One of the best parts of being a horror fan is the chance to see intense practical effects. Whether you’re a fan of gore or not, you have to appreciate the primal response to watching someone’s eyes blow out of their sockets. These movies were chosen for their goopy gross-out factor, whether they involve body horror, uncomfortable images, or just plain gore. These are not for the faint of heart! Bring your barf bag and let’s check them out in random order.
1. Society (1989) Director: Brian Yuzma | Writers: Rick Fry, Woody Keith
Ah, I love this movie. I came across it at the video store with a sticker that said “The Weirdest Film of all time!” so naturally I picked it up. Boy, am I glad I did. This movie is truly weird, and super gross. Meet Bill, a misunderstood teenager in an upscale family who takes part in “upscale parties”. Feeling so different from his family, he decides to investigate what really goes on at these events. All I can say is it gives a whole new meaning to the word “butthead”.
2. Human Centipede (2009) Director & Writer: Tom Six
Sigh. Based on the plot alone, this deserves to be on the list. A mad scientist has a sick idea to create a human centipede by attaching 3 people mouth to anus. You can see where this is going. These people did not volunteer, of course. They’re just kidnapped tourists. Cancel your travel plans, kids. If you feel the need to watch this shitshow, (pardon the pun) you might as well do it just to say you did. If you watch all 3, you are a stronger woman than I.
3. Street Trash (1987) Director: James M. Muro | Writer: Roy Frumkes
Splatterpunk is one of the coolest words I can think of, and the subgenre makes for a hell of a fun movie. This one’s about the owner of a liquor store who discovers and sells a mysterious brew to the local homeless: except this liquor is toxic in a “melt your body” kind of way. Super slimy, bubbly and gross, totally worth a watch. I’ll be seeing it on 35mm next weekend at the Northwest Horror Show. I can’t wait!
4. The Beyond (1981) Director: Lucio Fulci | Writer: Dardano Sacchett
When most people think of Fulci, this is one of the first movies that comes to mind. You have to love the idea of a woman inheriting a hotel with a shady past - so shady in fact, it’s built over the entrance to hell! There’s some great gore happening in The Beyond: face melting, eye gouging, faces ripping apart, it’s a smorgasbord of delicious effects. Some think that this is all the film has going for it - I’ll let you decide.
5. Texas Chainsaw (1974) Director: Tobe Hooper | Writers: Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper
Whenever I revisit Chainsaw, all I can think about is the buckets of chicken blood the actors had to deal with in the southern heat. This movie has such a great, grimy quality to it that can never be fully reproduced, no matter how many sequels and remakes they throw at us. Surprisingly (and often counter to memory) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has very little gore. Still, the atmosphere it creates is pretty gross and it’s still one of the best horror movies of all time.
6. The Fly (1986) Director: David Cronenberg | Writer: Charles Edward Pogue
This is probably my favourite on this entire list. Who doesn’t love an eccentric scientist, especially one played by Jeff Goldblum? In an attempt to dazzle the world (and a sexy journalist) with teleportation technology, he attempts to teleport himself when a fly enters the chamber with him. Their DNA become intertwined, and the horror begins! We are treated with the opportunity to spectate as our scientist becomes a fly, complete with enzyme-barfing, fingernail pulling, teeth falling out gore. I’m excited even writing about it! This movie holds up so well: watch it this weekend with your girlfriend.
7. The Thing (1982) Director: John Carpenter | Writer: Bill Lancaster
Nothing good can come from an isolated research base in the dead of winter. Especially when it’s discovered that there’s some alien lifeforce creeping around, assuming the identity of other people. This movie has some awesome transformation scenes, whether it’s dogs or humans, appendages are flailing, heads are stretching, and it gets oozy. This film has stellar reviews and is always worth a return visit - especially for those lucky enough to be able to see it in theatres.
8. Videodrome (1983) Director & Writer: David Cronenberg
Of course there’s more than one Cronenberg movie here - he is the king of body horror and I am Canadian, after all. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but certain scenes in Videodrome made me feel faint. Cronenberg has a way of adding an atmosphere of confusion to the disturbing images he presents, this one involving a TV producer who comes across a strange station that may or may not be a cover for something sinister. I think we all love a good spiral out of control, and Videodrome delivers on that premise while giving us weird sexual themes. It’s like a jello salad with carrots and raisins: you might not like it, but it’s very intriguing.
9. Dead Alive or Braindead (1992) Director: Peter Jackson | Writer:Stephen Sinclair
First, do an image search for ‘Sumatran rat monkey’. Now we’re talking. Dead Alive (also known as Braindead) is a hell of a ride. A woman gets bit by this strange creature, dies, and resurrects as a flesh-eating zombie! Sure, the zombie thing is pretty tired today. But you will not be disappointed when you feast your eyes on this movie. You want literal gallons of blood? You want impalings? You want things bursting out of chests? Whatever you want, Dead Alive is gonna give it to you, and you’re gonna love it.
10. The Devil’s Rejects (2005) Director & Writer: Rob Zombie
Strangely, this is the only movie that’s actually managed to cause me to throw up. Rob Zombie has a well-known style rut involving backwards, inbred families and grime. This family is on the road to take their murderous rampage on a tour! Hanging out at an isolated motel, they torture some nice folk. It is nasty, bloody, dirty and violent. If you liked House of 1000 Corpses, I assure you this one is even better. Just pick something other than a full bag of chips to barf into. You’ll be sad.
11. Salo or The 120 Days of Sodom (1975) Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini | Writers: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Sergio Citti
Highly controversial and banned in several countries, Salo tells the tale of 4 sick individuals who kidnap 18 adolescents and subject them to dehumanizing and brutal torture for four months. Out of every movie on this list, I’d say this one is probably the hardest to watch. Besides the amount of torture and gore, there’s also a lot of sexual deviance and rape, as well as the forced ingestion of human feces. I don’t need to say more than that.
12. Feed (2005) Director: Brett Leonard | Writer: Kieran Galvin
I don’t even want to talk about this one, but I also kind of want someone else to be traumatized. I’ll never forget the day in high school my friend and I rented this, feeling brave and curious. We couldn’t finish it together, but after she went home I watched the rest by myself. Essentially this is about a guy who force feeds obese women to death and broadcasts it on the internet, where people place bets on the time of death. It’s not a good time. We had to take a break during a scene where it’s discovered that the man is feeding the survivors the body fat of those who have passed before. I hate this movie, but I’d love to hear from someone who doesn’t.
13. Evil Dead (2013) Director: Fede Alvarez | Writers: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
When I asked my casual horror movie-going friends what their grossest horror experience was, almost all of them named this movie before any other. The classic tale of five friends who head to a cabin and discover the Book of the Dead is what horror movie dreams are made of. This remake isn’t half-bad, either. The effects are well-done and it’s super gory with a ton of self-inflicted horror. A scene brought up repeatedly involves a broken mirror and a face. If you’ve seen it, you know. If you haven’t, you should.
14. Cannibal Holocaust (1980) Director: Ruggero Deodato | Writer: Gianfranco Clerici / Cannibal Ferox (1981) Director & Writer: Umberto Lenzi
These two are so rarely mentioned separately, I thought it was best to keep them together. Which one is best? You decide. They both involve cannibal tribes and the kind of violence and gore that caused some to mistakenly believe they were snuff films. In Holocaust, it follows the story of a professor who comes upon the video footage of a missing documentary crew. In Ferox, it follows 3 people out to disprove cannibalism who meet some men on the run who tortured a cannibal tribe for their riches. Watch them both if you dare, and tell me which one you prefer. Fair warning, real animals were harmed in the making of Holocaust - a point that some have great difficulty with.
15. Xtro (1982) Director: Harry Bromley Davenport | Writer: Iain Cassie
Xtro involves a man who was abducted by aliens, only to return 3 years later with awkward and negative consequences. This is a very weird film that Rogert Ebert called “an exercise in sadness” that also happens to involve a lot of blood. One thing’s for sure: birth is intense in general, but this movie boasts a super-gory birthing sequence that can’t be missed.
16. The Incredible Melting Man (1977) Director & Writer: William Sachs
What do you think of when you hear the words “homicidal gelatin”? It’s aspic, isn’t it? Jokes aside, The Incredible Melting Man is not the world’s best movie, but it does have some serious gross-out factor. Though originally intended as a parody of horror films, the tone of the film was shifted to straight horror. The Melting Man himself is an astronaut, having been exposed to something in space that turns him into a man-eating blob. Watching the man melt is pretty great, so I recommend catching a clip of that at the very least.
17. The Blob (1988) Director: Chuck Russell | Writer: Theodore Simonson
Did you ever play Blob-tag in school? One person is “it” and as he tags other people, they join hands creating a large blob that continues to grow. Obviously inspired by The Blob, an entity that consumes everything in its path growing ever larger. Of course, the blob comes from a meteor! Space is crazy! The blob seems to be corrosive in some way as we are treated to more skin melting and oozing. Sure, it’s a little cheesy, but it’s a classic!
18. Nekromantik (1987) Director: Jörg Buttgereit | Writer: Jörg Buttgereit, Franz Rodenkirchen
Few things give me the creeps more than the idea that some people legitimately enjoy having sex with corpses. That’s what this one is about. I guess when you’re a street cleaner you probably find some pretty weird stuff. This one in particular finds a corpse, and brings it home to spice up his marriage and share with his wife. The twist: she likes the corpse more than she likes him! Gross! Even so, that’s just the beginning…
19. Slime City (1988) Director & Writer: Greg Lamberson
Probably best shown as a double feature with Street Trash, Slime City is about a young man who rents a crappy place in a dilapidated apartment building in order to impress a lady. His strange neighbours brew a wine-like concoction that when ingested turns him into - you guessed it - a melty monster! The only thing that can turn him normal is to kill someone. He’s on a rampage, and the building has a secret… do you care enough to find out what it is?
20. Cabin Fever (2002) Director: Eli Roth | Writers: Eli Roth, Randy Pearlstein
The premise: a group of friends acting like idiots in a rented cabin fall prey to a flesh-eating disease. There’s also some murderous locals, as if your flesh being eaten away isn’t a damper enough to your country get-away. This movie is far from my favourite, but I can never get the leg-shaving scene out of my head; that sound just gives me the creeps. If you’re going to watch it, I suggest bringing beer and friends. This one might be Eli Roth’s best.
Are you feeling queasy yet? I want to know! Tell me which of these is your favourite. Also, tell me what I missed! While gross-out horror is not my favourite, I still really appreciate a good old face melt.