No one was quite sure what to expect with Darren Aronofsky’s follow up to Noah (2014) and Black Swan (2010). The minimalist trailer hinted at something more akin to Requiem for a Dream (2000) – but what you eventually get is one of the most startling films in recent cinematic history. The fact that the director pulled in Hollywood heavyweights like Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem and Michelle Pfeiffer doesn’t disguise the more extreme scenes in the movie.
This is one of those films that you’ll probably regret watching once its over. The temptation, however, is almost impossible to resist. The French horror has rightly earned its reputation for pushing the boundaries of the viewer much like the physical boundaries of the main character are pushed in graphic detail. The metaphysical questions that are pondered about what it takes to get closer to God are worth asking, but the cost is, at times, unbearable.
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Director Yorgos Lanthimos has repeatedly freaked us out. Most recently, The Lobster (2015) and The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) have highlighted how the matter-of-fact delivery favoured by the filmmaker add to the discontent the audience can feel watching his movies. The best example of this is Dogtooth, a film focussing on a family with three teenagers who are isolated from the outside world and educated by their parents in such a way that they are trapped by fear.
The Human Centipede (2009)
Taking an extreme idea, a mad doctor decided to stitch together 3 people from end to end as part of a sick experiment, the first Human Centipede film actually has some merit to it. But forget the sequels. Each new film became ever more preposterous, and you’ll struggle understand the point that director Tom Six is trying to make.
Probably the best film on the list, this is a genuine classic that will feature on many “Best Films Ever” lists. In fact, the brilliance of Happiness occasionally hides how horrific some of the events that occur in it really are. Todd Solondz presents some of the sexual perversions and deviancy that we hear about in real-life newspapers and TV reports. Walking through your own neighbourhood after watching this will never feel like a comfortable experience again.
The film that originated the now-overused term ‘torture porn’, this Japanese thriller by Takashi Miike starts off fairly harmlessly. A widower embarks on a series of ‘interviews’ with potential wives and, after settling on the unassuming Asami (Eihi Shiina), proposes marriage straight away. Things go seriously awry after the widower discovers that everyone connected to his new wife’s past appears to be missing. Asami, it turns out, has ways of making sure her lovers care only for her.
Although it might appear tame on the surface, and it certainly lacks the overt use of blood and gore we’ve seen elsewhere on this list, Rock Hudson’s Seconds is chillingly memorable. The secret of eternal youth, it turns out, is that someone else has to pay the price. Seconds is one of many paranoia-themed films of the time, but boasts a grim finale that will haunt you well after the credits roll.
Ichi the Killer (2001)
Is this meant to be a serious movie? That’s the overriding question we had when we first watched this comic book adaptation about a deranged killer being used by two warring factions to do their dirty (and very bloody) work. The escalation in violence is remarkable, and the film remains banned in several countries due to its graphic content. This will likely be the most blood-filled film you will ever see.
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Part of the new wave of French horror, À l’intérieur (Inside) tells the tale of a pregnant woman trying to defend herself from a mysterious home invader who is on a mission to claim the unborn child for her self. The legendary Béatrice Dalle plays against type as the outsider – and the impromptu cesarean she performs is a stomach-churning (unfortunate pun intended) ‘highlight’.
A Serbian Film (2010)
At times it feels like A Serbian Film only exists to see how far one can push censors before they order an outright ban. Whether there is any artistic merit to the movie is up for debate, with the more generous critics out there claiming they can see parallels between the plot and the war between Serbia and Bosnia. We won’t dare list some of the things that happen in the film, but rest assured we never want to see this film again.
Under the Skin (2013)
Scarlett Johansson stars as an alien wondering around Scotland. The plot could be sci-fi or comedy, but its most definitely horror. There are several terrifying sequences peppered throughout the movie from self-immolation, disturbing sex sequences and a jaw-dropping moment when a man literally falls apart in front of our very eyes.
Salò, or the 120 days of Sodom (1975)
Based on the infamous Marquis de Sade book 120 Days of Sodom, this Italian art-house horror is banned in many countries to this day for its graphic depictions of murder, torture and rape. Four wealthy fascists embark on an odyssey of debauchery that manages to rival even the book itself in its ludicrously disturbing nature. Think of any perversion, and the chances are this film will feature it… multiple times over.
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