In the words of Alfred Hitchcock, “always make the audience suffer as much as possible.” From visceral self-mutilation to anatomical nightmares and exploitation horror, here are nine shocking movies you cannot unsee.
1. American Mary
There are some freaky-deaky nips and tucks that go down in the Soska sisters’ Canadian cutthroat revenge horror about an unhinged med student who runs her own underground body modification biz. And while the hypodermic needles and saws are enough to test one’s tolerance, it’s Mary’s surgical revenge she takes on the men who raped her that truly cuts to the bone.
2. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
Belgian duo Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s abstract feature about a man who’s looking for his missing wife in a haunted apartment building is not only one you can’t unsee, but one you won’t be able to unfeel, unhear, or unlive. A modern-day giallo, it’s a gory endurance test for sure. That said, it’s also a movie you just might come to enjoy once the eerie dream sequences and moody music simmer in your psyche.
3. The Human Centipede
Though Tom Six’s anatomical nightmare spawned one of the genre’s most effective villains in Dr. Josef Heiter, there’s something truly foul moving through the bowels of the movie’s premise. Equipped with a blueprint and a scalpel, Dr. Heiter gets to suturing a trio of kidnapped tourists together, mouth to rectum, creating, as its title suggests, the world’s very first human centipede. It’s one small step for cinematic science, one endless vomit sesh for mankind.
4. The Exorcist
Sure, it’s a classic. Now. But think about the first time you witnessed William Friedkin’s sacrilegious fever dream about a possessed little girl who spews filth all over the place. Regan’s rotating noggin, her blistered skin, and that creepy crab walk up the stairs—it’s all enough to leave a scar more severe than the prosthetic gashes dreamed up by the film’s late, Oscar-winning makeup artist Dick Smith.
Kevin Smith’s stoner oddity kicks off like the other talky gems that make up his View Askewniverse: heavy on the dialogue and revealing in a way that sets it apart from lesser buddy stoner films. But Tusk, the first in a three-part series dedicated to all things wack, is a significant departure if judged by its third act. About a psycho sailor and the podcaster he physically and mentally turns into a walrus, this one’s a solid example of how one too many bong hits results in an assault on the senses, and blubbery eye sores you have to see to believe.
6. Evil Dead
This isn’t to say Fede Alvarez’s gritty reimagination of Sam Raimi’s original ranks any higher on Rotten Tomatoes. We’re just saying you’re gonna need a bath and someone to talk to after the credits roll. Alvarez’s reboot forgoes humor for some of the most graphic violence we’ve ever seen—we’re talking a blood bath with sexual imagery that goes way beyond an R rating.
If you think marriage can dampen desire, then you and Lars Von Trier have something in common. In this visually stunning conceptual horror, a couple whose son falls to his death from the apartment window while they’re in the throes of sexual ecstasy head to an isolated cabin to repair their relationship—though once there, things just go from bad to worse. And by worse, we mean genital mutilation by way of scissors. Good. Ness.
8. A Serbian Film
Genre buffs love to sniff out extreme cinema. Though if your senses lead you to Srdjan Spasojevic blunt-force A Serbian Film, be ready for an assault that includes smut, carnage, and sexual violence that is wholly disturbing. Some view Spasojevic’s tale about a washed-up adult-film star reentering the industry as nothing more than gore porn; others consider it an honest expression of the social and political atrocities that infiltrate our politically incorrect world. Either way, it’ll lodge itself so deeply in your brain that no amount of Pixar therapy will soothe your wounds.
9. In My Skin
Perhaps one of 2002’s most criminally underseen and underappreciated releases, French filmmaker Marina de Van’s body horror—which she wrote, directed, and starred in—pushes the bloody boundry of self-destructive compulsion. About a 30-something who eventually gives in to her urges to dig into, chew on, and tear at her own flesh, de Van dives into madness the way Roman Polanski does with Repulsion or David Cronenberg does with, well, everything. Squeamish viewers may want to think twice before streaming this one.
Promotional poster for "The Human Centipede" via Six Entertainment