Part of being a horror fan is growing accustomed to onscreen violence. We become conditioned to it and rarely bat an eye. In most cases, we can sit through a horror movie marathon without coming across anything that turns our stomach. But there are exceptions to every rule, and even the seasoned gore hound has his or her limits.
With the advent of the "torture porn" subgenre, those limits are getting pushed on a slightly more regular basis. The horror genre has always been recognized for being willing to partake in the gratuitous display of blood and guts has been outdone by the efforts of filmmakers in torture porn. Filmmakers in that subgenre have begun literally showcasing victims’ internal organs and such like never before. Some might say that has led to a certain degree of divisiveness and elitism amongst horror fans. Some horror enthusiasts turn up their noses at this recent string of ultraviolent feature filmmaking and others have embraced the more visceral style that has been adopted by a new generation of filmmakers.
Extreme violence has long been around in low-budget cinema, but didn’t become commonplace in mainstream cinema until the 2000s – with a select few instances in the '90s. Whether you love it or hate it, you undoubtedly have an opinion about it. So, for your consideration, we offer you our top six picks for some of the most notorious gross-out scenes in contemporary horror filmmaking (1990-Present).
We wanted to keep the list as lighthearted as possible, so we're spotlighting scenes that brought the gore, but didn’t push cultural taboos by way of rape, genital removal, animal torture, or child pornography. So, you will not find scenes from Antichrist, A Serbian Film, or Irreversible on this list.
The lawnmower scene in Dead Alive
Dead Alive is not really what you would classify as torture porn, but it is regarded as the bloodiest film of all time. So, we would be remiss not to include it in a list of ultra-violent movie scenes. The lawnmower scene in Dead Alive is bloody as all hell and it features more than just your run-of-the-mill bloodletting. We see limbs flying left and right and a head being kicked around like a soccer ball. After that impromptu soccer match, the head winds up in a blender, pureed to a bloody pulp. However, most viewers manage to tolerate this more willingly, because director Peter Jackson managed to infuse comedy in to the situation and remind viewers to laugh at just how ridiculous the goings on were. In revisiting the film, it is easy to see that Jackson was trying to make us laugh just as much, if not more, than he was trying to gross us out.
A guy swinging by his intestines in Dead Snow
This is another scene that is made slightly easier to take by being framed in comedy, but that still doesn’t change the simple fact that one of the characters is swinging from a tree by his intestinal tract. I am a fan of Dead Snow, but that scene still makes me sick every time I watch it. For any of our more sensitive viewers who haven’t seen Dead Snow, just keep pressing on through the more visceral scenes. The movie, as a whole, is well worth watching.
Since Dead Snow, director Tommy Wirkola has made a name for himself in the mainstream cinema world with his first big studio effort, Hansel & Gretel: Witchunters. Audiences will likely be treated to a second installment of Hansel & Gretel, based on the overwhelming success of the first film.
Jigsaw gets his skull sawed through in SAW IV
This is the worst scene in any of the SAW films for me. The stabbing and the tearing of flesh and the bloodletting I can handle, but the scalping and bone-sawing makes me cringe every time I try to watch SAW IV. There is just something about carving someone’s skull open that makes me want to look the other way. I guess you could say that I draw the line at skull-sawing. The autopsy scene in SAW IV is made to look medically accurate, which for a lot of viewers is much worse than the amputations and decapitations we would expect from a horror film.
The eyeball scene in Hostel
I cringe every time I see this scene. Watching a dislocated eyeball protruding from its socket and then being clipped by a pair of scissors is a lot to take in. It makes me physically ill every time I see it. Seeing the poor girl throw herself in front of a train shortly after catching a glimpse of her new reflection makes the scene even harder to stomach. If nothing else, it can be said that Hostel does attempt to make some social commentary regarding the value we place on human life, and the lengths people will go to in order to find the next challenge or the next best adrenaline rush.
The torture scene in Audition
Audition is somewhat of a precursor to torture porn films. However, unlike many flicks in that subgenre, Audition has something to say and takes on somewhat of a feminist perspective in the final fifteen minutes of the film. The female protagonist shows that women are not to be marginalized or to be treated like property. Whereas a lot of films to come after Audition have more or less just been gore for the sake of gore, the social commentary in this film makes the physical torture and dismemberment the audience is subjected to slightly easier to handle. Takashi Miike is a pioneer and has always been a step ahead of his time as well as a major boundary pusher. His segment of Showtime’s Masters of Horror remains the only segment banned from network broadcast.
The brain feeding scene in Hannibal
I get queasy around brains, so this scene required extra discipline for me just to stay in the theatre until it was over. Lecter feeding Krendler a slice of his own brain while he was still conscious is absolutely revolting to me. I feel compelled to look the other way every time that scene comes on; I just cannot stomach it. Making matters worse, it’s done fairly seriously, so it is difficult to find any humor in the scene to ease some of the intensity. But if the intent was to turn viewers stomachs, then Ridley Scott got exactly what he was going for.
What are some of your favorite gross out scenes? Let us know in the comments below.