Top 10 Gory Film Scenes
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Having been a horror movie fan since I can remember I’ve always felt great works of the genre didn’t have to resort to violence and gore to frighten or affect an audience. That said, there’s a place for all types of horror film and the ‘gore movie’ is one of them.
When I think of blood and guts flying about the place I immediately envision An American Werewolf in London’s devastating attack on the English moors, The Omen’s glass-flying decapitation, Robocop’s nemesis Ed-209 blowing holes in an overzealous corporate executive, and heads exploding in David Cronenberg’s Scanners. Let’s see if any of them make this top 10.
The best gory scenes in horror cinema combine the visual with the emotional – the physicality of human destruction with the emotional response and consequence.
Last Warning! You’re about to see things that shouldn’t be turned inside out! Decapitations, maiming, slaughter, death and destruction. You’re about to see what happens when you mess with the devil, when you try to defend yourself against a human man-fly. You’re about to see what happens when you try to trick a girl into bed. You’re about to see what happens when you plays games that shouldn’t be played, when science goes wrong, when a unwelcome dinner guest announces its presence in the most horrific way. This is all part of the delight of gore cinema.
Just remind yourself – and keep saying over and over – it’s just a special-effect, it’s just a special-effect, it’s just a special-effect, it’s just a special-effect, it’s just a special-effect, it’s just a special-effect…
The following films and sequences were chosen from a short list based on quality. Yes, they do feature moments of extreme visual terror but they are also accomplished pieces of filmmaking. All are worth seeing if you’re a horror fan who doesn’t like blood and guts.
Anyway, time to get the sick bag ready. Here we go!
10. Robocop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)
As previously mentioned, “Robocop” is one of a distinct breed of dystopian, action-orientated and viciously violent science-fiction from Dutch director Paul Verhoeven. I lost count of the bone-crunching, torso-ripping flying elbows and bullets delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Verhoeven’s “Total Recall”. He’s likewise given us, in graphic detail, a staple diet of sex and violence (at times at the same time) with such films as “Showgirls”, “Basic Instinct”, “Starship Troopers”, and “Hollow Man”. Robocop is no different, and arguably the director’s best work.
There are several scenes worthy of inclusion in this list and it’s certainly been difficult picking a best one. Should I go with the Paul McCrane’s acid bath (no amount of Radox bubbles would have made that swim anymore relaxing), or Peter Weller watching his own hand disappear thanks to a fairly large bullet fired from Clarence Boddicker’s shotgun? Well, no, I can’t go with either of these scenes simply because there’s another more graphic, more bloody, more breathtaking piece of exploitation. Ed-209 – that dodgy pre-Robocop cyborg – introduces itself to a panel of OCP’s top executives by dispatching one of them in a flurry of flesh-pounding bullets. Must have been a computer virus or something!
9. The Omen (Richard Donner, 1976)
The Omen was one of those horror films I saw when I was probably too young to watch it. I remember seeing it in my parent’s VHS collection and knew instinctively it was out of bounds. Firstly, it had the UK rating of 18, and secondly, it had that horrid image of a boy clad in black with a jackal’s shadow. The poster is brilliantly conceived but it’s one hell of a scary proposition.
The scene I refer to as my seventh scariest horror movie moment is perhaps the film’s most famous. When the father of a child he believes to be the son of the Devil travels to mainland Europe with his photographer friend to investigate the child’s mysterious birth, things take a turn for the worse. Director Richard Donner sets up the scene in question perfectly with a haunting sequence in a graveyard where the father discovers the mother of his child was an animal. From here we head back into town where a truck with sheets of glass is backing onto a construction site. The photographer, already pre-warned that his death will have something to do with his neck, has no time to save himself when a sheet of glass slides off the truck, through the air and, unfortunately for him, through his neck. The severed body part spins in the air before coming to a final resting spot.
8. Scanners (Cronenberg, 1981)
One of the most iconic scenes from both the horror and science-fiction genres appears in Cronenberg’s “Scanners” when, at a press conference held to show the power of telekinesis, renegade ‘Scanner’ Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) violently murders the conference’s host. The head exploding with slow-motion guts and glory is easily the most memorable scene in the movie. “Scanners” isn’t as refined as some of Cronenberg’s better work (The Fly, The Brood, and Videodrome) but no less worthwhile. Its depiction of horror within scientific exploration and the monstrous side of man has rarely been bettered.
7. The Fly (Cronenberg, 1986)
Anchored by a brilliant performance from Jeff Goldblum, director David Cronenberg continues his investigation into the renowned body-horror, as Goldbum’s Seth Brundle attempts metamorphosis but it all goes wrong when a house fly gets caught up in the machine. As Brundle struggles to find a cure to his problem, he falls deeper in love with Geena Davis’ concerned Veronica. When he learns that his body structure is becoming that of a fly, the fruits of his new powers soon challenge his sanity and ultimate survival. The Fly is one of several great horror films made in the eighties by Cronenberg but it stands out because it is his most accessible, and probably most accomplished piece of work.
The scene that stands out for gore hounds is Brundle’s use of his powers to subdue a redneck arm-wrestler. Mr Redneck should know not the mess with a human man-fly – it’s common sense!
6. Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
The second of two scenes that appear in both the ‘gore top 10’ and the ‘scariest horror movie moments’. Here we discover something nasty has come over for dinner.
Ridley Scott changed the way science-fiction was viewed heading into the 1980s; he empowered the female hero, and he inspired a slew of brilliant sci-fi horror movies to be made over the coming years as well as one of the genre’s most iconic franchises.
The set up is fairly simple. The crew of the spacecraft Nostromo are awakened from hyper-sleep by a distress signal sent from a nearby planet. On investigating, one of the crew gets attacked and is left with an alien creature attached to his face. After several hours the creature seems to die and the crew member awakens. At first everything appears normal. The crew have one last meal before returning to hyper-sleep. However, Kane, the crew member who was attacked by the alien creature, begins convulsing at the dinner table. His chest begins to bleed then explodes from within. From the open wound, another creature appears. Kane, now dead, is left lying on the dinner table as the creature runs off into the ventilation shaft leaving the crew breathless and bemused.
The scene is one of the most remembered in horror cinema. Scott didn’t tell the actors how much blood was going to be caused by the violent death so their shocked reactions are very real. John Hurt, who played Kane, is so convincing during his chaotic demise. The scene was a definite first, and it’s a perfect example of blood and gore used correctly. That is – not overdone, not used for the sake of it, and not simply to shock or repulse the audience. In Alien, this scene is pivotal to character and plot, and since, at the time, we’d never seen anything like it before, it’s a banker in any Top 10 list.
5. Haute Tension (English Title: Switchblade Romance / Alexandre Aje, France, 2003)
French film Switchblade Romance tells the tale of Alexia, who travels with friend Marie, to spend some time on her parents farm. During the night a man breaks into the house, slaughtering Alexia’s entire family. Marie stays hidden but is forced to follow the killer when he kidnaps Alexia.
The scene that I refer to here is Alexia’s father’s death. The killer brutally assaults Alexia’s father, beating him over the head. As he tries to escape up the stairs, the killer forces the man’s head between the stair banisters. Leaving the dying man stuck there, the killer walks to a chest of drawers, lines them up with the father’s head, and rolls the chest viciously into the man’s skull instantly decapitating him.
The scene is one of great tension as Marie cowers upstairs listening to the screams while Alexia remains asleep, unknowing of what is going on.
4. Odishon (English Title: Audition / Takashi Miike, Japan, 1999)
Audition by Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike is a devastatingly frightening movie because the horror comes as if out of nowhere. He directs the film in such a way that something wrong is taking place but you can’t put your finger on what it is. It all leads up to the finale which is not only difficult to watch but one of the best horror endings to come out of Japanese cinema.
The film tells the story of Aoyama, a man struggling to find happiness seven years after his wife’s death. With his son about to move away, Aoyama tells a friend, who happens to be a film producer, about his predicament. In order to build his spirits, his friend organises a fake audition. At the audition, Aoyama becomes interested in Asami, an attractive young girl, who he takes out on a date. But he underestimates Asami, who wont let Aoyama’s lies go unpunished.
Asami decides to punish Aoyama in the film’s goriest scene by firstly inserting metal rods into his body and eyes to induce pain, then cutting off his feet with metal wire.
3. Saw III (Darren Lynn Bousman, USA, 2006)
It’s unsurprising that torture porn – a new horror sub-genre that has roots in the 1970s and 1980s but has only recently been fully realised in the likes of Saw and Hostel – should feature in this top 5. My scene of choice is the rack trap from Saw 3 when an unsuspecting character finds his head, arms and body secured to a hydraulic rack.
Saw 3 mixes its games of sadism with two plots strands. Jeff has to deal with Jig-Saw’s games still grieving for his young son, revenge playing a part in his every move. Meanwhile, Dr. Denlon is held captive by Jig-Saw with an explosive necklace charged to go off if Jig-Saw dies. The doctor has to keep him alive in order to save her own skin.
The rack trap scene is one of many from the Saw movies that could feature in this list. Unfortunately for our victim, the rack slowly and agonisingly twists his arms and legs off. The man is still alive when the rack starts to twist his head off
2. Hellraiser (Clive Barker, UK, 1987)
In the feature film debut of director Clive Barker, Hellraiser tells the graphic tale of a husband and wife who move into a new house only to find the man’s half brother, who is also his wife’s ex-lover, hiding in the attic. The only trouble is the man has lost his body and needs human sacrifices to return to his former self. However, the Cenobites (demons from hell, no less) who put him in the situation meant for him to stay that way, and as he nears full function again, they aren’t far behind.
The scene that frequently appears in goriest film moment lists is when our demon friends punish Uncle Frank having almost fully restored himself. Frank is a sick, twisted individual who killed his own brother in the process of rejuvenating himself, and is about to murder the film’s heroine Kirsty (his brother’s daughter) before the Cenobites arrive.
Sending out chains with metal hooks attached to their ends, the Cenobites spear Frank all over his body. As the chains pull back, his skin peels away from his body. In one final moment of ultimate pain Frank mutters “Jesus wept” before the chains rip him apart.
1. Day of the Dead (George Romero, USA, 1985)
Day of the Dead is especially renowned because it’s not just a good film, it’s the third part of a brilliant horror series.
Zombies have taken control over the United States. A small group of scientists and military personnel survive in an underground Floridian bunker. The scientists use experiments on the zombie’s to find a cure but lose faith in the military leaders. The military banish the scientists but it’s not long until both sides are fighting to the death as the Zombie’s attack the bunker.
The classic scene from the movie involves a survivor trying to escape the clutches of a one particular mean-spirited Zombie. Thinking he’s escaped, he walks into a group of flesh-tearing monstrosities. Evading capture, he turns to find he’s been shot by a gun-toting undead man, and is then overwhelmed by the group of Zombies. They tear his flesh apart in the graphic scene that sees the man’s legs ripped from his body, and his stomach eaten before his eyes. In one classic moment before he dies, he instructs the undead to “choke” on his flesh!