Mommy, this movie makes my tummy hurt!

You’ve seen people’s lists of the most disturbing films ever made. Dun dun dun.  I guess this is kinda’ sorta’ my version. I’m not into definitive lists or ranking things, so it’s just gonna’ go down the way I want it to…

Movies I’ll Never See

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Sorry, but no. I’m not on a moral high horse. I don’t think you’re a bad person for watching it. I just don’t care to see it, knowing that real animals were murdered for the sake of celluloid “entertainment.” In fact, I don’t really care to see those hidden camera documentaries about the meat industry either, even though their intentions are most likely in a better place than the makers of Cannibal Holocaust. I’ve read enough about this film to know that it will do nothing more than leave me with a sick feeling. No, I’m not curious enough to sneak a little peek or two on You Tube. And no, I don’t think it makes me less of a horror fan by not watching this movie.

Saló (1975)
From what I’ve read, it sounds like pure exploitation of the true horrors of war and slavery. Just like I don’t care to see actual animals mutilated onscreen, I’m not inclined to endure the sights of children being tortured for two hours (or longer, depending on the version you see). I have a hard time sitting through Lord of the Rings, so there’s no way I’m going to sit still for 120+ minutes of 120 days of Sodom.  I will acknowledge that this film may be trying to reflect on the terrors of Mussolini’s regime and that there is something to be said about the depiction of violence as it is, as opposed to a glossed over, stylized depiction for entertainment. However, an intellectual excuse for sitting through Saló will never overcome my gut.

August Underground (2001)
I don’t want to feel like I’m watching a snuff film. I loves movies because they are movies—not simulations of reality. I want to experience cinema, not shock for the sake of shock. I suppose August Underground is for all those kids who couldn’t get enough of Faces of Death (fake they may be) or a particular website with a URL I refuse to post.

Movies I Wish I Hadn’t Seen

Deadgirl (2008)
This necro-rape movie is sick with very little to redeem itself. It certainly left me with a bad feeling in my tummy, as the moral depravity continued to deepen. I watched the film in two sittings and I’m surprised I came back to it a few days later. I wanted to see how it ended and figured that it would get better, but it only got worse. For a full review of Deadgirl, go here

Martyrs (2008)
I enjoyed the first half of this film, but I could have lived a thousand lives without ever needing to see the final act of Martyrs. The final images were boiled into my eyes for weeks. A torturous conclusion is set against the background of a cold, nihilistic world that makes you want to return to your mother’s womb. Every now and then, I still think about this movie, and I get a little chill. Brrrr! For a full review, go here.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
This movie had been on my to-do list for years before I actually saw it. However, I wish I had kept postponing it until it disappeared from my mind completely. If it didn’t star Michael Rooker and Tom Towles (or if I had seen this before they were recognizable faces), it would have felt like a snuff film. Disturbing to its core with no payoffs and no revelations, I think I should have passed on this “classic.”

Movies I’ll Never See Again

A Clockwork Orange (1971)
An important film, but my goodness, it can be tough to watch. When your protagonist is professing ultraviolence as his motto, how can the film be anything but taxing on your stomach? The sometimes apathetic and sometimes gleeful manner in which the droogs rape and kill is something I will never forget…and something I never want to experience again.

The Road (2009)
Wow, could you make a film any more depressing? There are plenty of disturbing moments in this film, from the chained up victims of cannibals to the constant threat of suicide induced by a father to his son, but the overall tone is what left me feeling dead inside. I will certainly never again go down The Road.

Inside (2007)
Wowzers! Never have I had such a love-hate relationship with a movie as this. I have re-watched select scenes from this film a couple times, but I’m never going to sit through the entirety of this gut-wrenching movie again. If it wasn’t for the final five minutes or so, I may be watching it again and again in the years to come. However, as someone who wants to have children someday, I don’t think revisiting Inside will be likely.


  1. Becky, I respect your opinion on this, even though I disagree to an extent. I believe there is a time and place for some of the grimmer and more depressing themes to appear in films and spark a deeper form of discussion than often happens when it comes to horror films. Again, not trying to invalidate your opinion or thoughts on the matter. I mostly just really love talking about this aspect of "horror" and I've even thought about writing a larger piece on the subject some day.

    You might check out a really interesting book I'm reading called "Shocking Representations" by Adam Lowenstein. Really great philosophical/critical book on the very subject you've brought up here.

    Thanks for posting this!

  2. Also, I would really love to hear what you think of something like Irreversible, Deliverance, I Spit on Your Grave. I suppose the rape/revenge genre is the where we find the highest points of contention.

  3. Wow, your post is filled with some of the movies I consider to be the best horror movies ever made.

    Cannibal Holocaust - Yeah its disturbing, and yeah it was wrong of them to kill those animals, but the movie itself, and everything else besides the killing of the animals feels so raw, so real, it will make you think twice about this being a movie or not. Its the most shocking movie Ive ever seen. And Ive seen a lot of horror movies!

    Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer - Love it for the same reason. It shakes you to the bone. Specially chilling when you learn its based on real life events.

    Inside - Bar none one of the best french horror movies Ive seen. Its the french daughter of John Carpenter's Halloween.

    Never seen Salo or Deadgirl, but they sound disturbing. I keep hearing a lot about Martyrs, I guess Im really going to have to rent it to find out if its that good.

    I find it weird that a horror fan cant watch some of these..but I get it, some go over the line, specially Cannibal Holocaust and Henry.

    But Inside? Its essentially a french version Halloween. I mean, a bit more graphic, and damn, dare I say it, more suspensful.

  4. Chris, You should definitely write a large piece on the topic! I love talking about this stuff too, even if I'm not a fan of some of the films. I think there is a place for this type of cinema, but it's just not what I want to personally explore. The only film on this list that can't really be justified is Cannibal Holocaust, because of the animal thing, but aside from that, I have no inherent problem with these films existing. I'm just not a fan.

    I really enjoyed I Spit on Your Grave. I thought the movie had heart, even through its exploitation style. Camille Keaton kicked ass and that made the difference for me. As insane is it may sound, I've never actually seen Deliverance, but it's on my list. I have read the script for it, so I'm fully aware of the content. As for Irreversible, it's on my Netflix queue, and I'm contemplating taking it off, just because of some of the reviews I've read...even though it sounds interesting with the reverse chronology.

  5. The Film Connoisseur: I definitely recommend Martyrs to you; it's something you'll never forget. With Inside, I really love the film, but the last part of it...ack! I can't stand to watch it again. I'm glad I watched some of these films, but I just don't see myself ever returning to them.

  6. I totally agree with you about Martyrs, wish I hadn't seen it, yet it always seems to come up with those I watched it with.

    Don't watch Irreversible. It's totally messed up sure, but the fact that the whole thing plays in reverse, leads to a very weird end. As in, the films climax is in the first 5 minutes, and all the character growth and exploration is at the end. It kind of works, but mostly it doesn't.
    Maybe just watch the first half.

  7. Becky, absolutely. I would never condone real violence toward animals. Never ever ever. I'm not necessarily trying to defend any of these movies, but I do appreciate when films dwell into particular dark areas in a way that I feel is more respectful of real life victims of horrible crimes. I think The Last House on the Left does an excellent job of this. It's certainly extremely difficult to watch and pisses you off to no end, but it still tackles the subject with...tact?

    I dunno, it's kinda weird that in certain instances of horror films one can sit back and laugh at carnage which I find way more disturbing than feeling remorse for a character going through a really truamatic experience onscreen.

    Yes, I Spit on Your Grave is one of those extremely polarizing films that I do think is handled with a degree of care, even though it is quite reviled.

    Man, so difficult to talk about this in a sorta limiting forum, hahah.

    Again, totally respect your opinion on this and truly understand why you wouldn't want to go to some of these places when there's enough of this stuff in the real world.

  8. Irreversible is one of the most grueling film experiences I ever had. I cried a lot watching it. Fuck, what a movie.

  9. i like horror movie and suspend movie. it's totally messed up sure... keep it up

  10. I totally understand never wanting to see Cannibal Holocaust. It never really has any point and its anything but a 'good' movie.

    But Inside and Martyrs are some of the best movies released in years (as Hallock mentioned). I loved Martyrs in that it made you think. Sure the images were gnarly, but at the end of the day, it had a purpose and madness which helped aleviate some of the insanity. Now Inside was just plain fucked up. But the scene with the woman in the house and the camera pans around to find her in the office, one of the best shot scenes in horror in years! Still freaks me the F- out!!!

  11. There is a reason why Martyrs and Inside were my best horror movies of 2009 and 2008. Horribly violent but they had a subtle theme about them.

    As for Cannibal Holocaust, well if you get past as B-Sol eloquently tweeted "CHICK ON A STICK!" you can definitely watch the others!

  12. Yeah, I recently watched CH for the first time. Live-tweeted it, in fact. A pretty revolting experience. For some reason, I felt I had to do it. I had been avoiding it for years, and ppl kept calling me out on it. Influential, not really all that great, and the animal violence was reprehensible.

  13. If you can sit through MARTYRS than SALO should present little problem. Both films work along the same parameters although SALO has a political subtext behind it besides being based on a De Sade novel. Unbelievably the film was released to DVD uncut in Britain by MGM. It being considered an art film I assume has something to do with that. It, too, is beautifully shot and has some interesting, yet macabre compositions. It's definitely a movie you won't forget after watching. Bizarrely, the revered director was murdered just prior to the films release.

    There's a feature on the DVD for CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST that allows you to watch the film without the animal violence. That film is an extraordinary viewing experience. It's even more relevant now than it was then. Shot as condemnation of the media and the all too real violence they create, there's a line uttered by Robert Kerman during the closing moments that drives this sentiment home. Regardless of the animal violence, it's a brilliant and important movie that should be seen by any fan of the genre. It also echoes America's obssession with "reality" based television.

  14. Yeah I dont like/would like most of those movies. Good call. I think i liked martyrs more than you tho. Still woulndt watch it again. Id prolly watch the Road again, but just to make a depressed person try to commit suicide as a case study.... Since its the only solution to troubles...

  15. Martyrs & Inside are well made but i didn't care for em too much myself. Another flick i'd add to the list is Antichrist. Only flick on the list i am a huge fan of, a film i LOVE, is Clockwork.

  16. I missed most of the debate on here but August Underground is absolute garbage and should remain on your list, whereas I honestly feel Cannibal Holocaust has real merit and offers excellent filmmaking, though it is pretty rough. Martyrs.. Need to see it a second time, i still dont know how I feel about it. It was eye rape.

  17. Wow, nice post, Becky, although I really enjoyed some of these flicks. I'm not going to repeat what other people have already said about Cannibal Holocaust, but I do think it's a worthy film, even though the animal killing is inexcusable. Like many others, I think Clockwork Orange is one of the best flicks ever put to celluloid, and I actually had a blast with Deadgirl. I also really love Henry.

    However, I can't stomach the August Underground. I got both AG and it's sequel for a paper I wrote in college but I changed the topic a bit at the last minute and didn't end up watching either of the films until fairly recently. I watched the first one and was so disturbed that I traded it and its successor in to a local used CD store and never looked back.

    I don't enjoy the Saw or Hostel series because I think that the thrill of horror comes from the suspense and shock of the kills. Watching extended torture and suffering is no longer horror, in my opinion. It's horrific, sure, but it speaks to a different, darker part of the psyche.

    But, like Chris said, certain movies, like the original Last House on the Left, can be more tactfully executed than movies like AG, and are therefore more representative of real-life horrors than torture porn.

    Of course, I have no problem with people who like these films, they're just not for me, espically when, like AG, the torture is pretty much feature-length.