The Lucky 13: Week Four: Gore!
by Brutal As Hell Staff
Introduction by Marc Patterson, Managing Editor
Picking out a favorite gore film… what an arduous process! There are so many good titles to pick from – old and new, strange, bizarre. The range is sickening and ridiculous. But we have to start somewhere, don’t we? The first question: what do we look for in a good gore flick? Everyone’s taste is varied and when it comes to gore, this genre offers up more flavors than a Las Vegas buffet. Are we looking for ninety minutes of balls to the wall blood spatter and sickening arterial spray gone gonzo? For that I would look no further than the sick minds of the Japanese. A little Tokyo Gore Police anyone? Or do we prefer classic set pieces such as the likes of Fulci have given us? How can anyone forget poor Rosie puking her intestines out of her mouth in City of the Living Dead? No? In the mood for a little gut-churning grotesqueness that an array of indie filmmakers such as Ryan Nicholson can come up with? Have you seen his stuff? Some of his entries into the splatter genre such as Live Feed and Hanger make Hostel look like the Hilton. Perhaps you’re the type that swaddles yourself to sleep in the relentless execution of modern French gore. Haute Tension, À l’intérieur, Frontière(s), and Martyrs have defined the French horror film in a way that is sure to be highlighted in the annals of horror history for years to come.
Good gore isn’t easily done either. It’s more than just buckets of Karo syrup and a sick mind. Good gore done well is a left hook punch to the jaw you never saw coming. It’ll knock a prize fighter flat on their back. Good gore will make you audibly go “Ewww”, and make your sphincter tighten as you squirm in your seat, no matter how desensitized you think you are. Good gore is more than just a high school dare. Good gore will surprise you, challenge you, and mostly… entertain you on the most visceral level imaginable. You can’t unsee it. Once you’ve gone there, you can’t go back.
Below are some of the most sickening, depraved, fucked-up, and plain out stomach churning films that we love and could never live without. Grab a big plate of baked spaghetti and enjoy! – Also, make sure to check out our collaborating partners in crime – The Vault of Horror – for their top gore picks!
Annie Riordan on Braindead (aka Dead Alive)
Once upon a time, I was a huge pussy. I couldn’t watch gory movies. Whenever the fountaining of arterial spray threatened, or the viscera reversed gears, I had to cover my eyes like a total girlie poof and depend upon whoever was in the room/audience with me at the time to tell me when it was all clear. There I was, budding horror movie fanatic, and I couldn’t even watch the Nazi’s faces melt at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark without dry heaving. Something had to be done.
Salvation came in the form of a Halloween double feature at the local art house theater: Fulci’s Zombi and Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, with the latter running first. Up ’til then, I’d only known Jackson as that guy who’d done The Lord of the Rings and that one movie with Kate Winslet before she got all famous n’ shit. I had no idea what to expect from Dead Alive (aka Braindead) and was unaware that I had picked the best (or, depending on your preference for group therapy or shock treatment, the absolute worst) film with which to officially begin my unpussyfying.
This was, and still is, and dutifully remains, the most yak-worthy gorefest I have ever seen. I wish I could say that I made it through the showing with barely a wince, but I doubt that anyone has. Oh c’mon, admit it – when mom’s face began its pus-spewing decline into the bouillabaisse, you totally tamped your bile down. I myself dashed up the aisle and straight to the girls’ bathroom, certain I was about to blow my groceries. No lie! But I didn’t. And I returned to my seat and finished out the movie, from the fucking-zombies-have-a-baby to the Lawnmower Apocalypse Extravaganza. But it wasn’t just my grim determination alone that helped me make it through this sea of guts and viscous fluids: it was the fact that I was laughing my ass off the whole entire time.
Hardcore gore is so much more palatable when it comes with a side dish of WTF?! Dead Alive’s slapstick approach to the zombie gross-out genre – think “intestines” rather than “pies” – was brilliant. Gore is ridiculous anyway, so why not make it totally over-the-top ludicrous and get a few laughs out of it, even if those laughs be tainted with the sour aftertaste of caustic stomach fluids rising up through your esophagus?
So: Thank you, Peter Jackson, for helping me to overcome my pussyness and making me laugh at the gratuitous display of blood and pus-marinated human organs…at last.
Now check out this sweet gore montage from Braindead!
Ben Bussey on Day of the Dead
This was a tricky decision. The concluding part of George Romero’s original Dead Trilogy (I think we can agree to class the post-millennium entries as a separate cycle, hmm?) has a great deal more going for it than just gore. My personal favourite of all Romero’s work, Day of the Dead is a highly intelligent, atmospheric affair, a bleak portrait of civilisation on the brink of extinction. It’s a film designed to get under your skin and poke at your brain, and put you in a rather uncomfortable position. And how is this conveyed, to a large extent? By showing zombies getting under the skin of the protagonists, poking at their brains, and putting them in some rather uncomfortable positions. As someone says in Brian Yuzna’s Society (another awesome mix of splatter and social commentary), “things are exactly as they seem, only more so.”
I’m often quite surprised when people dismiss this movie as inferior to Night and Dawn. Yes, it’s not entirely the film Romero wanted to make – budget restraints forcing him to scale down his original vision (much of which was later realised in Land of the Dead) – but it’s still a hell of a piece of work. It’s a considerably more accomplished film than the early Dead movies in terms of production value, but then perhaps some fans miss the rough-around-the-edges aesthetic of his earlier low budget efforts, which I can appreciate.
But let’s get to the crux of the matter here – the gore. And my oh my, what gore it is. Regardless of whether you consider it Romero’s masterpiece, I’d say there’s little question that Day of the Dead is Tom Savini’s masterpiece. Guts pouring from gaping wounds onto the floor, chunks tearing from throats, limbs hacked away, heads partially severed leaving one eye blinking – this movie goes the distance and then some. As melodramatic as it all is, it’s realised in jaw-droppingly realistic fashion, Savini’s experience as a photographer in Nam no doubt proving invaluable to the level of detail.
And never have Romero or Savini done their work better than that one key death scene that can never be forgotten, so iconic that it has become a byword for a gruesome, gut-ripping fate visited most deservedly on a total bastard – Captain Rhodes. It’s such a wonderfully cathartic moment, witnessing Joe Pilato’s despicable bad guy get the hideous comeuppance we’ve been anxious to see him at the receiving end of. Not only is it a great ‘yuck’ moment, but it’s also an emotional pay-off, intrinsic to the narrative. See? That’s what made Romero the master – he really made the gore count. “Choke on ’em!”
Marc Patterson on Martyrs
Yep. I didn’t see this one coming at all. I love the gore genre tremendously, and up until the final moments of this week’s deadline I was debating between two Fulci films, The House by the Cemetery and The Beyond. But then it occurred to me. I was playing it safe. Don’t get me wrong. I love Fulci. But there felt something too obvious about picking one of his films. And worse… something not genuine. What I’ve come to realize is that while I go through phases of intense love towards Fulci (there are times where I’ll watch his films for a week straight), he’s no longer my favorite purveyor of gore. What I was hesitant to admit was that I’ve succumbed to the modern gore flick. I love the intensity and how it constantly is pushing the boundaries to places you wouldn’t have imagined it could. It seems that every year a new film comes along that blows our mind and our senses. This year it seems to be The Human Centipede. Next year, once Serbian Film plays to more festivals you’ll see it take center stage. But for me, right now my heart lies in France. Since Alexandre Aja blew open the doors to the modern French horror scene with Haute Tension, it has been a non-stop flood of blood and depravity.
Then a couple of years ago (hard to believe it’s been that long already isn’t it?) along came Martyrs. At first I wasn’t sold. This film was incredibly hyped. Incredibly. Hype will kill a film faster than it takes a Taco Bell burrito to run its course. But when I sat down to watch it… wow. My hand was over my mouth in pure shock for half the film. Something quite disturbing, but quite interesting, engaging and impressive was going on. Martyrs was an intelligent film. It had a story to tell and it was the first film I had seen in a very long time that actually managed to frighten me. Buried beneath the violence, it had a really fucked-up artistic statement to make. It pushed every imaginable boundary and at the same time was beautiful in a very, very twisted way. Martyrs was, and is, straight-up unrelenting. At a mere forty-five minutes of run time you’ll think you’ve endured an entire film, but you’ve only survived the first act.
Some may say Martyrs isn’t the type of film one can enjoy. Appreciate, yes. But not enjoy. Pascal Laugier himself has said that Martyrs is not a very likeable movie. What does that say about the film? Some folks are dismissive of Martyrs as pretentious torture porn that attempts to pass itself off as art house cinema. Those folks are also known as idiots. Like it or not, this film has defined what gore can look like, and what it can accomplish in a post torture-porn world. You don’t have to subside off a paper thin plot. You can pack in depth of character, the metaphysical, and god forbid, even literary references into modern video nasty. Who would have thought it possible? So for the first time, I’m going to come out and say it: Martyrs… I love you.
Britt Hayes on À l’intérieur (Inside)
There are so many great, gory horror films to choose from. I toyed with choosing Dead Alive or Martyrs (Annie and Marc beat me to them, respectively, before becoming completely torn between À l’intérieur and Ichi the Killer. One French, one Japanese. Both equally gory and disturbing. After much consideration, I chose À l’intérieur. Sorry, Takashi Miike. I’ll get to you during Slasher week, I promise.
À l’intérieur is a French film from the duo of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (who, like Pascal Laugier, were also linked to a Hellraiser remake at one time), that tells the story of Sarah – 8 months pregnant, and alone after her husband dies in a car crash. The night before she’s set to induce labor, a woman stalks her outside of her home. Sarah smartly calls the cops, who promise to check in on her throughout the evening, should the woman return. But who is this mystery woman? Played by Beatrice Dalle (Betty Blue), and credited only as La femme, the woman has only one motivation: to take Sarah’s unborn child.
What follows is an insane and bloody story about survival, as Sarah struggles to understand why La femme has chosen her, and tries to keep herself and her baby alive. There are several near-misses and almost-saves that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Buckets of blood perpetually fill Sarah’s home as she fights off La femme. Bodies pile up as one by one, friends, family, and police come to check on her, only to meet a grisly fate when they become suspicious or try to stop La femme.
In recent years, horror films focusing on women as protagonists/antagonists have become more common, whereas the old women-in-horror staple was the “final girl”, with the exception of stand-outs like I Spit On Your Grave or Alien. I find it incredibly refreshing to see women fighting, surviving, and enduring, and what’s more fascinating is that the majority of these films that focus on women are written and directed by men, yet they’re pitch-perfect in their psychological understanding. There’s no sexism or misogyny. Women are empowered, and empathetic without you pitying them as weak creatures. Films like Grace, Teeth, Martyrs, and May have all impressed and disturbed me to great lengths. These films tackle body issues, awkwardness, coming of age, revenge, and suffering. For years, women have played victim, and the final girls usually barely survive by dumb luck. Women are patronized and thought of as the ones that need protecting, but our wills and our stomachs are often stronger than most men – probably because we’ve endured centuries of child-bearing and coming to terms with more disgusting “body issues” than most men. With the amount of blood women witness throughout their lifetimes, horror movies don’t seem so bad. But yet, the general public feels the need to tell us that we’re disgusting, and our bodies are disgusting because we have menstrual cycles. Look at any average tampon commercial. These companies are supposed to provide a service for us, but they choose to coddle us and make us feel ashamed, telling us our period is something we have to overcome and that we should feel like mutant outcasts because of it. But these horror films represent us as resilient, capable people who fight and endure. Being covered in buckets of blood is the least of a horror heroine’s worries.
Dustin Hall on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II (TCM2) is a far cry from the best in the series. Despite its flaws, this horror gem has a few golden moments that have become legendary among fans of the genre. It’s the film that, for most, introduced us to Bill Moseley (Devil’s Rejects and many others) as Chop-Top. It also has Dennis Hopper tearing up the screen as ‘Lefty’, looking to turn the saw against the family of cannibals. But what I send most people to this movie for is the gore.
The amount of blood and mangled flesh in this feature is astounding, especially when you consider that there was nary a drop of blood spilled in the original TCM. Oh sure, people get gutted with saws, put on meathooks, bashed in the head with hammers, but you never really see the results of those heinous acts – you just fill in the gaps yourself. It’s a power of suggestion so palpable that it seems like you’ve just seen the grisliest movie in the world, but it’s all in your own head. Trivia: Because of its lack of blood or boobs, Tobe Hooper submitted TCM seeking a PG rating!
Well, he gave that notion the finger this time around. You want a guy’s head getting chainsawed in half and the force of his own blood-spurt blasting his skull cap and brains out of his own skull? Wait about five minutes. While I have seen movies with more gore to them over the years, there are few that have won me over so well for a simple fact: this one made my friend gag.
Sixth grade my friend and current roommate raided his dad’s horror movie collection. This was nothing new, we’d seen most of them before. I was raised on horror movies. And so it was that we decided to have a TCM double feature. So there was part one: terrifying. It was so gritty, so painful, so real. A family like that could be living in any POS house in the fields of the Kansas countryside. With my mind properly blown, it was time for part 2. Speeding Cars! Chainsaws! Corpse puppets! Cannibals! Tobe pulled out all of the depraved stops on this one. But, it was one crucial moment, when Caroline Williams is confronted by Leatherface, that earned top prize. She seduces him to stay alive, so in order to hide her from the rest of the family, the big guy ties her up, slices the face off of her dead buddy, and plasters it over her face so she looks like a corpse.
For whatever reason, my friend’s mind wandered a little too far into that moment, as he sat there pondering, “What would it be like to have to wear my friend’s face?” And as the thought of the oozing, sliding, bloody mess on his skin came to him, as the thought of the smell of fetid dead flesh covering his nose overtook him, as the thought of blood and ragged bits of skin seeping into his eyes and mouth overwhelmed him, he ran to the nearest trash can and started dry heaving into it. The power of film! Yes, the power to make you puke.
Hey, it may be campy now, and it may lack the intensity of a few other TCM movies from the series, but part 2 lives in infamy in my home forever since that one legendary night. The chainsaw is family.
Bryce Holland on Demons and Demons 2
When you’re watching a horror film, is there anything else quite as satisfying as seeing someone disemboweled? How about watching a character get their throat slit, blood spurting out of their neck as they fall to the floor? Or what about seeing someone get all their limbs hacked off?
Aren’t gore films great?
Personally, when I’m in the mood to see copious amounts of blood and entrails spilled on screen, I like to sit back and watch the one-two punch of a couple of the most fun splatter flicks from the ’80s: the Dario Argento produced, Lamberto Bava directed classics, ‘Demons’ & ‘Demons 2.’