7. Taxidermia (György Pálfi, 2006, Hungary)
Presented in three separate parts from three generations of Hungarian men, Taxidermia is nothing if not grotesque. Imagine a film that begins with a soldier who shoots metaphorical stars into space using his penis as a blowtorch. Yes, actual fire. This character is the grandfather.
We get scenes of his masturbatory habits, which you will have to see for yourself. He makes love to his commander’s obese wife, who in turn gives birth to a son, who is born with a tail, which is then partially removed. So, the first chapter ends as the son’s life begins. And things get more graphic and perverse after that. Imagine an eating competition which results in a projectile-vomit scene lasting nearly ten minutes.
Director György Pálfi adapted two of the stories from Parti Nagy Lajos’ short stories, and one he wrote himself, about the grandson who becomes so obsessed with taxidermy that he embalms himself, seeking immortality. Taxidermia can be seen as a surreal black comedy or it can be viewed as a wildly-shocking look at Hungarian history from World War II up through the present. But it also serves as one of the most extreme forms of cinema.
Regardless of how you look at it, this is quite the journey, and rarely have so many repellent spectacles been shot with so much love and visual detail. The pre-occupations of each character are taken to such lengths that you may never get these gruesome images out of your mind. One character sets the record for being the most grossly-overweight individual ever recorded on film, as each of the three are linked by recurring motifs.
It is difficult to compare Pálfi’s creation to anyone else’s work, but Jodorowski comes the closest. Ultimately, Taxidermia is recommended for only the most jaded horror cinephile, because most will not have the stomach for it.
6. Ichi the Killer (Takashi Miike, 2001, Japan)
How do most people get introduced to Ichi the Killer or Takashi Miike? Word of mouth or sites like this one, or maybe some viewers heard that Ichi was banned in certain countries, such as Malaysia and Norway.
A good banning often serves as promotional fodder for viewers around the world to discover it. What really matters with this film is not so much its reputation, which is immense, but the number of chuckles and laughs vs. the number grimaces and shocks it elicits. That’s what divides the viewers of Miike films.
How seriously do you take it? Some will call this one of the bloodiest movies ever made, and it is that. But the overall tone is primarily one of dark humor. In fact, the humor is so far over the top that many viewers will wince and then laugh. In one scene, a victim’s entire body is sliced in half like an apple. In another scene, we see a victim’s face (now a mask) as it slowly slides down a wall. But Miike keeps his audience off-balance by juxtaposing a particularly-graphic rape scene with the blood and gore, so it isn’t too much like a comic book.
While it may not be most people’s first introduction to Miike. That would probably be Audition or 13 Assassins, this is one that opened the door for many viewers to Asian extreme violence.
The main character really isn’t Ichi, but that of Kakihara, a masochist with bleach-blond hair and a pierced mouth slashed on both sides. Ichi is manipulated into becoming one of the most adept and brutal killers ever seen on film, leaving behind a stack of bloody bodies after his many vicious attacks.
Much of this takes place off camera or through scenes of blood gushing in all directions. But this violence actually makes Ichi sick. He is otherwise very meek and shy. He dispatches gang members quickly, adeptly and brutally. This leads to the ultimate confrontation between the sadomasochistic Kakihara, looking for the ultimate in pain, and the highly-brutal killer, Ichi.
This entertaining yakuza story is fun for those who appreciate Miike’s style, his dark humor and twisted abundance of blood, gore and torture.
5. Visitor Q (Takashi Miike, 2001, Japan)
Although not exactly a gore film in the traditional sense of blood and violence, Visitior Q has enough disgusting scenes to gross out anyone. With the same director as Ichi the Killer, different actors, and a dysfunctional family you must see to believe, Mike’s primary goal here is to shock in every way possible, as he experiments with depravity. Here are some examples.
A scene of necrophilia culminating in a greenhouse, where the dead body defecates all over the pervert’s hands, and another where a woman’s breasts lactate uncontrollably, flooding an entire room with milk. These are scenes played by, and for, a very morbid sense of humor. Some will appreciate this film for what it is, while others will fall victim to their gag reflex.
Most of the reviews you will read of Visitor Q are simply a litany of the many atrocities found within the film. So, here goes. Visitor Q is the work of a depraved mind at its most out-of-control, containing such taboo topics as necrophilia, incest, murder, child prostitution, disturbing fetishisms, drug addiction and parental abuse. And that’s just a sampling.
Forget worrying about the plot. This is a film about a dysfunctional family, with each actor convincing in his or her role, and an extreme director at his most inspired. If these aren’t reasons for it becoming a cult phenomenon, then what is?
4. Inside (À l’intérieur) (Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury, 2007, France)
Here we have a combined revenge/home invasion thriller. That in itself is unique, and there is enough blood, gore and suspenseful surprises to keep any jaded horror fan satisfied all over the world. It deserves its reputation as one of the most effective modern horror films of the 21st century.
À l’intérieur (aka: Inside) covers many of the sub-genres associated with the New French Extremity movement. There is an aspect of revenge, although the vengeance is at the hands of a woman (dressed entirely in black) upon a pregnant woman (Alysson Paradis, entirely in white).
We see the horror through the victim’s eyes, often coming while trapped inside of a bathroom. There are repellent scenes, including a memorable effect where director Bustillo gives close-ups of the unborn baby floating inside its mother’s belly. This shows the effect of each violent shock administered by the angry female villain (the icy cold Béatrice Dalle), and these shocks alone will be more than most can handle.
But this effect is done repeatedly throughout the film, including the particularly shocking finale. Inside, as dark and brutal as it is, delivers many true scares (most of them involving Dalle) and takes its place among the most effective and extreme French horror films of the past ten years.
3. Martyrs (Pascal Laugier, 2008, France)
Anyone who has grown tired of Hollywood horror movies will find something far more challenging and deeply disturbing in Martyrs. It fits perfectly into the genres of torture cinema and New French Extremity, but there is much more to it than that.
It is also a fascinating character study of a girl, psychologically damaged as a child, who wants vengeance against the people who brutalized her in the past. Her friend, also a child abuse victim, joins her on this quest, and both characters are played convincingly, by Morjana Alaoui and Mylène Jampanoï.
This is a film for someone looking to be challenged, and probably best viewed outside of the cinema in the comfort of the home, where you can watch it in sections. Shockingly realistic, director Pascal Laugier puts his audience through the emotional ringer. Because of its realism and brave performances, it has more of an impact that almost any other horror film in recent memory. It also has multiple layers which play out like chapters in a book, each more disturbing than the previous.
The experience is best viewed with someone willing to talk about it afterward, because Martyrs is emotionally draining and will leave most viewers pondering it for days.
2. Irreversible (Gaspar Noé, 2002, France)
Like the Japanese directors Miike and Sono, French filmmaker Gaspar Noé owns the more extreme form of cinematic expression. His films are for a 21st century audience looking for a full-on attack of the senses. Irreversible builds on the type of experience he achieved in his 1998 film, I Stand Alone, but Irreversible goes even further.
Beginning with the camerawork and audio, Noé’s aim is to make the audience feel nauseous. The plot, which is told in reverse chronological order, shows the results of the events first, and then how they originated. For example, you see someone get pulverized by a fire extinguisher, and then you find out what provoked it afterward.
Yes, the film is disturbing and graphic, including one of the screen’s longest and most infamous rape scenes. Everything here is meant to shock and sadden, with each scene taken to an explicit extreme. The object is to distort the viewer’s perception, and the entire movie-going experience for that matter. What happens to this group of people in one day is forever life-changing for all of them, and for the fully-invested viewer it will be as well.
1. A Serbian Film (Srdjan Spasojevic, 2010, Serbia)
A Serbian Film is not even available on Netflix currently, probably due to its reputation. It even takes a change in personal settings to find it on IMDb. Its controversial nature has gotten it banned in many countries and its viewing has resulted in many discussions about morality. It is available in various versions (one unrated) and it truly deserves the crowning of #1 on this list.
What starts out as a drama about a family man needing money (a former porno star named Milos), becomes one of the most out-of-control and disturbingly-graphic films ever seen. Milos is offered a final film, which will net him the money he needs, but he is not told exactly what the film entails. The events that happen next escalate into all manner of depravity and perversity.
Most will agree that this is a technically-adept work, extremely glossy and colorful to look at, despite a rather meager budget. It is simultaneously an attack on the Serbian government, a parody/contrast on the politically-correct films Serbia wants their viewers to see, and a study in how depraved humanity can become.
Many of the extreme scenes push the envelope into taboo areas. There is pedophilia, including the most infamously-shocking scene of the film, involving a baby, and additional moments where you can’t believe what you are seeing. There are bloody scenes involving sex, incest, murder, graphic male and female nudity. The list goes on.
Looking for a happy ending? You won’t find it here. While the director had his reasons for striking out against Serbia (even in the title), most western viewers won’t care. They will only see this as a highly-perverse but very well-shot film, with an ending that is quite difficult to accept.
Author Bio: Mark works as a technology trainer for a school district in Port Huron, MI. He likes documentary, extreme cinema, independent films and mystery/thrillers. He also likes collecting dvd/blu-rays.