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10 Banned Horror Movies That Still Give Us Nightmares

We’re lifting the red tape off of these grisly visions of the silver screen.

Did someone say banned? All the more reason to seek it out then, right? Since the dawn of dark cinema, censors have cut, edited, and outright suppressed some of the genre’s most critical contributions. The following are a few of those banned horror movies. Watch at your own risk—but don’t watch alone.

1. The Evil Dead

banned horror movies
  • Photo Credit: Renaissance Pictures

Sure, we all know and love the Sam Raimi classic as a campy horror picture show about a crew of coeds whose vacay at an isolated cabin is cut—and sliced and hacked—short when they accidentally summon the undead. And despite the film’s critical and box office success, countries like Finland, Germany, Iceland, and Ireland just see Raimi’s reign of terror as sacrilegious filth about a girl who gets raped by a tree. What are you gonna do?

2. A Serbian Film

banned horror movies
  • Photo Credit: Invincible Pictures

Filmmaker Srdjan Spasojevic’s severely polarizing comment on the socio-politico unrest in Serbia operates under its own moral code. Translation: It doesn’t have one. Spasojevic calls his debut a metaphor for life in Serbia, saying “There is no sex in Serbia, only pornography.” What he doesn’t say, however, is that his porno comes with a heavy dose of pedo-, necro-, and every other kind of sadistic philia you can think of. About an aging porn star who gets lured back into the biz, the film was pulled from several festivals—with one festival director receiving a citation for child pornography—and was banned in Spain, Norway, and Brazil.

3. Salò

banned horror movies
  • Photo Credit: United Artists

Also known as The 120 Days of Sodom, a.k.a. the most banned movie ever, a.k.a. the one about the fascists who kidnap a bunch of boys and girls, and sodomize and torture them for months before executing them one by one. This stunningly shot film, which explores the evils of humanity, comes from filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, who was murdered before the film was released. And though it touts itself as a war drama set in 1944 fascist Italy, ask any genre fiend for his or her top five horror picks, and this one often makes the cut. Banned, unbanned, and rebanned the world over, Salò is one of the most disturbing films ever made.

4. A Clockwork Orange

banned horror movies
  • Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

It’s the Stanley Kubrick cinematic classic that reportedly launched a bevy of real-life crimes: teens raped teens, people beat the homeless, gangs attacked for pleasure—all apparently in the name of Alex and his droogs. And though critics hailed its Beethoven-heavy soundtrack and deftly choreographed displays of violence, the death threats and accusations of copycat violence were too much for the filmmaker. Kubrick, along with Warner Bros., pulled the film from its UK release. The ban remained in place until Kubrick’s death in 1999, making it exceedingly difficult to see A Clockwork Orange in England for some 27 years.

5. The Last House on the Left

banned horror movies
  • Photo Credit: Filmways Pictures

In today’s desensitized society, a few acts of torture or violence rarely cause one to bat an eye. Viewing Wes Craven’s 1972 debut, however, is as much of a shock today as it was at its released. One reason for the film’s longevity? Its wretched character Krug, a degenerate who orchestrates the rape of two teenage girls. Krug’s depravity and the subsequent revenge that’s brought down upon his head is why Craven’s film went through censorship hell. It was banned in multiple countries, including the UK and Australia.

6. I Spit on Your Grave

banned horror movies
  • Photo Credit: Cinemagic Pictures

Similar to Craven’s rape-and-revenge plot line, Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave, about a woman who’s violated, humiliated, and left for dead by a pack of hoodlums, was inspired by an actual encounter. Zarchi met a woman who was raped in NYC’s Central Park. Disgusted with how the authorities handled the ordeal, Zarchi retaliated on the silver screen, with his fictional victim exacting her own brand of justice (think: castration). Somewhat heralded today as a slice of cinematic feminism, I Spit on Your Grave spit in the faces of the morality police, and for that, it was banned in 11 countries.

7. The Exorcist

banned horror movies
  • Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

It’s difficult to imagine William Friedkin’s Halloween staple, which now airs every October on basic cable, was once at the top of the censors’ hell-no list. The film’s blasphemous storyline and nefarious reputation of theatergoers throwing up and getting carried out on stretchers caused the chairman of the British Board of Film Classification to veto it entirely. He wasn’t alone. Malaysia and Singapore apparently had a few hang-ups when it came to little Regan growling “Let Jesus f*ck you.” They banned the film as well.

8. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

banned horror movies
  • Photo Credit: Vortex

Much of this list is littered with carnage and uncompromising torture porn. But Tobe Hooper’s delirious redneck rollick about a group of friends who find themselves face-to-saw with a mutilated Texas maniac takes a different approach. Much of its brutality is inferred rather than exploited. Still, the film has its fair share of gore, and it’s this onslaught of terror that earned Texas Chain Saw Massacre the red tape back in the 1970s.

9. Cannibal Holocaust

banned horror movies
  • Photo Credit: Trans American Films

Ever heard of video nasties? They’re an assortment of films that UK censors deemed, well, too nasty for viewing in the 1980s. Italian shocker Cannibal Holocaust, a found-footage horror about an anthropologist who learns the gruesome fate of a missing documentary film crew, is perhaps the most famous of the “nasty” bunch. And, hey, interspecies erotica, primal smut, and forced abortions? That’ll do it. Reggero Deodato’s film was banned in the UK, as well as nine other countries.

10. The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)

banned horror movies
  • Photo Credit: IFC Midnight

Filmmaker Tom Six’s First Sequence already tested the gag reflexes of its audience. And while walkouts were common and some moviegoers lost their lunch, the film still went down as a pretty decent contribution to the horror genre. But his second installment—a monochromatic depiction about a sad-sack Dr. Heiter admirer with the same foul fetish—posed “a real threat to cinemagoers,” according to British censors. Brimming with more blood and more, um, feces, the second sequence is pretty much like glimpsing the contents of a port-a-potty in the back of a long-distance bus. Look, we’re solid supporters of the first amendment, but this is one instance when the morality police may have gotten it right.

Published on 11 May 2016

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