As we close in on October 31, AiPT! will be reviewing and recommending various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
There is a lot of fun and games involving Halloween, but there is also plenty of murder and mayhem. There is no shortage of silly horror movies that make us laugh, but there are just as many whose sole purpose is to disgust their audiences. The staff at AiPT! discuss gory horror movies.
What was the first gory horror movie you ever saw?
Jason Segarra: When I was a young, impressionable youth watching late night Showtime movies in the living room while my parents were asleep (get your mind out of the gutter) I was one day introduced to a little film called Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki. For the uninitiated, Riki-Oh is the story of a dude named Ricky (surprised?), a superhumanly strong martial artist who ends up in prison for killing a triad boss who killed his girlfriend, I think? It’s been a long time and the movie isn’t exactly known for it’s story. No, what lingers with you after watching the Story of Riki is the cartoonish ultra violence that would make Fist of the North Star look like Kiki’s Delivery Service. From a dude’s head being crushed by a palm strike to another guy literally using his intestines as a weapon, Riki-Oh is one of the most gloriously over-the-top movies of all time – and a hell of an introduction to cinematic violence.
Dave Brooke: I loved Riki-Oh in college. Amazing gore, although is it really horror? More of an action comedy! For me I’d go with The Witches with Anjelica Huston. I still can’t believe this movie was for kids. There’s some amazing special effects and some rather gross stuff going on with soup. The body horror when Houston changes still stays with me.
Lisa Allison: My first gory horror movie was Friday the 13th. My friend Tracy had a slumber party and her older brother rented it for us. (We were not supposed to be watching them and for good reason.) I remember being freaked out by Jason lumbering around the camp breathing heavy, wielding a giant knife and hacking at camp counselors. Oh and of course we can’t forget the young lovers. It’s like Hollywood was trying to say if you have sex, you are definitely going to die; painfully. And the mom, Mrs. Voorhees, – talk about a freak show. Let’s just say the lights stayed on that night.
Megan Wallen: I honestly can’t remember, but I would probably guess Saw.
Nathaniel Muir: I did not care much for horror movies when I was younger. I would watch the big ones like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, but for the most part I found them silly. What did interest me were banned movies. Before the internet, they were the type of movies you would hear about at school but no one had ever seemed to have seen. There was a swap market I would go to every once in a while and I eventually found there were tape traders. (This led to a years long obsession with tape trading that introduced me to lots of cool movies.) Long story short, the first gory movie I ever saw was Faces of Death.
Gory horror movies are excessive by definition. When does it become too much for even these types of movies?
Jason: Movie violence is like fireworks: It can be a great way to cap off a quiet moment, but if you see too many in a row it sort of loses its impact. As such, gore can be a fun denouement to a tense sequence or a nice punctuation to shift the mood of a movie, but if the film is nothing but gore it gets kind of repetitive and boring. You need to milk the moments leading up to the gore, otherwise it’s just unearned nonsense that is just kind of there. I need a reason to care about the violence, otherwise it’s just a vapid and transparent attempt to pop the audience. In wrestling terms, it’s “cheap heat.”
Dave: Depending on if the movie is going for comedy or not I think when gore goes from realistic to unrealistic do things fall off the wagon. When people have had their flesh torn off, or have been bleeding for days and still move around only to have another limb torn off I check out instantly.
Lisa: I think there are many times when a movie goes a bit too far. Sometimes the unseen or partially viewed is scarier than the excessive blood and guts. I recently watched the movie Terrifier now there is one creepy clown. Spoiler alert he never speaks and that makes him even more sinister. The movie was good overall but a bit too heavy on gore for me in two scenes. Again (spoiler alert) there is a scene early in the movie when he cuts a woman in half who is hanging upside down. There is a great deal of time spent on him sawing through her body and then they reference this same dead woman at least three more times in the film as characters are moving throughout the building. I felt like they were trying to get their money’s worth for the prop but I did not need to see close ups of this woman more than once. Start sawing, see the blood, and we all know what is happening. The second time was a fight scene where the clown stomps on someones head and we see it splatter. A bit too much gore for me. This could have been shot from the perspective of the man on the floor. The terror of seeing the boot coming, add a sound effect to emulate the action and the cut off scream.
Megan: It probably just depends on how much the person could handle. When I was younger, I had no issues with seeing gore. I could sit there and eat my dinner with no problem. Now when I go back and show my nephews the brilliance of Saw, I always question how I was ever able to sit through the gruesome torture scenes, especially at a young age. My tolerance has changed a lot. Honestly, I can’t even watch that episode of SpongeBob where he gets a splinter in his thumb.
Nathaniel: As long as the violence fits with the story that is being told, there can never be too much violence. The infamous tree rape scene from Evil Dead is a great example of a very violent scene that fits in the context of the story. The Human Centipede 2 however is filled with over the top violence (including a boot stomp scene similar to what Lisa described, but this one involving a baby) that serves no purpose. Basically, violence for the sake of violence never works.
What is the goriest horror movie you’ve ever seen?
Jason: It’s kind of hard to say what’s the goriest movie I’ve seen, but my favorite very-gory movie is probably Planet Terror. Robert Rodriguez’s love letter to grindhouse cinema is full of schlock and awe, from my practical effects hero Tom Savini being drawn and quartered to Quentin Tarrantino’s genitals literally rotting off of his body. This is a movie with it’s tongue planted firmly in cheek and the dial cranked up to 11 in every sense of the world. By the time Bruce Willis’ swollen head is exploding you’ve seen so much gore that the Mortal Kombat games look like Parappa the Rappa.
Dave: Dead Alive has got to be the goriest movie I’ve ever seen. Babies in blenders, a dude hoists a lawnmower and mows down a bunch of undead folks, and a hand goes through the back of a girls head! Check a few out here:
Lisa: One of the goriest movies I have seen is Tusk. Director and writer, Kevin Smith tells the tale of when a podcaster with an ego visits Canada for an interview with someone with a penchant for walruses. I can still see those horrifying final scenes with Justin Long to this day.
Megan: I would have to say that maybe it’s a tie between the Saw series, 2002’s Cabin Fever, and 2006’s The Hills Have Eyes.
Nathaniel: The scenes that stick out most to me are the animal cruelties scenes in Cannibal Holocaust. The already disgusting killings take on a whole new meaning after I learned real animals were used. I watched the movie again last year for I do not know what reason and thought I was going to get ill.
Do you like gory horror movies or when you watch them is it more out of curiosity?
Jason: Like I mentioned before, I enjoy gore but it can’t be the only thing to like about the movie. It’s an accent, not an entree. It serves to highlight scenes that should feature characters I care about or provide consequences for someone those we don’t. Movies like Mandy are greatly enhanced by their levels of violence, whereas dreck like Hostel or Cannibal Holocaust exist JUST for the horrific scenes of violence, making them a lot more forgettable.
Dave: I enjoy gore up until a point. There’s definitely a time and a place for kills to rack up in creative ways, but if the gore scenes are well timed and placed it can be excellent. Terrifier comes to mind as a recent goody for this type of gore and it’s on Netflix right now!
Lisa: As I said in my previous comments, I think gore can go too far. I prefer suspense, light gore and plot twists that mess with your head. The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix is doing that quite well. This series is delightfully scary without being overly gory.
Megan: I really don’t like them. I don’t know why I keep watching them. In Saw’s case, that series is just well-written and phenomenally directed, which is why I fell in love with those movies. Usually, I find gory movies cheesy, though, or they don’t look good or something.
Nathaniel: Initially, it was curiosity. Then, I found stuff like Evil Dead and realized that some of these movies aren’t that bad. Plus, it seems like everything that can be done has been. I have to admit though, whenever I hear that a movie is over the top (A Serbian Film is a somewhat recent example that comes to mind) it still piques my interest.