So you think you can handle anything a horror film can throw at you? We wouldn’t be so sure. Here are ten of the most extreme horror movies ever created. We dare you to watch this lot back-to-back, alone in the dark.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
“The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin…The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”
In this opening crawl, Tobe Hooper kick-started the slasher genre and forever changed horror movies — for better or worse. Like Psycho before it, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was criticised at the time of release for gratuitous bloodshed and extreme violence. In reality, there’s very little red stuff onscreen.
What makes this movie so terrifying — even some thirty years later — is it’s matter-of-fact filmmaking. There are no cheap jump scares, villain one-liners or “cool” kills to telegraph that you’re watching a movie: instead, mayhem just explodes onscreen without reason or explanation. The remote Texas locations and 16mm cameras only add to the plausibility — it almost feels like you’re watching a snuff film. And then, it just abruptly cuts to black, leaving you rocked to the core.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
The early ’80s birthed one of most warped and depraved genres in the annals of cinema: Italian cannibal exploitation. As its name implies, these movies were little more than an extended banquet of human torture and dismemberment (with an emphasis on good eatin’) made with the assistance of bemused real-life jungle tribes. By far the most notorious was Cannibal Holocaust by Ruggero Deodato. Using the “found footage” motif before that became a thing, it follows the plight of a documentary film crew who mysteriously disappear in the Amazon. Years later, their footage is found.
Despite the occasionally shonky effects and questionable acting, the film remains highly disturbing — especially the multiple, unsimulated scenes of animal slaughter. A year after the film’s release, the director was charged with murder in Italy over rumours that some of the cast members had been killed on camera. (These charges were later dropped after the actors were located, alive and well.) If you’re brave/sick enough to watch this nasty piece of work, be sure to seek out the “animal-free” cut. Nobody needs to see that crap.
Flowers of Flesh and Blood (1985)
Part of the notorious “Guinea Pig” film series from Japan, Flowers of Flesh and Blood is a plot-free horror movie that depicts the abduction and dismemberment of a female victim at the hands of a demented samurai. The effects in this film are excruciatingly realistic — so much so, that the CIA investigated whether the murder was genuine at the behest of actor Charlie Sheen who had watched a tape of the movie at a party.
Audition is a Japanese horror film directed by the country’s No. 1 horror maestro, Takashi Miike. Beginning as a romantic comedy, the film follows a widowed businessman who concocts a casting call for a non-existent movie in a bid to find a new wife. He eventually settles on the shy but beautiful Asami and the two enter into a loving relationship… and then things turn incredibly dark.
Audition is a very hard film to watch both for the disquieting sense of dread it invokes and multiple scenes of extreme torture. It’s not a film for the faint of heart.
Over the past decade, French horror has enjoyed a renaissance, with heavy-hitters like Inside, Baise-moi and Haute tension spearheading the “New French Extremity” movement. One of the most shocking entries in this grotty genre is Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs; the first native film to run afoul of France’s famously liberal classification system.
Martyrs is a bleak and harrowing film from start to finish — it begins with a terrified young girl escaping a disused abattoir after weeks of torture. Years later, she breaks out of a mental institution with a friend in tow and exacts revenge on a seemingly innocent family… but everything is not as it seems. Martyrs is a hard watch, but also highly thought-provoking — it’s torture porn for people with a brain.
Thanatomorphose is a Canadian “zombie” film that takes the concept of body horror to its furthest extreme. The film is a fly-on-the-wall depiction of a young woman’s slow physical disintegration in a squalid apartment. Does she have a disease? Is she suffering hallucinations? Is she turning into a zombie? The reason for her deteriorating flesh remain frustratingly unexplained. Part art house movie, part gross-out horror flick, Thanatomorphose is one of the weirdest — and most disgusting — films you are ever likely to see.
The Evil Dead (2013)
Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead trilogy is rightfully regarded as a classic of the genre. However, the cheap effects, hammy acting and frequent use of slapstick comedy rob the films of any scares. Not so with the remake. Fede Alvarez’s re-imagining ramps up the terror to hysterical degrees. Equipped with a decent budget, gore-tastic practical effects and a cast of incredibly committed actors, the 2013 version truly is the ultimate experience in grueling horror.
Wolf Creek 2 (2013)
Like its low-budget predecessor, Wolf Creek 2 pulls no punches when it comes to depictions of human suffering and degradation. Once again, the film chronicles the heinous crimes of a seemingly invincible serial killer called Mick Taylor. While the film is too over-the-top to take seriously, some of the violence remains hard to stomach. The brutal dispatching of a pair of German backpackers is especially hard to watch, bringing to mind the real-life crimes of Ivan Milat and the Peter Falconio murder.
The Green Inferno (2014)
The Green Inferno is the latest pot of grue from Eli Roth; the same demented brain behind Cabin Fever and Hostel Parts 1 and 2. It’s essentially a gore-flecked love letter to Italian cannibal films with a similar no-holds barred approach to blood ‘n’ guts. You may want to watch this one on an empty stomach.
A Serbian Film (2010)
Yeah. Don’t watch this. Ever. Even the written synopsis is hard to take.
This story has been updated since its original publication.