Irreversible is not a film, it’s a machine. A machine built with one purpose and one purpose only: to upset, distress, nauseate, and disturb you. From the queasy camera movements, to the hypnotizing soundtrack, to the reverse narrative, to the violent and disturbing imagery, Irreversible is not a film that you will easily forget.
Though there are only two really sick scenes in the film, (a harrowing, violent, and seemingly never-ending rape, and the infamous fire-extinguisher-bludgeon scene), they are so well done, and so shocking - especially in the context of the story - that we felt compelled to include Irreversible on this list. Rarely has a title been so appropriate; once you have seen this film, you cannot un-see it, and its effect on you will be forever Irreversible.
T.F. Mous’ Men Behind The Sun stands out on the list as the only film to be based on a true story. This truly sickening film recounts the atrocities committed during World War 2 by the Japanese in the name of science, research, and the advancement of warfare.
To be honest, this film could be 100% fictional and it still would have made the top 10 list, as some of the scenes are downright brutal and extremely controversial: a (supposedly real) live cat is thrown into a room of starving rats and torn to pieces; a (supposedly real) corpse of a boy is slowly autopsied; a man is placed in a pressure chamber until his intestines blow out of his anus; a woman is tied to a post outside in the freezing cold, with buckets of cold water being dumped over her head to test the effects of frostbite, then her hands are plunged into boiling hot water, the skin peeling right off the bones; etc etc (those aren’t even the worst scenes, trust us).
Add to those visual images the fact that these atrocities were actually committed and you have yourself a recipe for something truly disturbing and unsettling - one that will challenge your mind and your ideals (along with your ability to hold down your lunch).
By far the most heady and artsy film on the list, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo, or 120 Days of Sodom is also one of the most disturbing and (dare we say) damaging. There are very few films that, upon viewing, will have us running to the showers to try and scrub ourselves clean. This is one of those films.
The premise is fairly simple: a group of wealthy, influential, and severely deranged fascists in World War 2-era Italy kidnap a group of teenage boys and girls from their villages, lock them away in their compounds, and spend the next weeks using them to re-enact the Marquis De Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom. So over the course of the film they strip them down, humiliate them, make them eat feces, molest them, rape them and ultimately publicly dismember and execute them.
Feel good movie of the year? We don’t think so. The film does have a lot to say about the nature of power and the corruptive attraction of pure fascism, and is considered a work of art by the film community (it was released as part of the highly esteemed Criterion Collection DVD’s, which is extremely rare and expensive). Don’t let that fool you though, this film is nasty, dirty, puerile, and may scar you for life (if you can get your hands on a copy).
We’d like to take a time out to give thanks to whatever higher power (or lower power, as it were) is responsible for Takashi Miike’s existence. That crazy son of a ~censored~ has cranked out some of our all time favorite genre flicks, and is one of the reasons we love Japan so damn much. So it’s only natural that his most gleefully violent, over-the-top and sadistic film make this list.
Ichi is probably the most well known film on this list; primarily because - despite the insane levels of gore, smut, and depravity that occur in the film - Ichi manages to have an almost playful, comical aspect to it. In short, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the characters are so quirky and weird that it’s much easier for most people to digest the fact that they’re cutting off someone’s nipples, or slicing someone in half, or cutting someone’s face off and throwing it against the wall, etc etc - hence the film’s popularity and accessibility. As it stands, this film is often quoted as the sickest film ever, but usually only by people who haven’t seen the rest of our Top 10.
What to say about this film that hasn’t already been said? You can easily describe Nick Palumbo’s magnum opus in 3 words: controversial, controversial, controversial. Murder-Set-Pieces is a throwback to a time when horror and exploitation films really pushed the envelope through excessive scenes of violence and sex (ie Last House on the Left, I Spit On Your Grave, etc), and it manages to conjure up the same amount of controversy as the aforementioned films.
Does that mean the film is good? Well that’s up to you to decide (our opinion? Not really), but what it DOES mean is that this film is 100% certified sickness. Featuring special effects by the gore masters at Toe Tag Pictures (also responsible for our #1 movie on this list), this film has definitely got its share of sick moments, bloody dismemberments and horrifying rapes, all shot in gorgeous 35mm with a real score and a real budget. The highlight (or low light) lies in the slow, graphic, and extremely realistic murder of a young child - a scene that will stick with you for a long time, whether you want it to or not.
What better way to kick off the Top 5 then with Flower of Flesh and Blood, the most brutal (and well-known) of the Guinea Pig series of films. This is the film that was so realistic and so disturbing, that Charlie Sheen took it to the FBI after viewing a copy, convinced it was a real snuff film. After a brief investigation the FBI dropped the case, as it was obviously just a really well-done film, but the damage was done when the story hit the news, and the film has been reaping the rewards of its notoriety ever since.
Not that it isn’t well deserved; this is quality stuff here folks. The film itself is fairly simple: a creepy Japanese dude in a samurai suit (don’t ask us) kidnaps a girl, drugs her, ties her to a bed, and slowly cuts her to pieces. That’s it, that’s the whole movie. But the special effects are SO well done and so convincing, it really takes it to a whole other level. Fingers, hands, you name it; everything is cut off in slow, agonizing detail. The blood looks great, the gore is splendid, and the dismemberments are top notch (for example, after cutting off one of her hands, the fingers suddenly clench around his wrist, despite the fact it is no longer attached. Yikes.).
The other Guinea Pig films attempt to recapture Flower of Flesh and Blood’s quality and success (Mermaid in a Manhole is also excellent), but this film is definitely the bright, shining, bloody red star in the collection and is required viewing for every self-proclaimed sicko out there.
Nothing conjures up that gut-deep feeling of horror like a dose of good, old-fashioned Cannibalism. And though a slew of sick Cannibal films came out in the 70’s, the crème de la crème of inter-species snacking is, without a doubt, Ruggero Deodato’s horrific masterpiece Cannibal Holocaust.
This is exploitation at its finest; rife with graphic scenes of rape, dismemberment, torture, real animal death, and, of course, cannibalism. The film is presented similar to The Blair Witch Project, with the footage supposedly recovered from a group of American researchers who documented their trip to the jungles of South America right up until their final moments, which lends a grainy, realistic look to the film that goes a long way to making it feel very real and very disturbing.
The film was banned in countless countries, and Deodato actually had to show evidence, in court, that the film was indeed fake, even going so far as to bring the actors on a popular TV talk show in Italy to prove they were still alive.
Though the film depicts countless scenes of rape and murder, what really pushed this film over the top was the very real and very unsettling footage of animal slaughter, which caused the film to be banned even in its country of origin (Italy). If you are overly sensitive to this kind of thing, you may want to skip this one, though we suspect if you are reading this list, you aren’t the squeamish type. Which is why we love each and every one of you sick ~censored~.
How sick can a 25 minute film actually be? How can a short film be ranked so high on a list filled with 2-hour movies? Is that even possible?
The placement of Douglas Buck’s short film Cutting Moments on this list may seem strange, but trust us, once you’ve seen this film, it all becomes clear.
A favorite here at the Horror Brain headquarters, Cutting Moments is a disquieting, harrowing look at the mental breakdown and subsequent downward spiral of a family torn apart by abuse, both physical and mental, and the limits of the human psyche.
A mostly silent and slow-paced film, there’s no denying the talent behind Cutting Moments, as Buck masterfully lets silence speak louder then words; allowing the tension of the film to slowly rise to a boil before the incredibly disturbing and permanently scarring bloody climax.
Featuring some of the most cringe-inducing moments in horror history, Cutting Moments is a must see film for anyone with a strong stomach, an open mind, and half an hour to kill.
The second short film to grace our esteemed list is Nacho Cerda’s Aftermath. What makes this film stand out among the sickest of the sick is not just the horrifying images and acts of repugnant depravity that are constantly on display in the harrowing 25 minutes that this film stands, but also the quality in which they are presented.
Most films with this kind of content are grainy, low-budget schlock with white noise for a score (see our #1 film). Not so with Aftermath. The film, especially on the newly released special edition DVD, is gorgeous, with a beautiful, haunting score and amazing camera work - all shot on 35mm film, a rarity for this kind of flick.
Aftermath pushes the boundaries of the genre in ways few films even dream of. Nacho Cerda made the film as part of a trilogy, focusing on death, post-death, and rebirth. Aftermath (the 2nd film in the trilogy) shows how we are all at the mercy of others once we die; our bodies nothing more then husks of meat to be poked, prodded, and disassembled.
It reveals - amongst a litany of gruesome, detailed shots - the inherent vulnerability of death, which is really the strength of this film, and the reason the gory contents hit home so very, very hard. The message is clear: we will all end up here and it is not a pretty place to be.
This film is not just some glorified autopsy video, although it does show in amazing, realistic detail the process of an autopsy. Half way through the film, right when you are just getting used to the sounds and sights of a human body being ripped open and taken apart, the film changes into something much more depraved, vile, and deeply unsettling. Good times, indeed.
Good lord. After listing 9 other movies, we’re starting to run out of adjectives for “sick” and “disturbing.”
But this is #1 dammit. This is Fred Vogel’s Toe Tag Pictures, the new masters of gore. This is the second movie of a planned trilogy. This is the one, the only, August Underground’s Mordum.
So after all we’ve seen and heard in this list, what makes this film #1? What makes it a cut above the depravity of all these other films? Well let’s start by whipping out that thesaurus and finding some words to help describe this film:
Needless to say, it’s pretty messed up. The August Underground movies are faux-snuff films, documenting the exploits of a group of serial killers as they maim, torture, rape, humiliate, and ultimately murder their helpless victims.
To say this film looks real is an understatement. Toe Tag Pictures are expert with their use of special effects and makeup, and it shows (they were hired as the special effects team for our #8 film). Don’t get us wrong, the film looks like hell; it’s shot on video, with poor lighting, shaky camerawork and fuzzy audio. But this is part of what makes the film work so well. It honestly looks like a group of sick ~censored~ are documenting their horrific exploits; so much so that Fred Vogel was recently arrested at the Canadian border when he tried to pass through with a box of August Underground DVD’s in his car, as they thought it was a real snuff movie (you can’t buy that kind of press though, come on!).
This film is hands down the sickest movie we’ve ever seen, and by far the hardest to watch. It’s not uncommon for most people to turn it off in the first 5 minutes, and even the most hardcore among us had to take several pause breaks in the film to walk away and clear their head of the images they witnessed.
While some argue that this film is a piece of trash, that is it garbage that should never have been made, when it comes down to it, whether you like the film or not, Toe Tag completely accomplished what they set out to do, and in that sense, the film is a success.
And for that reason alone we recommend it for anyone who is looking to push their boundaries and witness the sickest of the sick. For the rest of you, well, let’s just say that this film is the epitome of “not for the weak of heart,” and is really, really, REALLY hard to watch in one sitting. And yes, that is a dare.
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