When Sam Raimi's original The Evil Dead came out in 1981, it was nicknamed “the ultimate experience in grueling horror.” And yes, it was rated NC-17 “for substantial graphic horror violence and gore.” You gotta love those MPAA descriptors. By today's standards, The Evil Dead seems a little tame, and, thanks to two pointedly silly sequels, the film's reputation tends to be more comedic than horrific, despite all the blood and all the gore and a few now-iconic scenes in the woods, where certain things occur to a female character that are a little too graphic to describe here.
There is another Evil Dead film slated to be released in theaters on the 5th of April. Dropping the “The,” this new version of the movie is billing itself as “the most terrifying film you will ever experience.” It's rare that film marketers deal in these pleasantly breathless superlatives anymore, and it's rarer still that filmmakers attempt to push the envelope as far as the posters promise. Evil Dead, however, seems to go the distance, almost guaranteeing that you'll be grossed out at least once or twice by the thrilling violence.
In the spirit of superlative gore, we here at CraveOnline have wracked the blood-soaked, horror-obsessed corners of our tender meaty brains, and tried to think up the ten bloodiest, goriest horror films ever made. There were a lot to choose from, but these, we feel, are the cream of the crop. In a world of PG-13-rated horror/thrillers, these films should serve as a refreshing bath in a tub of blended human entrails.
10. The Feast Movies (dir. John Gulager, 2005 – 2009)
The original Feast (2005) was the result of the pseudo-gameshow “Project Greenlight,” wherein filmmakers would compete to get a film made by real producers and real studios, vying for attention and attempting to come up with the most interesting pitches and alluring budgets. The story of the movie is pretty simple; people are holed up in a bar when evil rapist aliens arrive just outside, and attempt to break in. A feature of Feast, however, was its uncompromising, almost cartoonish use of bodily fluids. Heads are ripped off, skin is ripped off, and other things are ripped off. By Feast II, the fluids became all the more important, and there were entire set pieces devoted to squirting alien glop, including a scene where a man dissects an alien corpse, and gets bile all over him. There also cat rape, go figure. In Feast III, well, it only makes sense that director John Gulager take the liberty of dousing his own father, veteran character actor Clu Gulager, with a bucket of human gore. Not the best movies, I'd say, but coated in sloppy strands of icky goop.
9. The Saw Movies (2004 -2010)
The trend of torture porn that was a feature of the '00s can really be summed up in this series of seven gore movies, released yearly on Halloween seven years in a row. None of the films really necessarily stands apart as gorier than any of the others, but when taken as a unit, well, there is a lot of self-mutilation and blood to wade through. A serial killer (Tobin Bell) kidnaps a long string of hapless victims, and locks them into elaborately designed metal deathtraps from which they must escape. The killer gives them the means to escape, but they usually must to something horrible to themselves or to someone else in order to acquire the means. Example: You must unlock the beartrap attached to your head by digging through the intestines of a still-living man. The setups are all gross and defiantly effed up, and watching the people attempt to escape is always unsettling. Could you rip a hook out of your tongue? Or saw your own arm – lengthwise – to escape? And how about that machine that, on a timer, turns your arms and legs backwards? Yeesh.
8. Imprint (dir. Takashi Miike, 2006)
Takashi Miike is a name familiar to many horror aficionados, and his name is often mentioned in hushed tones at horror conventions. Miike is the hugely ubiquitous Japanese director (he has made 90 films since 1991) responsible for unsettling and bizarre gore films like Audition, Gozu, and Ichi the Killer, in addition to actual prestige pictures like the Kurosawa-inspired 13 Assassins. Of his horror output, though, the one most notable for its gore (aside from Ichi), is probably his entry in the “Masters of Horror” TV anthology show, Imprint. A dark mirror of Madame Butterfly, Imprint is about an American soldier who returns to Japan to find the prostitute he fell in love with, only to learn of the horrid tortures she went through. The actual visual, visceral gore is comparatively tame, but, like in Audition, the use of violence is employed so skillfully, the flick becomes a gut-punch. If you have a fear of things going into your gums, don't watch Imprint. Miike's episode was so disturbing, it never aired with the other films in the season, and is only available on video.
7. Hellbound: Hellraiser II (dir. Tony Randel, 1988)
Recent horror movies often commit a cardinal sin when it comes to gore effects: They use CGI instead of red Karo syrup. CGI blood never looks good under any circumstances, and I encourage every and all filmmakers to knock it off, and just get the set messy. Going back to the 1980s, however, you can find some astonishingly bloody films full of awesome practical effects and, most importantly, real blood. Of the gorefest slashers of the 1980s, the best and bloodiest is probably Hellbound, the sequel to Clive Barker's iconic Hellraiser. Far bloodier and way more surreal than the first, Hellbound follows the series heroine Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) into Hell where she must confront the dead villains from the first film. Skinless men. A crazy guy mutilating himself with a straight razor. A heart is forcibly removed. A clown juggles his own eyeballs. A doctor is transformed into a mutilated monster. Hands are cut off. Women writhe sexually in pools of blood. And, of course, the Hellraiser trademark flying meathooks. Oh man is it ever a bloody soup of bloody blood.
6. Dead Alive (dir. Peter Jackson, 1992)
Before he was known as a successful maker of CGI-heavy blockbuster monstrosities, Peter Jackson had a reputation as one of the world's premiere cult filmmakers thanks to films like Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles. The best film he has ever made, however (and will possibly ever make) is his 1992 zombie film Braindead, released as Dead Alive in the U.S. Dead Alive is easily one of the goriest films of all time, but is also possessed of a bizarre carnival comedy sensibility that ensures it a permanent place in the horror cult canon. A milquetoast hero named Lionel (Timothy Blame) must look after his oppressive mother after she is bitten by a Sumatran Rat Monkey, and slowly turns into a zombie killer, complete with fetid skin and dripping pustules. Many people get bitten over the course of the film, and eventually the mayhem leads to a party where half the guests become zombies and rip the other half to shreds. Lionel upturns a lawnmower and walks through a crowd of zombies. Gallons upon gallons of oozy blood coat everything in the immediate vicinity. It's sticky, sick, and undeniably awesome. This one is a must-see.
5. Zombie (dir. Lucio Fulci, 1979)
No list of gory horror films would be complete with an entry about Lucio Fulci, the Italian exploitation master behind such classics as The Beyond and City of the Living Dead. He has also made some of the world's best zombie movies, which can most easily be encapsulated in Zombie, which was released as Zombi 2 in Italy. The story is pretty simple: A boatload of innocents arrive on a deserted island where a zombie plague has broken out. They are all killed. The end. And while the zombie effects are really cool (I especially like the dirty hands reaching up from under the ground) the scene everyone remembers is when Olga Karlatos (from Purple Rain) has her eyeball very, very slowly impaled on a plank of broken wood. The scene is gross and amazing and harrowing and horrific and wonderful and iconic. No one could make horror films like the Italians, and few Italians could match bloody wits with the likes of Lucio Fulci. Well, Dario Argento and Mario Bava could.
4. Cannibal Holocaust (dir. Ruggero Deodato, 1980)
The court case connected to Cannibal Holocaust is well-documented. The makers of Cannibal Holocaust set out to make of the first found-footage horror films about a heartless band of white film students who trek into a dank jungle looking for real cannibals. Which they find and are promptly murdered by. The special effects in this decidedly low-fi production were so grimy and real, many viewers simply assumed that they were watching a legitimate snuff film. Cannibal Holocaust, for its mere overpowering grossness, was banned in several countries, and it still possesses the ability to shock even the most hardened of audiences. The film's director and producers made such a harrowing and real horror experience, that they were called into court, presumably having murdered people on camera. When the dead actors appeared in the courtroom, the filmmakers were exonerated. I really, really, really don't want to describe what happens in this movie. I will say that this is varsity level gore, and no causal horror film should try it.
3. Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood (dir. Hideshi Hino, 1985)
Torture porn has nothing on this unknown oddity from Japan. The Guinea Pig movies were all so boldly plot-free, they may as well be considered demo reels for aspiring special effects guys. The second part in the five-film anthology of Guinea Pig films, Flower of Flesh and Blood is, according to the strong souls who have seen those whole series, the most merciless and boldly terrible of the run. The film follows an evil, be-helmeted man as he kidnaps a young woman and brings her to his torture basement where, over the course of 42 minutes, he cuts, mutilates, and tortures her to death. No psychology. No escape. No philosophy. A cast of just two. Just a bare gory procedural of blood and pain. The effects are gorgeous and disgusting, and you get the feeling after a while that someone is actually being killed. It is boldly artless and shamelessly exploitative. Difficult to find anywhere, the Guinea Pig movies are a rite of passage. Not just varsity level gore, this is Olympic level gore.
2. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975)
Easily the most disgusting movie I have ever seen, Pasolini's depraved arthouse classic, based on a story by the Marquis de Sade, follows a group of decadent post-WWII Italian fascists as they kidnap (a lot of kidnap in these films) and sexually exploit a group of 40 teenage boys and girls for no other reason than they derive a twisted pleasure from it. Pasolini was making a statement, of course, about the prodigal and exploitative nature of fascism, but it's hard to get any sort of message when your eyeballs are full of the depravities that appear on screen. Kids are raped and molested, beaten savagely, are forced to eat excrement, and, in the soul-emptying climax, are eventually mutilated and tortured to death while the adults sing and dance and laugh. Unlike some of the films above, this film is no dripping with blood, but the blood we do see is so horrifying and shocking, the ultimate effect is even greater. This film is available on DVD and Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection. Despite the mess, it does have an artistic imprimatur.
1. The Wizard of Gore (dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis, 1970)
The modern gore film was pretty much invented by Herschell Gordon Lewis, and his long string of blood-soaked drive-in cheapies from the late '60s and early '70s, which is why The Wizard of Gore tops this list. Lewis realized that in order to get audience's attention, you had to do something unique. He didn't have the budget to hire big stars, and he didn't have the inclination to do outright pornography, but he did have the budget and inclination to pack his films with the most extreme gore effects possible. The result was films like The Wizard of Gore, and forthrightly stupid and immensely enjoyable flick about an evil hypnotist (Ray Sager) who would mutilate his victims on stage to the chagrin of his audience (often impaling them or digging out eyeballs with his bare hands), only to reveal that he had hypnotized them into thinking he had mutilated them. Only later, the victims would then, wherever they were, spontaneously fall into puddles of mutilated body parts. I can't explain the mythology within this film, and I doubt Lewis could either. But that doesn't mean that The Wizard of Gore isn't one of the world's best – and bloodiest – grindhouse classics.