I’m always being asked to name the most horrific, repulsive movies ever made, and usually my answer is, “Not now mum, I’m eating my dinner.” But with Halloween on the horizon I am going to take a crack at what I think should make up the list.
I realise up front that I’m going to take a lot of flack for missing out films that many Dark Side readers will feel are gorier, and in fact there may be some truly disgusting ones that Mrs Bryce’s little boy just hasn’t gotten round to seeing. But that’s OK, feel free to write in and maybe we’ll cover your choices in a future issue.
I also realise that some of the most shocking gore moments are sometimes located in movies that are otherwise relatively ‘tame.’ For example, I remember an old Charles Bronson movie called Breakout (1975) where a guy was graphically shredded by the propeller of an airplane. Then there’s the flying eyeball in Casino, the splattery shootout at the end of Taxi Driver, Willem Dafoe parting company with his head in David Lynch’s Wild At Heart… loads more stuff like that. But I’ve avoided such mainstream fare in favour of films that have been created purely to shock and (sometimes) to disgust also. Pin your ears back, grab that vomit bag (available from the foyer) and settle back for gore galore…
1: CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1979)
One of the first and most effective of all cannibal gut-crunchers, this grim movie tries to increase the viewer’s sense of dread by pretending in Blair Witch fashion that it’s a documentary consisting of “found” footage depicting the brutal fate of a camera crew ventured too deep into cannibal country. This fake “snuff” movie (complete with scratches, jumps and awkward zooms) makes up the bulk of the film’s running time. It also shows the makers of the film-within-a-film to be smug, snotty, spoiled and sporting a very mean streak which is generally directed at helpless animals. In an early scene they drag a huge turtle to shore and summarily behead it, ripping it apart in closeup. We also get to see pigs being shot, a musk-rat getting a hunting knife through his gut and out of the top of his head, and of course we are treated to the obligatory feasting on a monkey’s brains. On the human cruelty front, we witness a choice scene where a foetus is ripped out of a woman’s womb and buried in mud, and the torching of a native village with women and children trapped in the flames. “Beautiful It’s beautiful” cry the thrill-hungry filmmakers as they photograph the carnage. The gore is extreme and ranges from the amputation of somebody’s penis to a hacking off of a leg with a machete, and all the usual disembowellings and eye-gougings that make you wonder why cannibals never get told off for playing with their food. There is also a very gross shot of a woman impaled on a stake with its sharpened point exiting her mouth. But in many ways the gore is easier to stomach than Deodato’s mealy-mouthed, “who are the real savages?” lament, so he can pretend to condemn what he is really exploiting. Undeniably very effective, but it leaves a bad taste. Riz Ortolani’s music score is very catchy and beautiful, and it makes a strange but effective juxtaposition with the images on show.
2: FACES OF GORE (2000)
There’s nothing more disgusting and sickening than wallowing in real life gore, and in that respect, this shock doc takes the brass ring. Other such mondo shows at least tried to make a stab and pretending to be ‘educational,’ but Faces of Gore (which boasts of being banned in 37 countries!) even makes jokes about the horrific sights it parades in front of the viewer!
Our host is a certain ‘Dr Vincent Van Gore,’ a disturbed young fellow who meets us in the graveyard (natch) to expound his dubious philosophies on life and death. Oh, and he tells us that he practices at the ‘Institute of Gorenology.’
It isn’t long before we’re off and retching with grainy police cam-corder footage depicting the bloody aftermath of traffic accidents, murders and suicides. The first segment is Crash, and we’re not talking about the Oscar-winning movie here, folks. There’s a biker who has gone smack into a post and has split both his helmet and his skull. He’s wedged so tight that the medics have to crowbar his head free, at which point his brains hit the pavement! In another accident, a driver’s face is imprinted on a dashboard and his grey matter has similarly exited his smashed skull! What makes this even harder to stomach is Vince’s psycho commentary. We see the body of a pregnant woman being removed from a fire. The flesh on her stomach has been burned away and we can see her unborn child. This gives our narrator a chance to have a go at unmarried mothers and joke that we’re getting “two faces of gore for the price of one.” He’s a very sick man.
In fact the Doc is really the film’s gorehound writer/producer/director Todd Tjersland, who bought all this footage from Far Eastern police forces. It seems that life is cheap there and death cheaper still.
Suicides and murders are up next, thankfully we only get to see the aftermath, but it’s sad that these are real people robbed of their dignity by the Doc’s bad jokes. The footage shown is pretty hard to take, and when we check out a man who has been disembowelled by a broken beer bottle, the camera goes in really close to lovingly record the thick coils of spilled intestines.
3: CANNIBAL FEROX (1981)
Also known as Make Them Die Slowly, this gruesome yarn follows the traditional formula for jungle gut-crunchers, with lots of cruelty to animals and people. It tells of two attractive college girls and a boyfriend who go to Columbia in search of evidence that cannibalism is a mere myth perpetrated by whites. Not too good a guess, as it happens. Once there they end up as the dish of the day on the cannibal menu after joining forces with a demented drug dealer who has brutally tortured the locals. The ghastly gourmets take revenge by hanging one of the gals up by her breasts, and chopping bad guy John Morghen’s arm and penis off before slicing open the top of his skull like a breakfast egg. They then scoop out the brains, of course. The film tries to avoid accusations of racism by presenting the whites as more brutal and depraved than the cannibals, who after all are only following the dictates of their diet. Almost on a par with Cannibal Holocaust in the graphic gore stakes, this is gruelling stuff that is most assuredly not for the squeamish.
DVD: Anchor Bay put this out uncut on R0 a few years back and copies are still available. The UK version is cut.
4: STREET TRASH (1986)
Produced and written by Roy Frumkes, who’s perhaps best known to genre fans for his great documentary on the filming of Dawn Of The Dead, this lively and extremely gruesome low-budgeter stars Mike Lackey and Mark Sterazza as two homeless brothers who live in an urban junkyard run by a psychotic Vietnam vet (Vic Noto – a vet in real life!). The Mafia are trying to muscle in on the place and send their goons round to inflict some very rough treatment on the locals. But the characters bring even greater damage on themselves when they start swigging back Tenafly Viper, a lethal brew that causes tramps to melt into puddles of slime (one literally dissolves down the toilet!). There’s not much plot, but oodles of over-the-top gore, including a castration followed by a game of ‘catch-the-penis’ and the brutal gang rape of a dead body. Well made with plenty of sick humour and surprisingly good effects (by Jennifer Aspinal), this is like a Troma movie that turned out well for a change. The director (Jim Muro) was just 20 years old when he made this, and he went on to be a camera operator on movies like Terminator 2.
5: COMBAT SHOCK (1984)
Surely the best film ever released under the Troma logo, this raw, gritty shocker tells the story of Frankie (Ricky Giovinazzo, brother of the director), an unemployed Vietnam veteran who has gory flashbacks to the war. A drug addict, he owes money to his dealer and is continually being beaten up. His home is a sleazy New York apartment which he shares with his miserable, pregnant wife and a mutant baby that’s similar to the horrid creature in Lynch’s Eraserhead. Frankie has a junkie pal who overdoses when he puts drugs into an open wound with a wire coat-hanger! Eventually, like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, our hero rebels against the sickness he sees all around him and kills his wife, his baby and himself, splattering the walls of his apartment with blood and brains. Made on 16mm for just $40,000, this film is nevertheless excellently scripted, directed and acted. Apparently it also exists in a longer (100 minute) print called American Nightmare, but this shorter version is more than most viewers can take. Downbeat, depressing, and a must-see.
6: DAY OF THE DEAD (1985)
Though somewhat of a disappointment after Night and Dawn, the third in Romero’s zombie trilogy is nevertheless much stronger meat than most other genre offerings, and still the goriest of the whole series. Well made and unrelentingly grim in tone, it’s mainly set in an underground complex (supposedly a Florida missile silo), where scientists and military bicker as the “ghouls” gather on the surface. The military (led by psychotic Joe Pilato) want to blow the zombies away en-masse, while the boffins are trying to find a way to control the creatures. Guess who gets their way? Lori Cardille is good as the strong-willed heroine, and we get the token black hero who is laid back despite the situation and luckily enough can fly a helicopter. All the other characters are either unpleasant or crazy, and so obviously being set up as zombie food that it’s hard to get involved in their plight. This actually resembles Romero’s The Crazies, where people seemed to be shouting at each other for 90 minutes non-stop. It could have done with some humour to lighten things up. But Tom Savini’s effects are superb – “Choke on ‘em!” cries one doomed character as zoms pull him apart to tuck into entrail brunch! – and it’s a shame that the director’s own script doesn’t do more with the character of Bub (Howard Sherman), the sympathetic zombie who reads Stephen King books and enjoys listening to a Walkman – that dates this for a start, wot, no i-pod? Mind you, legend has it that gory George had to revise his script at the last minute because the budget was dramatically reduced.
DVD: There’s a great US disc in Divimax, but most fans will be happy with Arrow’s R2 UK release, uncut and beautifully mastered.
7: THE BEYOND (1981)
One of the best of the Italian zombie epics sparked by the success of Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead, this grisly affair apes the plot of Michael Winner’s The Sentinel (1976) to good effect. It’s an atmospheric tale about a hotel in Louisiana which stands on one of the seven entrances to hell – a gateway that eventually opens and provides the place with a horde of unwelcome zombie guests. Regular Lucio Fulci heroine Catriona MacColl inherits the haunted hotel along with her helpmate, David Warbeck, and she has to endure a number of frightening supernatural manifestations before the ambiguous climax. The eerie end scenes see MacColl and Warbeck (both British performers, by the way) trapped in hell itself, a landscape foreshadowed in the painting which the former manager of the hotel was working on when he was crucified as a satanist (a gory event shown in the prologue). The plot doesn’t really hang together, but there are some gory moments to treasure – like the bit where an army of venomous spiders appear from nowhere to strip a unfortunate guest’s flesh from his bones. This made the nasties list of banned videos in the UK.
8: BAD TASTE (1988)
The film that put New Zealand on the splatter map certainly lives up to its bold title. Blood and brains fill the screen as a bunch of pot-bellied cannibalistic aliens invade a small NZ township (“There are no glowy fingers on these bastards. We’ve got a bunch of extra-terrestrial psychopaths on our hands!”) and turn most of the population into hamburgers. Fortunately for we Earthlings there are a bunch of government thugs on call to settle the aliens’ hash in an even gorier fashion. Among the stomach- churning effects on display are a zombie spooning brains out of a shattered head and bodies being chainsawed to pieces. In one scene somebody has to eat a bowl of vomit! Director Jackson also appears in the double role of the scientist whose brains are held in by a hankie and the alien he hammers a spike into! Amazingly this got past the UK censor uncut. Jackson is obviously a Monty Python fan – look out for that exploding sheep. It was originally called Giles’ Big Day and cost $400,000 to film over a four year period.
9: BRAINDEAD (1992)
After Bad Taste Kiwi splatter king Peter Jackson struck again, with this veritable orgy of Monty Python style gore. Set in 1957 for no discernible reason, the storyline centres around a nerdish young guy (Timothy Balme) whose domineering Mum (Elizabeth Moody) is bitten by a stop-motion carnivorous monkey and turns into a zombie with disgusting table manners. Mum quickly infects her nurse and a bunch of others with the zombie virus, and poor old Tim has to lock them all up in the cellar, which plays havoc with his burgeoning romantic relationship with pretty young Spanish shop-girl Diana Penalver. It ends with the zombies getting loose in the splatter climax to end all others – and Tim finds the safest place to hide is to crawl back into Mum’s womb! Jackson plays it for outrageous comic book laughs, with zombie babies getting their brains bashed out, kung fu priests who shout, “I kick arse for the Lord!” and bodies being eviscerated in just about every fashion imaginable. Luckily the censor saw the joke and let it through uncut. If you’ve got a strong stomach and get off on non-stop schoolboy humour then this cult hit will be one of your favourites!
10: FACES OF DEATH (1981)
This stomach-churning nasty was made by Californians for the Japanese market and it managed to outgross Star Wars in Japan for 13 weeks! This was the only one of the FOD movies that ever got a cinema release – the others were deservedly shunted direct to video. The first in the series is a catalogue of disasters presented by the aptly named Dr Francis Gross, a pathologist and student of death who talks like somebody who has been subjected to too many hours of late night Open University (in fact his voice is supplied by actor Michael Carr). The film veers between grisly real-life footage and staged re-enactments shot with a shaky hand-held camera to make them appear real. There are obviously fake scenes of an electric chair execution, a Middle East beheading and attacks by a grizzly bear and an alligator. But while you’re chuckling over these, the film suddenly hits you with gruesome scenes of autopsies and suicides, and enough slaughterhouse footage to turn you veggie on the spot. Dr Gross decides he will “never wear the skin of an animal again,” but most of the cruelty here is aimed at animals, and scenes showing a live python eaten by a piranha and a pit bull battle to the death were obviously staged by the filmmakers (who use aliases). The worst scenes show chunks of charred flesh lying around after an air disaster, a body mangled under the wheels of a truck, and the mutilated victims of gang warfare. But just to cheer us all up at the end the film slides into a sappy song and close-ups of flowers, plus some photographs of ghosts, suggesting this title may be a big renter in the afterlife. If the Faces Of Death series had a point of view (like the excellent Killing Of America for example) then it might be worth watching. As it is this, it hasn’t and it’s not.
11: MEN BEHIND THE SUN (1989)
One of the nastiest movies ever made, this is even more horrifying in that its storyline is based on fact, detailing the ghastly atrocities that the Japanese committed on the Chinese during World War II. Now without wishing to speak out of turn here, it seems that the Japanese are a particularly brutal race, well they were during the war. Most Japanese soldiers preferred to die in combat rather than surrender, and the tortured English and American POWs against all the rules of the Geneva Convention – yes, we’ve seen The Bridge On The River Kwai, and Hammer’s Camp On Blood Island!
But our lot got off lightly compared to what the Japs did to the Chinese. They didn’t just torture and kill them, but rather used them as guinea pigs in gruesome experiments. Unit 731 is a germ warfare research facility which the Japanese set up on mainland China. Some of the terrible things they get up to include taking some poor woman outside into the snow and pouring ice cold water over her arms until they freeze solid. Then they take her back indoors and plunge her arms into boiling water. When she takes them out, the torturer in charge hits her arms with a stick and the flesh peels off like a meat glove! It’s pretty horrible, and even more so in that this takes place in front of a group of young children!
In another scene a live cat is tossed into a room with hundreds of ravenous rats, and the creatures tear the poor moggy to pieces – this is real stuff folks, no makeup needed, just a strong stomach or sick bag.
There’s plenty more nastiness, including mothers and children being gassed, and bombs being exploded near tied-up prisoners to test the extent of shrapnel wounds, but the scene that really sticks in the mind is the bit where a guy is put in a chamber from which all the air is removed. His body explodes impressively, all of his intestines being sucked out of his anus! A genuine dead body was allegedly used for this sequence, and it’s the stuff of nightmares.
Once the Americans dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, Unit 731 was disbanded, but the movie sees that at least one or two of the Japanese nasties get a comeuppance of sorts, by impalement or shooting. In real life the man in charge was given a medal! An end coda suggests that the Americans found out about the research carried out by the Unit and brokered a deal not to prosecute in exchange for their data – giving them plenty of useful germ warfare info for the future. A powerful exploitation movie, this is definitely not for the faint of heart.
12: DR. LAMB (1992)
One of the most grisly and gross movies you are ever likely to encounter, this ghastly Hong Kong horror starts with the HK cops getting sent some ‘snuff’ pictures of a murdered woman. This leads them to the serial killer of the title, and as he confesses his crimes we get to witness first hand what terrible crimes he committed.
This Cat III shocker was based on a series of real life murders that took place in 1982 and were carried out by a necrophiliac cabbie who came to be known as The Taxi Cab Killer in HK. Simon Yam is convincing as the psycho and the scenes where he dismembers his victims are quite hard to watch. There’s a realism about the way this is presented that makes it even more effective than your usual Hollywood bloodbath, and the film as a whole has a very disturbing and ‘sick’ atmosphere. There’s also the necrophilia angle, which is graphically portrayed and as sickening as the gore.
13: UNTOLD STORY (1992)
Easily one of the most nauseating films you will ever see, this ghastly Chinese shocker is based on a true story and opens with the cops finding dismembered body parts on a beach. They’ve been dumped there by psychotic killer Anthony Wong, who runs a restaurant which really is Hell’s Kitchen!
Wong has taken over the restaurant by the simple expedient of murdering the previous owner along with his entire family, then serving them up on the menu (the movie is also known as The Bun Man because in real life our boy put the bodies in his pork buns!).
This is really horrible stuff. Apart from the gore of slicing the bodies up, there’s one truly upsetting scene where the maniac murders a bunch of young girls. The youngest crawls under a table to avoid him and sits there crying and wetting herself as he closes in for the kill – that’s really sick! It also makes you feel very queasy watching people tuck into those human buns, and the film’s twisted atmosphere is not relieved by some completely out of place humour.
The movie aroused considerable controversy when it was reported to have inspired a Japanese copycat killer!
DVD: Truly sick collectors may want to pick up the German edition by Raptor, which is a limited box-edition with chinese chopsticks and two plastic “barbecue human buns.”
14: THE EBOLA SYNDROME (1996)
If you ‘enjoyed’ Dr. Lamb and The Untold Story then we guess you may want to give this one a crack also. It’s a similarly disgusting Hong Kong Cat III effort about a nutty guy named Kai (well played by Anthony Wong) who brutally murders three people in China and then takes it on his toes to South Africa.
He’s working at a restaurant there when called upon to accompany his boss to buy pigs from an African tribe. When they get there they find that the Ebola has struck – a terrible virus that literally melts people’s insides (remember the big budget Dustin Hoffman flick, Outbreak?). This doesn’t stop Kai raping a native girl who is literally bursting apart with the disease. She spurts puss all over him but Kai remains unaffected by the virus… instead he becomes a deadly carrier!
Kai is an incredibly sleazy and disgusting character, and why anyone would eat in a restaurant where he’s both cooking and serving, we have no idea. But the film hits all the bad taste buttons as he wanks off into a leg of pork before serving up an Ebola stew to a bunch of rude customers. Make no mistake, this is not a movie for those with weak stomachs!
DVD: As with the previous HK horrors, we recommend you seek out a specialist importer like www.sazuma.com or www.cduniverse.com if you want to get hold of the uncut HK disc.
15: GUINEA PIG (1985)
A very sick fellow named Satoru Ogura sat down one day in the early 80s and decided to attempt making the most disgusting, depraved series of movies possible. His idea was to fabricate ‘snuff’ films to shock and disgust the establishment, and so the Guinea Pig series was born. Satoru was to utilise the talents of Hideshi Hino, another infamous writer and famous manga artist responsible for the controversial comics, “Panorama in Hell” and “Hell Baby.”
The Guinea Pig series began with The Devil’s Experiment, and it set the tone for what was to follow. The plot is simple. A videotape and a letter are handed in to the Tokyo police. The video shows a bunch of men torturing women to death as part of some kind of sick and twisted experiment to see how much the human body can take before it finally gives up the ghost.
The accompanying letter claims that the tape shows “The Devil’s Experiment” – and the police have no clue as to how to track the killers down. The movie is really nothing more than a gruelling endurance test, and an attempt to emulate a snuff film. So successful was it that the actor Charlie Sheen reportedly handed a copy over to the FBI to investigate its source.
16: THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982)
Easily the most mean-spirited of Fulci’s gore epics, this intensely gruesome and sleazy exploitation flick tells of down-at-heel copper Jack Hedley’s hunt for a twisted psychopath who mutilates and murders women on the streets of New York. The plot is typically unfathomable and filled with red herrings, right up to the ludicrous final explanation of why the killer talks like Donald Duck – no, he’s not Walt Disney! Of course what little narrative there is is just there to fill in the small gaps between gloatingly-shot scenes of women being hideously slaughtered. One victim has a broken bottle jammed between her legs, another has a nipple and eyeball sliced in extreme widescreen close-up. There’s quite a bit of kinky sex too, all filmed in a highly salacious manner by Fulci, who obviously wanted to make sure he touched all possible exploitation bases. Putting aside political correctness, this is essential viewing for fans of take-no-prisoners screen violence.
17: NEKROMANTIK (1987)
The oddly-named Daktari Lorenz plays Rob, a young guy who works for a street-cleaning firm that mops up gory accidents on the motorway. Obsessed with death, he enjoys his work so much that he even takes body parts home with him, and he has a whole rotten corpse in his bedroom which he and his equally nutty girlfriend (Beatrice M.) play sex games with. It’s a bit of a sad reflection on our boy’s lovemaking prowess that Beatrice decides to run off with the dead body, leaving Rob in almost as severe a state of depression as the viewer. He goes to a porno cinema, then takes a hooker to a cemetery and kills her. None of this brightens his mood, so he slices his own penis off. We do love a happy ending!
This over-the-top German gore movie deliberately sets out to shock with it’s taboo-busting imagery, but the effects are cheap but very convincing. It’s very sick indeed, and but for the sequel it would be one of a kind!
The followup, Nekromantik II is subtitled Return Of The Loving Dead and delivers more perverse sexual hijinks with dead bodies, mostly performed by Monika M, a blonde necro who holds down a day job doing orgasmic voice-overs for porno movies. When the corpses in her apartment rot too much she cuts them up for disposal, but keeps the penises in her fridge.
18: THE STORY OF RICKY (1991)
Easily the most amazingly violent and gory movie ever to emerge from Hong Kong (or anywhere else for that matter!), this is based on the hyper-violent Japanese manga comic Rikki-O and is regarded as the most faithful live-action adaptation of manga source material to date. Featuring some of the most outrageously graphic and convincing ‘splatter’ effects in the history of cinema, it’s 88 minutes of the purest, unadulterated, blood-soaked fun ever to be passed by the British Board of Cinema Classification. Consider yourself warned.
Equal parts martial arts movie, futuristic prison picture and sci-fi monster flick, Ricky is set in an alternative universe similar to our own. After killing the drug dealer responsible for his girlfriend’s death, Ricky (Siu-Wong Fan) finds himself banged up in a prison ruled by a corrupt warden and a group of super-mercenaries known as the Gang of Four. Trained in an especially deadly form of martial arts, and possessing super-human strength making him virtually indestructible, Ricky responds to the bullying of various inmates, prison guards and the Gang of Four in the only way he knows how. Cue disembowelment, decapitation, dismemberment, flaying, manual organ removal, exploding bodies, crushed heads, exposed brains, popping eyeballs, human mincing (and we’re not talking about adopting dandyish affectations here!), one jaw-dropping mother of a monster and the goriest climax you will ever see!
Written and directed by Ngai Kai Lam, the movie made a star of lead Siu-Wong Fan. Funny, astonishing and totally exhilarating to watch, this is one film that really does have to be seen to be believed.
19: BLOODSUCKING FREAKS (1978)
Also known as The Incredible Torture Show, this totally disgusting, X-rated movie is very much in the tradition of the Herschell Gordon Lewis gore flicks of the early 60s, only a lot more stomach churning. Shot in Manhattan by the sleazy-looking Joel Reed (who also guests in the movie), it’s the sick, sick, sick tale of a a horrifying hypnotist named Sardu (Seamus O’Brien), who operates a grand guignol theatre delivering sadistic entertainments to titillate the depraved. He doesn’t take kindly to criticism, and kidnaps a Lincoln Centre ballerina, whom he brainwashes into kick a New York Times critic to death. Another highlight of the show is the bit where a woman has a hole drilled through her skull and her brains sucked out with a straw! The object of much criticism from women’s groups in America, this really is a misogynistic affair: in one scene Sardu uses a woman’s bum as a dartboard! Most of the film is too ridiculous to be taken seriously, but the acting is surprisingly good and some scenes are truly nauseating. For hardcore gore buffs only.
20: BEYOND THE DARKNESS (1979)
Aka Blue Omega, this gloomy, unpleasant gore flick is one of the prolific Joe D’Amato’s most notorious movies. Kieran Canter is a troubled young guy whose mind snaps when his pretty girlfriend expires in hospital. He digs her corpse up and preserves it in fairly graphic embalming and evisceration scenes that led at the time to D’Amato being accused of using real-life cadavers (not true, but that kind of sick publicity never hurts at the box office!). Thereafter, anyone who comes poking round his country estate is brutally murdered, just to keep the blood and guts count high. In one scene he slaughters a nosy female hitchhiker, torturing her first by pulling off her fingernails with pliers! Our Italian Norman Bates is assisted in his work by a strange-looking housekeeper who is as barmy as he is, and she lets him suckle her boobs when he gets stressed! It’s all pretty sick and nasty, and there are literally buckets and buckets of entrails on show!