shit" factors that make it one. But I don't want to mislead you into believing this is a horror film in the conventional sense. It's realistic and dense but reaches a point of divinity that makes you glad it's over. The sensitive viewer will definitely not be able to sit through the whole thing and all you tough guy gorehounds may shed a couple sympathy tears. All around, it's grossness factor is summed up in it's reality.
Make Them Die Slowly aka Cannibal Ferox (1981)-As I was trying to narrow down what would make my list, I knew that I couldn't get through it without a cannibal flick but I didn't want to be too obvious. I've made no bones about the fact that I feel Cannibal Holocaust is not only one of my favorite films ever but one of the best horror films ever. So, as much gushing as I do over that, I thought I'd give her retarded kid brother the spot light for a few moments.
In the timeline of my horror love life, I actually watched MTDS before I saw a true copy of Cannibal Holocaust. This was due to the fact that I knew no one with a proper copy and couldn't find one myself yet. So, with my cannibal film needs needing to be met, I turned to my Italian friends who never disappoint. MTDS follows a group of greedy ne'erdowells into the jungle in search of whatever, and guess what? They stumble upon blood thirsty "savages". Cannibal flicks are often viewed as racist and exploitative in their very nature and often times hide behind a thin veil of social consciousness. But really they just boil down to being good old splatter fests meant to test your puke trigger. Umberto Lenzi directed a film that not only cast some of the who's who of Italian horror but pretty much apes Deodato's concept, just much less effectively and much MORE humorously. It's cut exactly the way all the Italian cannibal flicks are cut: Jungles of some exotic land (Brazil in this case), gratuitous nudity and sex, reprehensible jackassish characters with their own self-serving agenda, scenes of stock footage with animals being slaughtered and eaten in their raw state of death, lot's of disgusting dismemberment and gore, penis removal-wait?! Another penis removal?! Yep, another dick being discarded in the name of gore. And who better to lose his dignity but Italy's whipping boy, Giovanni Lombardo Radice? In another role where he's treated as garbage, Radice is destroyed and exploited all for our amusement. Oh, and the legendary Robert Kerman is along for the ride (yeah, THAT Robert Kerman)...another cannibal ride. Again.
As much as I'm making fun of it, I do love this movie. It's over the top and no, it's not as good as it's predecessor, but it's not trying to be. MTDS is gory, nasty fun with a beautiful South American backdrop. The acting is extremely overdone and it makes the experience all the better. There's lots of shoddy effects which, somehow, makes it more disgusting. And don't forget, a dick gets cut off...
Flower of Flesh and Blood (1985)-We're headed back to the "snuff" well with this one. It's one of the notorious Guinea Pig films from Japan and it's perhaps the most notorious of all of them. For those who aren't in the know, this film was seen by Charlie Sheen years back and he thought he was seeing an actual snuff film and made an international stink about it. From this situation two things arose: Everyone realized how big of a douchenozzle Charlie Sheen was, and the world became acquainted with Japanese hyper-violence.
As far as the film goes, it really isn't driven by characters or storyline per say, but rather it takes that snuff approach. You basically feel like you're privy to something you shouldn't be seeing (hence the purpose of a snuff film). The basis of the movie is watching a guy dressed like an old samurai ( yeah, I don't know either) dismember his captive with surgeon-like precision. The effects are truly incredible looking and it feels like you're watching it happen. The filmmakers even had the wherewithal to have appendages seem animated as they are being removed from the victim's body. It's actually very visually stunning if you consider this was shot on video and technically shouldn't be the slightest bit shocking. But if you combine the incredible effects (seriously, for the time they were great looking!) with the weird atmosphere created by the lack of dialogue and music, it becomes a very jarring movie going experience.
The reputation these films garnered were, for the most part, well deserved. They were banned in several places in the world for a long time. In fact, I never saw the movie until Unearthed Films released their beautifully packaged box set about 5 years ago. I've found that watching this movie you will catch yourself or others around you turning up their lips as they see limbs sloooowly cut off (accompanied by very realistic sounds). It has all the credentials of being a shocking film and lives up to it's notorious name.
Inside (2008)-Yes, a film this new has made that much of a lasting impression. As I stated previously, the french have a very sadistic outlook on film and are currently overthrowing the world horror market with their insidious and brutal films. Inside is definitely no exception to this new rule.
The film's premise is based on a photojournalist who loses her husband in a car crash. As if that memory weren't painful enough, she has a constant reminder in a child she's bearing that will be due on Christmas Eve. She heads home to be alone on Christmas Eve, essentially awaiting child labor, when she receives a very strange visitor. What follows is an explosion of violence unmatched by anything that came out last year. Insane violence takes place in the form of death by mirror shards, knitting needles (exceptionally gruesome), and the good ol' Lysol and lighter torch. Oh, and there's a little scene that involves a C-section via scissors. The amount of blood and gore that was shed in this film rivals Evil Dead.
I can't lie-I was genuinely shocked at how unrelenting the violence was. It starts with a first act that slowly develops characters then once the second act hits, everything goes shit house!!! Heads get blown apart, entrails pouring out of bodies, flying left and right, and a total malay ensues from each direction.
I've pointed some burgeoning horror fans in the direction of this film, all with positive results but one thing is constant in each reaction: shock at how disgusting the film is. Part of me wants to say "this is a great date movie" but I know that it probably won't get you laid. Sure she'll cling to you as the jump and scares start but a few moments later, she might be retching. It fires with both barrels and is generally unpleasant, but any gorehound looking for a newer flick to test their gag reflex, this one'll do it.
Pink Flamingos (1972)-Yeah, yeah, I know...it's not horror. But this early John Waters picture is from the Grindhouse era and is every bit an exploitation film as anything else you're gonna find. I'm assuming most folks know of Mr. Waters work (Hairspray, Cry Baby, Pecker, Female Trouble, etc.) and if you're anything like me, you adore what he puts out there into the world. The tight-knit crew known as the Dreamlanders have been churning out schlocky exploitation for a long time, lead by their fearless director. If the phrase "this is the one that started it all" had any relevancy, it would apply to this flick. My guess would be if you are reading this, then you know who "the filthiest people alive" are. So, I'll spare you a synopsis and get straight to the goods.
I'm not entirely sure what compelled me to see this. The first of his films that I saw was probably Cry Baby, followed by Serial Mom. From there, I looked to keep pursuing his work. I'd guess to a certain extent, I was far too young to see what I saw in Pink Flamingos, but no one was stopping young folks from renting VHS tapes, were they? Aside from general grossness of Divine's antics, we have chicken's being decapitated during sex/rape, shit eating (literal shit eating...no fake turds here!), a nude contortionist who bears too much of his backside, a giant old fat woman covered in eggs, Divine's character performing oral sex on her son...you get the general idea. Seriously, this movie rivals most of it's contemporaries with sheer shock value and general dirtiness.
As time has gone on, John Waters has ventured away from so much of the shock and awe but keeps his edge. His a pretty permanent fixture in our home and is beloved by my wife-beloved in the way Europeans used to react to Michael Jackson. Pink Flamingos doesn't push the envelope but rather wipes its ass with it. You'll laugh your ass off but there's a good chance you'll want to puke while your at it.
Dead Alive aka Braindead (1993)-Once upon a time, there was a director named Peter Jackson. He loved making really fucked up, gross out gore films. Then he made the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it was good. Then he followed that up with King Kong...that was not good
Look, if you don't know who Peter Fucking Jackson is and if you don't know his roots, then you probably shouldn't bother with reading any of this. Ever. It's a modern gore classic and it can be summed up to it followers in two words: Lawnmower Scene.
Emanuelle in America (1976)-Joe D'Amato is just as well known for this flick as he is for being one of those porn crossover directors. Emanuelle is a familiar name to any guy who's parents had Cinemax during his adolescence (my masturbating, red face included) but what Emanuelle became and what it was are two ENTIRELY different things.
Originally, Emanuelle was a series dedicated to the exploitation world. Played by the exotic and beautiful Laura Gemser, Emanuelle found herself in all the predicaments that grindhouse cinema could throw at her. She dealt with cannibals, nazis, evil nuns in convents, prison-the whole enchilada. Because it was a part of the beloved grindhouse era, it wasn't done for softcore romanticism, but balls-out sickness.
This particular film is the one that sticks out the most to me. Graphic, hardcore sex, Nazi prison camp sex torture machines, and a horse named Pedro...
Now do you see why it made the list? No one wanted to go there, D'Amato did go there, and I am a worse person for having witnessed it. I don't think I need to tell you what happened for you to know. It's disgusting and it's hilarious. This is one to whip out when you've got your dude's around and your drinking. I think the conversation usually starts with "You guys wanna see something really fucked up?"
Alright, so this may not be the most extensive list but it's one that tells you what's memorable to me. I chose these films because I like them. I didn't decide based on what some book or magazine may say, but I did decide based on having experienced these films and loving them. Check out the ones you haven't seen. Or don't...they're pretty fucking gross.