7. Day of the Dead (George A. Romero, 1985)
Naturally, one expects a zombie film to be grotesque and violent. What makes Day of the Dead stand out is its legendary role as the Bhagavid Gita of a bloody imagination gone wild, as the zombie genre almost entirely entails.
With Day of the Dead, George A. Romero had initially strived to craft the “Gone with the Wind of zombie movies”, and when considering that this film was to follow off of the scorching tire skid marks left by both his previous Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978), both already appropriate candidates for the “Gone with the Wind of zombie movies”, this was saying a whole, whole lot.
Today, both of those titles remain arguable for their status as the most influential crowning jewel of the beloved, iconic, and still widely popular, horror subgenre. Does this mean Day of the Dead did not meet its fabled ambitions, was unable to reach the harrowing expectations of its legendary helmsman?
Perhaps, but what we received in exchange remained a terrific exercise in disturbing, memorable, and gorily glorious, zombie entertainment, perhaps the most gorily glorious of the genre’s many blood-soaked, carnage-fuelled content.
Those who lack a deal of liking toward Day of the Dead might consider themselves deader than the inhabitants of the film’s post-Apocalyptic surface, a disorganised, rampant commune of un-dead, whereas those of us more optimistic, accepting and open-minded toward what the human race might be capable of within the cinematic art (be it savage mutilation or an embrace of severe overacting) might consider ourselves the real-world analogous equivalent to the underground survivors hiding within the belly of a metallic bunker beast: well-intentioned but ultimately, inevitably, utterly insane.
8. RoboCop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)
In Australia, RoboCop was classified as an 18-plus, which was the only rating most parents took into serious consideration when deciding what their growing children could or couldn’t watch.
RoboCop, as a biting, foreigner’s (Verhoeven being of Dutch origin), (slightly) exaggerated window into the corporate dirt that replaced the ‘liberty and justice’ soil that so sowed the seeds of American life, decided to permit the screenplay’s gratuitous gore and graphic violence as a means to further unapologetically demonstrate what he saw as a society that was on the way to complete and utter de-sensitivity to violent acts from an ethical standpoint, seeing these ethical atrocities instead as obstructers to successful implementation of ‘capitalist scumbag’ ideals.
The result is a film which envisioned a product representing the ultimate takeover of the human will and existence from corporate, technological in origin, machinations, this product being RoboCop himself, being inherently subject to his repressed humanity; resulting in his employing the very methods through which he was programmed to enforce his masters’ wishes against them: brutal, efficient violence.
9. Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988)
Is there any true artistic, or wider socially conscious, justification behind Akira’s steadfast and vainglorious trips into ridiculously violent, and shocking, territory? Frankly, not really, it does not.
Rather, Akira is the product of a trend in any form of cinematic media that sees its origin in pencils on paper, and that is the immediate embrace of a distinctive style through which to stamp its sleekness upon the world.
Its horrific graphic content is only the inevitable result of Otomo, like other composers of animated material seething in asocial teenage fantasy fare, constructing a vision of existence that is, in polar opposite to the charm, friendliness and wonder that command animation intent for children, appeals to the general disillusionment and unconventional wants in escapist media that so entices the more adolescent of its consumers.
To summarise the film’s finale would be to imagine Cronenberg abandoning his intention to utilize internally spawned, outwardly expanding bodily violence as a means of cultural scrutiny and finer analysis of societal trends and instead crafting the products of a gore hound’s wet dream.
10. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1988)
Believe it or not, but never prior was the author’s brain examining desperately and in utter infectious fascination as to the ‘how’s and why’s’ of cinematic construction than in this stop-motion infested, frighteningly up-front and wildly disturbing, unconventional treatise on industrialisation and its impact on mortal existence.
The cinematic equivalent to a genetically perfected love-child of the two legendary David’s of experimental, surrealist cinematic exports, Lynch and Cronenberg, Tsukamoto’s product is one of the greatest films ever made.
Incessantly graphic, even under a fixated black-and-white perspective, Tsukamoto’s film never lets itself peak early: every grotesque action and decision employed must be superseded by further excess and unbelievable imaginative extents wherein Shinya might demonstrate transformation, metamorphism, and general resistance to change, whilst appeasing those with an extensive near-fetish (or fetish) for practical visual effects, violent cinematic content, dystopian flair, stereotypical Japanese craziness, and surrealist exercises.
11. Braindead (Peter Jackson, 1992)
“I kick ass for the Lord!” cries Braindead’s Father Jon McGruder, defining a scene that very well could unquestionably be the zenith of sheer cinematic coolness.
Over twenty years later, Peter Jackson may still boast the claim, amongst many other highly renowned achievements, of having helmed what is popularly considered the ‘goriest film ever made’. Even an ardent sceptic would rank Braindead as at least objectively one of them.
The horror world was already beset with displays of ultra-violent horror comedy, be it An American Werewolf in London (a title that broke its cult borders and was a major mainstream hit), the Evil Dead films, or Jackson’s own alien invasion farce Bad Taste. And yet, Braindead remains perhaps (along with Evil Dead II) the most definitive, all-around celebration of this brilliant, beloved, fusion genre.
Featuring a Sumatran rat-money, rampant, grotesque decomposing zombies, that lovable seedy perverted uncle, a tale of star-crossed lovers, a karate-kicking priest, a cheeky, sadistic un-dead baby: all this swelling dangerously within narrative tied together by a protagonist lacking just enough psychological disposition to prevent his morphing into New Zealand’s Norman Bates.
Who said sophistication and coherency was required for cinematic greatness?
12. Starship Troopers (Paul Verhoeven, 1997)
The Dutch deviant returns, fresh off of unleashing Showgirls upon the world, to wreck satirical havoc within another violent dystopia, this one targeting not corporatism, but militarism.
The polar opposite, philosophically, than its influential source novel from Robert Heinlein, Verhoeven’s rendition presents a futuristic ultra-right utopian America’s war epic, retold as though it were presented as Heinlein’s universe’s propaganda masterpiece.
The film might have genuinely suffered without its rough bloodiness. The propaganda film is required to be as brutal, and more, as it ought, in order to show off any decent feeling of emergency or morbidity to make anyone concerned for the savagery of the bug’s warfare. Paul Verhoeven’s fine tuning allows realisation that the savagery of the bug’s warfare is no more significantly savage than the act of warfare itself, ‘justified’ or no.
A title that might be sorely misunderstood upon viewing as the result of a skewered mindset, Starship Troopers concludes what could very well constitute a filmmaker’s finest, unofficial, Sci-Fi trilogy in existence, which began and continued with Verhoeven’s other RoboCop and Total Recall, respectively.
13. Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000)
The primary justification when one proclaims a strong admiration for Fukasaku’s proto Hunger Games is a professed lover of well-executed, innovative, morbid cinematic carnage.
Probably not spouting as much (obvious and unnecessary, mostly) biting social criticism toward a contemporary cultural establishment (reality TV), Battle Royale feels like its’ craftsman’s personal playground of reigning anarchy, and we are persuaded to accept that, when one realises the film’s role to be as savage, memorable, unapologetic, stylish and sickly funny as an action title can be.
This film has no rules, only catalysts for murder. When repulsive content such as contained within is accomplished with such precision, sleekness, excitement it simply begs to be praised.
Battle Royale is a slew of adjectives hurled onto a typed digital construct and subsequently deemed an objective product with objective elements, the general existence of these elements constituting artistic success is determined solely through subjective flavour for sickening content.
Have you ever wanted to witness a plethora of paranoid, gun-bearing Japanese high school females in a kitchen descend into utter hatred and insanity, so much so that every single individual is meticulously, and messily, slaughtered within minutes and seconds?
Therein lies the answer to your perspective.