[Editor’s Note: This post is presented in partnership with Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand in support of Indie Film Month. Today’s pick, “The Human Centipede: Part III (Final Sequence),” is available now On Demand. Need help finding a movie to watch? Let TWC find the best fit for your mood here.]
“The Human Centipede: Part III (Final Sequence)” is a really bad movie. Don’t mistake our C- for mediocrity, or what Metacritic considers “average.” It’s bad… like, realizing you ran out of toilet paper too late kind of bad. And it’s gross, also like realizing you ran out of toilet paper too late. But it’s not the grossest movie ever. Here are 11 movies that are also very gross, but some of which are actually pretty good.
“Cannibal Holocaust,” directed by Ruggero Deodato (1985)
One of the progenitors of the unfortunately now ubiquitous found-footage sub-genre, “Cannibal Holocaust” tells the story of a crew of self-righteous, sensationalist journalists who travel to the Amazon to capture footage of indigenous people doing indigenous people stuff. Unfortunately for the journalists, that indigenous people stuff includes mutilation and cannibalism. Cultural criticism courses the film like so much tainted blood: inspired by the sensational media coverage of the Red Brigade, Deodato crafted a raw, grueling treatise on journalistic ethics that’s just as upsetting (and convincing) 40 years later. Even more unnerving than the fake cannibalism is the genuine depiction of living animals being killed (including one particularly stomach-churning instance of a turtle being torn apart, its heart still visibly pulsating as the viscera-dripping shell is pulled away), which, while disconcerting, serves as an analogue to the way journalists approach their subjects. This movie is not PETA-approved. Deodato was arrested and tried for murder, and consequently had to get the cast, who were in seclusion to sustain an aura of mystery about the film, to appear before the court, and had to show how he “impaled” a woman in the movie (he used a bike seat). Skip Eli Roth’s awful “Green Inferno” and watch Deodato’s original instead.
“Flowers of Flesh and Blood,” directed by Hideshi Hino (1985)
Written and directed by Hino, based on his own manga work, “Flowers” (the second film in the notorious Japanese Guinea Pig film series) basically invented torture porn. A samurai (Hino) captures and inoculates a young woman with a body-numbing drug, then proceeds to dismember her. That’s the entire film. Grisly and gratuitous, yet oddly restrained in its approach to limb-lopping (Hino just kind of points his camera at a body part, then cuts off that body part), this bloody (and bloody boring) movie has no reason to exist. Charlie Sheen thought it was a real snuff film and called the FBI, who apparently took his fears seriously and opened an investigation. (It wasn’t real.)
“Evil Dead,” directed by Fede Alvarez (2013)
A handful of pretty young things spend a weekend in an old cabin in the woods, where they unleash demon entities and hack each other up. The much-hyped, quickly forgotten remake of Sam Raimi’s cult classic splatter film is so utterly devoid of laughs and so oppressively lugubriously, it’s almost funny. The film was basically greeted with one collective, “Eh,” as it isn’t bad enough to be hated but obviously doesn’t approach the original’s ingenuity. The immensely gifted Alvarez eschews the camp fun and DIY fun of Raimi’s classic (and its meta-pseudo-sequel), as well as the “the,” and holds the viewer’s face to the proverbial grinder for an hour and a half. And you know what? It’s actually pretty great. Now that enough time has passed, “Evil Dead” can and should be appreciated for its formal excellence. If its plot lacks creativity, its execution certainly doesn’t. Alvarez never pretends to peddle in profundity, instead focusing on viscera and sheer impact. Believe me when I say I’ve seen more horror movies than a sane man should (hey, ladies, I’m single), and this one still makes me shield my eyes: the tongue-splitting, limb-lopping, face-peeling-off violence pushes the R rating to the limit. This is some bravado bloodletting, as visceral and relentlessly brutal as the notorious French shocker “High Tension” but drastically less stupid.
“Nekromantik,” directed by Jorg Buttgereit (1987)
This weird little German movie is often cited for its repulsiveness, earning spots on everyone’s “most disturbing movies” lists. Not that anyone ever calls it “good”– it’s pretty unequivocally awful — but the fact it even exists is sort of impressive. Buttgereit’s film depicts a man who uses his job to bring home dead bodies so he and his wife can have sex with them. He gets fired, she leaves, people have more sex with dead bodies. That’s the whole movie. The weirdest thing, other than all the dead body sex, is how not scary it is. The music is sappy and romantic (?!) and the mood closer in spirit with those notorious Lifetime movies we love to make fun of but never actually watch. Regardless, necrophilia is gross, and this movie’s lone interest is necrophilia, thus this movie is gross.
“Ichi the Killer,” directed by Takashi Miike (2001)
The film’s title appears in the crystalline form of a boy’s semen (an impressively large load, too), which the little peeping tom shot on a plant leaf. That’s “Ichi the Killer.” Miike has spent his entire career crafting movies that revolt and revile with such craftsmanship, you have to give the guy credit. It’s not easy making a movie as disturbing as “Audition” (his best movie), or as stomach-emptying gross as “Ichi.” The thing about “Ichi,” it’s not a horror movie. It’s a comedy. You’re supposed to laugh at the cornucopia of carnage. After a while of being bludgeoned with blood and guts and innards and semen, you get numb. It doesn’t have such an upsetting affect anymore. It’s almost…funny? That’s the grossest thing about this two-hour tour-de-gore: it eventually converts you, like a Conquistador spreading Christianity, to its bilious cause. Well done, Miike.
“Braindead/ Dead Alive,” directed by Peter Jackson (1992)
The only film on this list that can be considered “fun,” Jackson’s macabre masterpiece has all the eloquence of a 90-minute dead baby joke. An old New Zealand woman is bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey (the bastard spawn of tree monkeys who were raped by plague-carrying rats), becomes horribly ill, starts losing body parts and pounds of slurried flesh, and turns her entire town into a horde of zombies. And these zombies don’t just eat brains: they fornicate and make baby zombies. The final half-hour is a bacchanal of blood and pus: a man uses a lawnmower to slice his friends and family into pieces; some disembodied bowels checking themselves out in a vanity mirror; and a pregnant zombie mom splashing her soiled amniotic fluid all over the place. There’s a running gag about a guy getting smacked in the nuts, too, as well as a baby in a blender. Peter Jackson used to be so fun.
An example of the New French Extremity, “Martyrs” deals in gore the way cowboys deal in lead. The only film here that actually has a plot you can “spoil,” it begins at an abattoir, where a young girl is physically abused for a long time, continues to an orphanage, and eventually ends with people being filleted alive. The yard stick against which all movie violence should be measured, “Martyrs” has its legion of detractors, and you can’t really blame them: it’s a tough sit, even for horror movie aficionados. But it’s sort of worth it?
“Zombi 2,” directed by Lucio Fulci (1979)
This is here just for the eye-piercing scene.
“In a Glass Cage,” directed by Agusti Villaronga (1986)
A sadistic ex-Nazi in hiding is caught abusing and murdering children, so he tries to kill himself by jumping off a tower. He fails, and ends up in an iron lung. One of his victims, now a grown man, shows up, claiming to be the new nurse. They used to have a sick, sadomasochistic relationship that involved killing kids, and this guy’s here to get revenge. His grand plan? Torturing and murdering children in front of the Nazi, who has to watch. Turns out he plans on taking the Nazi’s identity, becoming the new Nazi child raper murder. This movie is ineffably bizarre and mean. One kid is killed by having a gasoline-filled need shoved into his heart. Why? Because fuck it, why not? If kids being raped and mutilated by Nazis is your thing, here ya go.
“Snowtown,” directed by Justin Kurzel (2011)
Gross in the sense that this intensely gory movie will be seared into the catacombs of your mind forever, “Snowtown” announced the arrival of a prodigiously talented young filmmaker named Justin Kurzel, whose newest film, “Macbeth,” starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, just premiered at Cannes. It’s gross in the sense that instead of the amoral, fiendishly depraved killers we’re used to, we get young people who have been hurt and manipulated and pulled into violence. Pedophilia, rape, incest, and murder are all present and accounted for, but this might be the most upsetting movie on the list — instead of reveling in homophobia and bigotry like “In a Glass Cage,” it show us how evil hatred is. It shows us very clearly. It’s gross in the sense that, unlike most of the other films on this list, the violence here has meaning. I don’t want to ruin it for you. An classic of modern horror, “Snowtown” will fuck you up.
“A Serbian Film,” directed by Srdjan Spasojevic (2010)
Here it is, the infamous “Serbian Film,” a movie so nefarious, so notoriously vile, it’s almost as hard to find someone who’s watched it all the way through as it is to actually watch it all the way through yourself. A former porn star in need of money is tricked into joining a snuff film, and ends up making a career out of it. When he tries to leave, bad things happen. Like, really bad things. Made with surprising formal prowess (if you can keep your eyes open), this fiercely pissed-off movie is a allegedly allegory — emphasis on “gory” — for the various atrocities committed by the Serbian government. Again, allegedly. Whether you agree or care is irrelevant, since no one watching this can think about such pseudo-philosophical things when a man is anally raping a shrieking woman while simultaneously hacking her head off with a knife. I’m not going to try to convince you to watch this, nor will I claim to have watched it all the way through in one sitting, but I will say that it’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Unbearable, maybe, but Spasojevic lights and frames each shot with deft precision, something that you may not notice once you’ve gouged out your own eyes. He even seems to lace his (unwatchable, soul-purging) movie with ironic and irreverent humor, an inside joke to which only he is privy. Regardless, he directs the hell out of this. He obviously knows what he’s doing, which means he’s not incompetent, just perhaps insane. You may feel like a worse human for having watched it, but you shouldn’t. The repulsive material actually has an idea behind it, though I’m not sure what that idea is. And even as I type that, I’m reminded of the baby rape…
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