7. Blood Feast (1963)
“Godfather of Gore,” Herschell Gordon Lewis, is no stranger to controversy. Debuting in 1963, Blood Feast is the oldest film included on the video nasty list, and its controversy in 1984 only echoed the contention it created upon its initial release.
Set in Miami of all places, Blood Feast tells the story of a psychotic caterer who sacrifices big-breasted women to use their body parts for a virgin stew as an offering to the Egyptian goddess, Ishtar. It’s an absolutely insane movie.
The plot is paper-thin, the dialogue is atrocious, the acting is uneven to say the least, and the production value is non-existent. So, why would anyone watch Blood Feast?
Clocking in just over an hour, the majority of the film presents lingering shots of bloodied hands silently toying with livers, tongues and various organs over the bodies of naked women with a trippy Funeral Home’s Greatest Hits soundtrack in the background. It’s vile, disgusting, perverted and fun-as-hell. Fans come for the gore and stay for the inadvertent laughs.
Blood Feast’s legacy is also important within a historical context. Along with the rather impressive gore technique (Lewis used real animal organs); Blood Feast was filmed in full-color – an unprecedented move for the time.
Watching a maniac cut the tongue out of a woman’s face and play around with it for a few minutes was not an image all audiences were ready to see at the time. But despite the controversy the film was a commercial (not critical) success and literally changed the game for all genre filmmakers.
It went on to become a celebrated classic in bad taste and even spawned a sequel in 2002, Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat, directed by the Godfather of Gore himself. Check out the original, if you’ve got the guts.
8. The Funhouse (1981)
The Funhouse has a unique place in the legacy of the video nasty in that a theory exists that the film was accidentally added to the list instead of a darker, more graphic title with the same name released in 1974.
While Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse is creepy as hell, it’s a Disney film compared to the 1974 release, which is about people who make snuff films. The rather tame nature of Hooper’s The Funhouse has led people to believe the wrong film was listed, and understandably so.
Practically bloodless, the film is one of atmosphere, spending the first 50 minutes establishing the world of a seedy traveling carnival through the eyes stoned suburban middle-class teens. They check out the freak show, make out with each other, peep into a strip show, smoke weed, make out some more, harass a fortune teller, smoke more weed, then hatch the brilliant idea to stay overnight inside the funhouse.
Inside they witness the accidental murder of the fortune teller they met earlier, killed by a horribly deformed “monster” (an employee who operates the funhouse) who wears a Frankenstein’s Monster mask to fit in. When the monster’s father (who runs the funhouse) learns that his son’s crime was witnessed by a group of nosey kids, he sends his son through the maze to hunt them down.
The Funhouse’s tone is like it’s name and it’s very much a horror fan’s horror film, including nods to the great films that defined the genre: Psycho, Halloween, and The Bride of Frankenstein most specifically.
It also features some solid performances, primarily from Elizabeth Berridge who would go on to star as Constanze Mozart in Amadeus, and veteran character actor Kevin Conway in a triple role as the freak show barker, strip show barker, and the funhouse barker.
9. The Beyond (1981)
Lucio Fulci found three of his films included on the video nasty list. Being the master of horror he is, those three films are also included on this list. Let’s first start with The Beyond, Fulci’s second entry in his Gates of Hell Trilogy. The first film of this trilogy was City of the Living Dead which wasn’t nastied, and his third was House by the Cemetery, which is reviewed later on this list.
When a young woman begins renovations on a Louisiana hotel she inherited, strange and deadly events begin to occur. After learning that the hotel was built on one of the seven gates of Hell, she teams up with a local doctor in an attempt to close the gate and survive.
By no means is this film, or any Fulci film for that matter, for the squeamish. There’s a lot of eyeball gore in The Beyond. And face melting. Plenty of face melting. Artistically, Fulci’s The Beyond was heavily influenced by Antonin Artaud’s surrealism and his Theatre of Cruelty, an avant-garde movement that is pretty much what it sounds like.
To see its influence applied to the horror genre is actually quite captivating, and Fulci doesn’t hold back, especially in regard to his slow-motion gore and exceptionally bleak ending. Additionally, Fulci makes a nod to the Cthulhu Mythos in this film with the Book of Eibon playing a major plot point, which is a treat for anyone who is into that sort of thing.
10. House on The Edge of The Park (1980)
Directed by Reggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust), House on the Edge of the Park is a home invasion horror/thriller released in 1980. After raping and murdering a young woman, a thug and his crony with a burning desire to boogey (as they put it) are invited to a party by a group of yuppies in exchange for fixing the yuppies’ car.
The boogeying is cut short when the thug’s homicidal tendencies resurface and the entire party finds themselves under a literal knife. When the yuppies attempt to turn the tables on their captors, ulterior motives are revealed and it becomes apparent not everyone is as they seem.
Reggero has stated the original script was even more violent than the final product, which is surprising because the uncut film is pretty vile. The villains in House on the Edge of the Park really push emotional humiliation as a favored form of torture, and witnessing its characters in such a vulnerable state becomes quite difficult to watch after some time. And the constant lullaby-like soundtrack doesn’t make things any easier.
The film is by no means enjoyable to watch, and isn’t trying to be either, but rather explore the depths and limits of depravity. Or simply just shock us. You decide.
11. Eaten Alive (1977)
Tobe Hooper’s follow-up to the insurmountably successful Texas Chainsaw Massacre is easily the oddest film on this list. Eaten Alive can best be described as a visual, emotional, and auditory assault; a maleficent and merciless depiction of madness in rural Texas. There’s an old saying, “man is a wolf to man,” and in the case of Eaten Alive the wolf is a 100 year-old pet crocodile.
Set almost exclusively on the grounds of a dilapidated hotel that is most certainly operating without a license, the film centers on a psychotic innkeeper (known only as Judd), his man-eating crocodile, and the desperate and damned travelers he encounters.
Over the course of one night there’s a runway-turned-prostitute, her bewildered father and sister, a sexual predator, an emasculated husband on the verge of a nervous breakdown, his pill-popping and wig wearing wife, their innocent daughter, and an ill-fated puppy.
In between scything anyone who may upset his irrational fundamentalism and feeding their remains to his African croc, Judd paces his home with his wooden leg, Nazi memorabilia, and nonsensical ramblings in an attempt to rationalize his demented brutality. Despite the croc’s ominous presence and stature, Judd is the true monster of this film.
From the unmotivated red lighting hanging over the hotel as if the moon was cut open and bleeding, to the score of arbitrary synthetic tones and wind chimes seemingly composed by the inmates of a mental asylum, to Nevile Brand’s dangerously committed performance, every aspect of Eaten Alive is rooted in anarchy.
Watching this film is like experiencing a fever dream. There isn’t a film on this list that tries to make the viewer feel good about anything, but instead attempts to evoke something visceral and raw, and Eaten Alive accomplishes this superbly.
12. I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
In what may be the most controversial of the 72 video nasties, I Spit on Your Grave has polarized audiences and critics since its release in 1978. It’s a film that is difficult to watch twice, due to both its production value as well as graphic content.
The plot is simple; a female author vacations at a cottage to write a novel, is gang raped by four repulsive rednecks and seeks revenge by methodically killing each of her assailants. Consisting of two acts, the first hour is essentially a long and drawn-out rape scene, and the rest is revenge.
Many who are critical of the film state it is nothing more than poorly crafted, exploitative trash. But there are others, including noted feminists, who praise the film as a harrowing critique of rape culture and victim blaming.
Regardless of one’s opinion on the film’s thematic value, or lack thereof, I Spit on Your Grave is a deeply challenging film. It’s rape scenes are shot in plain sight, daring the viewer to keep his or her eyes on the screen, and the revenge scenes are nearly as difficult to watch even though we’re rooting for the bad guys’ comeuppance. There’s a notable bathtub scene that often comes to mind as the most disturbing revenge moment of them all.
Eventually, like any film with a built-in audience, I Spit on Your Grave was unnecessarily remade in 2010 with higher production value and arguably worse execution, and franchised with a even less necessary (if it’s possible) sequel, I Spit on Your Grave 2. Both of which are completely avoidable.
13. Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)
The only horror-comedy on the video nasty list (well, intentionally so), Flesh for Frankenstein is a deliberate so-bad-it’s-good film. Written and directed by Factory filmmaker Paul Morrissey and produced by Andy Warhol, this take on the Frankenstein mythos portrays the mad scientist as an incestuous Serbian hell-bent on assembling the perfect male and female to spawn a master race.
But everything goes wrong when the male monster turns out to be sexually repressed and ambiguously homosexual, and Frankenstein’s nymphomaniac sister-wife, who is left sexually unfulfilled do to Frankenstein’s carnal desire for surgical wounds, acquires a boy-toy with a personal agenda to stop them.
Flesh for Frankenstein was the first of two tongue-in-cheek, camp-filled horror films from Warhol and Morrissey, followed by Blood for Dracula, and both starring the enigmatic Udo Kier.
Originally released in 3D, Morrissey utilized the format to its fullest by lunging disemboweled organs at the audience and displaying his actors with full-frontal nudity. It’s really no surprise the film was given an X rating at the time. Kier’s performance is incredibly intense and hilariously over-the-top, and it alone is reason enough to watch the film. The gore and everything else is a nice bonus.