The Most Disturbing Horror Films Ever Made – Part II

begun last week with part one, here concludes our list of the most disturbing horror films ever made.


if that tiny office doorway from being john malcovich actually existed but it traveled into the creative mind of anyone you wanted, takashi miike’s would be the last one on my list (likely right below david lynch). i don’t know what’s going on in miike’s head that he’s able to imagine such f’d up things, but i don’t think his mind is a place you want to go on vacation. audition is probably the most coherent of his films and, likely, the most disturbing. it lacks the ferocity and over-the-top violence of something like iichi the killer, but what it lacks in constant gore it makes up in psychological manipulation. the first half of the film feels like a romantic comedy, but slowly hints begin to surface that this is all going to go south real soon. against the back-drop of normality that the tone of the film exudes in its first half, the slightest bit of creepiness is amplified. it’s a slow burn film that builds a sense of uneasiness in its audience, finally resulting in an explosion of depravity in its final moments. ~corey
I like Takashi Miike’s work, but I’m convinced that he’s made a career out of deliberately, fiendishly freaking us all out. Audition is basically about a widower film producer who wants to remarry, but has trouble finding the right woman, so he decides to pretend to hold auditions for a new film, but in reality is holding auditions for his next wife. The whole thing is creepy and exploitative, but before we’re allowed to fully explore the ethical problems of this little scheme, Miike turns the tables when the chosen actress turns out to be much more than he bargained for. The fact that her apartment is furnished only with a telephone and a burlap sack is an early clue that this gal’s up to no good. Audition is actually pretty tame by Miike’s standards. His “Imprint” episode in the sadly defunct Masters of Horror series was the strangest, most perplexing film I’ve ever seen in its grotesque renditions of abortion, incest, and, of course, torture. I’ve heard that Miike insists that he’s not really into torture as a theme, but simply enjoys the technical challenges of filming those kinds of scenes. But who’s he kidding? There’s devilish method to the madness that is Audition, and, as with most of Miike’s films, you COULD interpret it as a kind of morality tale about the reversal of power between man and woman, director and actor, victim and victimizer. That’s all well and good, but he also seems to realize that directors have a kind of power over the audiences who sit in the dark and watch their films, and he’s all too willing to exploit that. ~ Jon

Dard Divorce

the oddly named dard divorce wants to be more than it is. with it’s plot lines of missing drugs, crime bosses and kidnappings and use of flashbacks and forwards, it strives to be an ultra-violent version of pulp fiction. unfortunately, neither director olaf ittenbach’s script nor his ability to elicit believable performances from his actors comes close to those of his german contemporary dr. uwe boll, let alone tarantino. however, much like boll, ittenbach has found a small niche where he does excel — that of depicting horribly graphic and disturbing violence. while it may start off a little slow and get bogged down in its own largely pointless story, dard divorce has many truly grotesque moments. decapitations, stabbings, ocular trauma and repeated facial beatings all make numerous appearances. a shotgun blast to the head and a child being on the losing end of a battle with a chainsaw are just two of the more memorable scenes in a film filled with onscreen violence. the film tacks on a twist ending which is both predictable and difficult to fuly understand, the later due to the bad sound recording in the film’s final moments. such flaws, in addition to the horrible acting, limit how truly disturbing the violence can be, but dard divorce still makes our list simply for its insane shock value. ~corey
I’m sure there is a reason why this is called “Dard” Divorce. It’s a German film, so maybe it’s a German word that couldn’t be translated. The frame story is equally confusing. It involves a young woman, Natalie, who’s going through a divorce. To make matters worse her dog is mysteriously killed (the only clue as to why is a note left for her with the word “Dard” written on it in blood), then her freshly tortured husband shows up on her doorstep and dies, and then her children are kidnapped. And that’s when things get really weird. One of the most disturbing scenes involves a fully naked man chopping up a body for what seemed like an hour. Now that I’ve thought about it, I’m pretty sure that “dard” is German for “painfully confusing with little exposition, meaning, or merit , and so gratuitously violent it will probably give you gingivitis.” ~ Jon


while i’m sure some will question this film’s inclusion on this list, there is no denying that dr. uwe boll’s seed is filled with some disturbing imagery. it’s a cheap and unnecessary move, but opening with actual peta animal cruelty footage does set the bleak tone of the film, instantly separating this from boll’s ridiculous video game adaptations. boll pulls no punches with the rest of the film either, showing in graphic detail what other films would be afraid to hint at. in one scene we see footage of animals being left to starve, die and decompose in a bare room. this scene climaxes with a crying infant left in the room that suffers the same fate. the infant’s death is lessened by some shoddy cgi work, but not enough to make the scene ineffective. another striking scene, which plays out in one long, agonizing shot, involves a woman’s head being slowly smashed to a literal pulp by a hatchet over several minutes. again, less than perfect computer effects detract from this scene as well, but only slightly. with zero comic relief, unrelenting brutality, and not even the emotional relief provided by satisfying suspense sequences, seed seems to have little purpose other than to disturb those watching. ~corey
Everyone knows that Uwe Boll is the laughing stock of horror cinema. House of the Dead is one of those rare films that’s so godawful it’s fun to watch, much like Twilight. So I was completely unprepared for Seed, which opens with a montage of authentic footage of someone skinning what I think is a fox. It’s far worse than anything in Cannibal Holocaust and so nauseating that it would make even Zsa Zsa Gabor throw out her fur coats should she ever see this film. Boll justifies the inclusion of this footage because it belongs to the serial killer Max Seed, and is being used as evidence, but the fact that it’s real definitely makes an impact. Then there’s the ten-minute scene in which Seed beats a woman to death with a hammer. The cgi effects in the scene are middling, but it allows Boll to film the scene with no cuts, and he uses this to significantly increase the sheer ferocity of it all. I’m equally disturbed by the fact that I have to admit that Boll seems entirely competent in the direction of Seed. The editing is consistently interesting and well-paced, and he keeps the story low-key and simple, focusing instead on the more stomach-clenching aspects of it. I’ve heard that Boll is a decent boxer, so I suspect that he grew tired of people laughing at him, and made a sucker-punch of a film that deliberately beats up his audience. ~ Jon


if our list were ranked, cannibal would be a top candidate for most disturbing horror film ever (likely second only to the next film on our list). similar to dard divorce, this film shows graphic, nauseating images in full detail. however, cannibal goes a step further by mixing in sexual deviance and (gasp!) artistic talent. largely told as a silent narrative, cannibal is based on the true life case of armin meiwes, a german man who placed a personal ad looking for a person to eat… and received a reply. similar to aftermath, the entire story is told with an art school slickness, but here the visual choices actually match the story. the film never tells you how to feel about what you’re seeing, but simply lets it unfold while conveying each of the characters emotions without judgment. while loneliness may be an emotion we all can identify with, the need to fry and eat another man’s genitalia is, hopefully, a little more foreign. yet cannibal portrays each the same, which only amplifies how disturbing this film is. if you’re not sickened by the time the failed castration scene ends, you’ll certainly be midway through the chest cavity excavation. this is not a film for the feint of heart nor those looking to be hungry the month after viewing it. ~corey
I used to think that I was a hard-bellied and seasoned horror fan. I used to think that I’d seen a thing or two when it came to violent films. But nothing could have prepared me for the stomach churning nausea of Cannibal. The film is based on a true story about a man who put out a classified ad looking for someone willing to be eaten. And the bizarre part is that someone actually answered the ad, and the two of them followed through with it. I’d love to see a documentary about this story. I have enough morbid curiosity to want to know why someone would do this, and what it might mean about the human condition, or our darker human natures. This film skips all that and just gets right to the cannibalism, sodomy, and astonishingly detailed gore. ~ Jon

Cannibal Holocaust

when i was a kid this was a film i was actually afraid to watch, such was its legendary status. “they actually killed the actors to make this movie” was a rumor i’d heard. as a teen seeing the film for the first time, i thought it very possible what i was watching was real — a feeling only heightened by the ‘found footage’ framework that the film pioneered, later to be used so successfully by the blair witch project. as it turns out, this rumor was both true and false. none of the paid actors were killed for the film (although the director was questioned by authorities about just that, so compelling is the footage), but several of the animal ‘actors’ were. the animal deaths, clearly not faked in the film, are what lead such credence to the human violence that comes later. that is where this film truly crosses the line into dangerous cinema because of all the films we’ve listed, it’s actually the only one you could realistically make a case for being truly morally wrong. despite the grotesqueness present in the faked scenes and stock footage of faces of death, no person or animal was actually harmed for the express purpose of that film. cannibal holocaust cannot make the same claim. several animals were literally tortured to death simply for the shock value and, presumably, for the entertainment of its eventual audience (footage that most dvd versions wisely give you the option of skipping). their impact heightened by the skill of the director and actors, the staged rape, tortures and murders present in cannibal holocaust would be enough to place it on this list alone — but the moral depravity of not just the characters in the film, but the filmmakers themselves, places this at the top of my list for most disturbing film of all time. ~corey
Cannibal Holocaust
This is the mother of all exploitation films, and like Flower of Flesh and Blood it has the distinction of being mistakenly labeled as an actual snuff film. It’s also been permanently banned by several countries. For those reasons alone, it has a well-earned place in film history. Still, of all the films on this list, it’s the one film that might be truly immoral. Of course, some film critics have claimed that the graphic violence and stereotypical depictions of the Amazon native are actually parodies of the pretenses underlying European civilization. But by that logic, you could film any sort of atrocity or grotesquely racist depiction of a culture and claim that it’s actually a critique of those very depictions. It’s a very thin excuse for violence, and the pretense of it makes it somehow worse. Blood Feast has the decency to not pretend it’s anything other than puerile fun. Cannibal Holocaust film does raise some clever questions as to whether those viewing such on-screen atrocities are somehow complicit in them in them, and in no real position to judge them. But what makes this film utterly unforgivable is the actual violence to animals. I understand that the film uses this violence as an analog to the fake violence, and it’s very effective in that regard. But it crosses a line that it shouldn’t, and watching it made me feel appalled in way that I don’t want to feel again. I’ve heard that Ruggero Deodato now regrets using actual animals in the film, as well he should. ~ Jon

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