Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Top 5 Gorefests

Now, just so we're clear, my criteria for composing this list will not be merely based upon the level of gore, but also the quality of the film.  I'm not interested in drivel, no matter how disgusting it may be, but a well-made feature boasting some obnoxious gore.  Special effects are an artform, and gore belongs under that umbrella, but what difference does the quality of the effects make if the movie in question is a complete and total piece of shit?  Now, my definition of drivel is a bit loose, so filmmakers like Lucio Fulci and Lamberto Bava will make the cut, yet I can't summon any love for pictures from directors like Herschell Gordon Lewis and Jess Franco.

Anyway, time is wasting, so let's get disgusting up in here!

#1) The Evil Dead (original) - 1981

The 80s dominate this list, and since that decade is still known for its excess, maybe that's appropriate.  Regardless, of all the films to make the cut, this one clearly had the biggest impact on the horror genre.  This film gave us Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, and it spawned a franchise that is still making serious noise on the scene.  The budget was minimal and the players were amateurs, but the damn thing still works to perfection.  Yes, it is incredibly dated, but it still has raw power.  Putting this disc in your player is like lighting a fuse.  Despite the obvious limitations, this little picture that could wound up being the most vicious assault on audiences to be featured on this list.

You know the drill: five teens head out for a weekend getaway at a spooky old cabin in the woods.  Everything is going great until they release terrible demons into the world.  Soon they're hacking one another to pieces in the name of bloody horror, and the ending is a real bummer.  Despite the limitations of the budget, Raimi's creativity and the courage of the cast give The Evil Dead a major boost.  I say courage because if you believe everything you read, Raimi has made a living out of beating the hell out of Bruce Campbell, to include driving motorbikes into The Chin's chin. 

The gore is tremendous, and the last ten minutes of the picture are among the goriest moments ever captured on film.  The most disturbing scene in the piece may be the tree rape, and though that bit is relatively gore-free, it is totally cringe-worthy.  Demon-possessed teenagers are dismembered and both the cast and the cabin are painted red with blood as a hero known as Ash rises to the occasion.  There is an abundance of carnage, and Raimi is wildly inventive and eager to disgust in his application of the effects.  I also enjoy the score, and many of the big scares sprinkled throughout the film owe a great deal to the audio. 

A new version of this cult classic is tearing it up in theaters as I write this, but the original has a pedigree that will be difficult to match.  If you're looking for an atmospheric and bloody rampage that reeks of doom and awesomeness, you're looking for The Evil Dead.  Yes, doom and awesomeness.  It's The Evil Dead, for crying out loud.  The film is a gorefest with considerable mood, opening with a sense of doom and slowly gaining steam before an overblown and incredibly repulsive climax.  This one has been giving me the willies for a long time, and I have no qualms about putting The Evil Dead at the top of this Top 5.

#2) Bad Taste - 1987

There are ridiculous movies, and then there are those movies that make ridiculous movies seem positively normal.  This is one of those movies.  Bad Taste is a true love letter to film, a picture where most everything falls short aside from director Peter Jackson's passion, and yet that alone elevates everything around it.  The end result is one of the goofiest horror-comedies ever, and it is a bizarre film loaded with memorable sequences and an outrageous amount of gore.  The acting is average, the effects are inept yet hilarious, and the plot is almost non-existent, but the movie is consistently entertaining and warrants repeat viewings.  You can show it to your friends and you can even show it to your parents. 

What?  I'm not kidding.  I showed it to mine.  Of course, I once forced my parents to sit through Lamberto Bava's dreadfully awful Devil Fish, so my argument is flawed. 

Anyway, back to Bad Taste.  Big melon-headed aliens with huge ass-cheeks that burst out of their pants (I couldn't make this stuff up) have disposed of all the people in a small town to provide meat for an intergalactic fast food chain.  It's up to four unlikely heroes to save the day, and these buffoons are up to the challenge.  There's so much gore on display, I don't know where to begin.  Maybe I should just start by pointing out that our hero will have his skull cracked open, but he'll survive by scooping his brains back into his cranium and tying a bandana around his head.  People and big melon-headed aliens with huge ass-cheeks that burst out of their pants are maimed, bloody floors are mopped, and puke is ingested.  Bad Taste takes its name to heart, and the movie is a gleeful gorefest that is packed with chuckles. 

There are no real scares in Bad Taste, though there is a lot of action and maybe even a dab of suspense.  Peter Jackson's vision and energy are on full display, and while no one could have predicted just how far he would take his talent, his devotion was obvious.  This picture is at the other end of the spectrum from a picture like The Fly, a deep and moving film, as it is a hollow vessel designed solely to entertain.  Having said that, it is both efficient and effective, and there's nothing wrong with 91 minutes of silly fun.

#3) City of the Living Dead (a.k.a. Gates of Hell) - 1980

In truth, some people may have filled a list of their Top 5 Gorefests with films directed by the one and only Lucio Fulci, and it would be hard to deny that his catalog warrants such attention.  Seriously, there are classics like The Beyond and Zombie, and oddities like New York Ripper or A Lizard in a Woman's Skin to choose from.  There's also City of the Living Dead, one of his stronger pictures, and a movie that is truly disgusting.  Additionally, I always enjoyed Christopher George's work, and his presence is a major asset to this gorefest.  In fact, I think George may have been the finest leading man to star in one of Fulci's films, and much like Zombie, City of the Living Dead is not as bizarre and disjointed as some of Fulci's work.  This is a rather coherent and utterly nightmarish horror film that will test your gag reflex.

What's it about?  Well, it's just your typical "priest hangs himself in a cemetery, opening the gates of hell" yarn.  George plays a reporter who teams with a young psychic (Catriona MacColl) to try and close the gates before All Saints Day, thereby preventing the dead from rising up to consume the living all over the globe.  There are a multitude of gruesome sights, to include people bleeding from their eyes, people vomiting up their intestines, drills to the head, maggot storms, and some of the most fearsome ghouls you'll ever encounter on film.  There are ample servings of dread, suspense, and gore to be had, and while there are an abundance of flaws on display, Fulci still manages to ship the freight.  Watching City of the Living Dead is a bit like enduring a terrible nightmare, and I think that's just what Lucio was going for.  Forgive me if you find watching it to be a bit of an ordeal, but Fulci felt that horror films were supposed to challenge and revolt the audience in equal measures.

I have a strong stomach, and no movie has ever made me physically ill, but few have come as close as this one.  The effects are frightening, the mood is ominous, the score is unnerving, and Fulci really puts the screws to the viewer throughout.  There are surprising deaths, shocking images, and all the gore you expect from the Godfather of Gore.  This isn't his best film, but I think that it is his most gruesome feature, and it is also one of his most effective.  Yes, it goes off the deep end from time to time, to include zombies that teleport, but it also has some of his best stuff, like the incredibly tense buried alive bit and the big finale.  City of the Living Dead is a true gorefest, and I think it is the best Fulci film for this particular list.  Some may disagree, and I won't protest as long they favor The Beyond or Zombie, but I've made my choice.

#4) The Fly (remake) - 1986

 Everyone loves a Brundlefly, right?  Fans of Trailer Park Trash & Vampires know that I do.  This has to be one of the best remakes out there.  Cronenberg's take on The Fly is a mind-boggling odyssey into terror ripe with fantastic performances and grotesque visuals.  The drama and gore are supported by a powerful story that will move and revolt you.  This one isn't for the squeamish, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a thoughtful tale, and Cronenberg, a true master, was in top form here.  As a result, the movie is rewarding for those who cherish the principles of film production and horror buffs alike.  The terribly underrated Jeff Goldblum is sensational throughout, and the part of Seth Brundle is one of the most challenging roles you're apt to see portrayed in a horror film. 

The film has little to do with its 1958 predecessor aside from a most basic plot description: a scientist becomes a disgusting man/fly hybrid after a daring teleportation experiment goes wrong.  There are ample opportunities for the crew to display startling effects, and some of the material is extremely hard to watch.  The various side effects of Brundle's grisly transformation and an assault via regurgitation represent some of the most repulsive scenes depicted.  This one isn't packed to the gills with gore, it's not that kind of picture, but there are several disgusting sequences that earn the film the #4 spot on my list.

I'll close by noting that Cronenberg made this picture after watching his father struggle with disease.  With that in mind, know that when you slip this disc in and press "PLAY" you're getting ready to go an emotional rollercoaster ride.  Those who are simply looking for cheap thrills might not be as pleased with the outcome, but anyone who cherishes a good film will find this gorefest to be a pleasant surprise.  Stellar performances courtesy of the key players and a challenging story that ultimately descends into darkness and heartbreak give The Fly a resonance that most of the films on this list lack.  Finally, I have the utmost respect for David Cronenberg and his body of work, and despite my reverence for Videodrome and Scanners, I feel that The Fly is his best picture.

#5) Demons - 1985

Dario Argento penned the script, and the director is Lamberto Bava, son of the legendary Mario Bava, so this was a major film.  The budget is obvious, as the effects are convincing and the wild screenplay calls for some truly outrageous carnage to unfold in this unsettling gem from the 80s.  The soundtrack is all 80s all of the time, with contributions from Mötley Crüe, Billy Idol, and (gasp!) Rick Springfield.   The acting is decent, but there aren't any big stars in the mix, and that's okay.  I have always felt that low-budget horror flicks can benefit from the lack of an established lead.  That makes it harder to know who will make it to the end credits, and that means all of the primary characters are vulnerable, ratcheting up the tension.  That's the case here, and a number of performers deliver riveting performances.  My favorite is Bobby Rhodes as Tony, a pimp who doesn't blink an eye and whips out his switchblade when the people around him start turning into bloodthirsty monsters.

The gore is absurd, particularly the transformation stuff and a birth that I can't adequately describe for you.  Of course, there is a ton of violence, so you'll see people mangled in a variety of ways.  The blood never stops gushing, as this one doesn't take long to get started and stampedes toward a zany conclusion.  The basic premise is that a couple of friends venture to a cinema in West Berlin after one of them is given free passes by a truly bizarre character.  The theater itself is more than a little strange, and the movie being shown is a horror film centered on demons, a picture tied together with some mumbo-jumbo about predictions made by Nostradamus.  Things that happen in this movie-within-a-movie begin to happen within the theater, and soon the place is overrun by ravenous demons.  Before the movie ends, a man riding a motorcycle and wielding a sword will drive through the cinema, slicing up demons as he goes, and a helicopter will crash through the roof.  It's that kind of film.

I have a lot of love for this one, and I think the sequel presented a worthy follow-up.  I loved seeing many of the same players in different roles.  Demons is incredibly violent and incredibly disgusting, and it is surely one of the better gory films that you're apt to view.  It is also very entertaining, and though it is tied to the 80s and it is so over-stylized and bizarre that many won't be able to endure, I hereby label it a gorefest of significance.  Demons boasts striking visuals, a bold color palette, and throbs with enough energy to fuel a dozen lesser pictures.  You may love it or you may hate it, but you won't be bored, and you will be disgusted.

. . .

So there you have it.  I hope it was disgusting enough for you.  Feel free to chime in and share your thoughts.

Were the gorefests of the 80s as excessive as I recall, or did I favor that era a bit too much?

Did I pick the wrong Fulci film?  Should there have been more from the Godfather of Gore on this list?

Was I wrong not to include Dawn of the Dead or Suspiria?  Or any of a dozen other titles that may have warranted a spot on the list?  

What should I discuss in my next Top 5?

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