To shock and disturb

Last night I stumbled upon a showing of Hostel: Part II on television, and it dawned on me, that although this particular movie is rather missable overall, it does feature one of the most shocking horror scenes that has ever been in a mainstream motion picture.

So here’s my run down of some of the more disturbing / shocking movie moments I have seen … in no particular order.



Hostel: Part II  (2007)

The moment when nerdy backpacker Lorna (Heather Matarazzo) is brought into a room, upside down on a chain, and naked, with her mouth gagged and her hands tied.  Suspended over a candle lit bath, a woman enters, disrobes and lays down beneath her.  The wriggling and terrified Lorna then becomes the movie’s first victim when the woman raises a huge scythe and begins to slash at Lorna’s body, subsequently bathing in her blood.  The scene concludes with Lorna’s throat being sliced open and a shower of blood spraying over the naked woman below.  Truly shocking cinema … and in a mainstream, widely distributed movie too.

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance  (2002)

When vengeance seeking business man Dong-jin (Song Kang-ho) kidnaps the girlfriend of the man who caused the death of his daughter, he proceeds to torture her for answers to her boyfriend’s location.  He chooses to do this by wiring her ears up to an electrical device and sending varying bursts of electricity into her.  Eventually he covers her with a blanket as she sits on a chair, tied up and peeing herself.  Very hard to watch.

Martyrs  (2008)

In what can only be described as one of the most disturbing movies ever made, main protagonist Anna (Morjana Alaoui) having endured days of brutal torture, is finally taken to a room with the promise of ‘this will all be over soon’.  Believing that her nightmare is about to end, she is then subjected to her skin being flayed from her body, and is presented trophy like standing in a bath of water as the female leader of her captors pays a visit.  Truly shocking, though-provoking and incredibly disturbing.

Irreversible  (2002)

In one of the most controversial movies to come out of France, apart from the widely publicised rape scene, the moment when Albert Dupontel’s character attacks a man in a gay night club with a fire extinguisher has to be one of the most brutal scenes I have ever experienced.  The camera does not move away as we watch the victim’s head be repeatedly bludgeoned to the point only his jaw is left intact.  Utterly disgusting.

Lost Highway  (1997)

Arguably David Lynch’s most unnerving work, this dark thriller has several freaky moments, but the part when lovers Balthazar Getty and Patricia Arquette enter a house to steal some money, they are discovered by Andy (Michael Massee), Arquette’s wealthy friend and a fight ensues.  The most shocking moment comes when Andy is flung from a staircase and lands against a coffee table with the corner imbedded in his forehead.  Unexpected and very disturbing.  The whole scene is also shot in a very dream like, hallucinatory fashion, with a creepy soundtrack by goth rock band Rammstein.

[REC]  (2007)

This spanish horror may have been remade in the U.S. as the awful Quarantine, but the original remains the most effective.  Especially in the closing minutes where reporter Angela (Manuela Velasco) ventures into an attic above a closed off apartment that already holds evidence of a demonic possession years previous.  In pitch black darkness we watch her via her camera man’s night vision as she attempts to find a way out, until the camera man is knocked down by a creepy, witch-like person, the possessed girl shown in photos in the apartment.  The closing moments have reporter Angela pulled away into the dark as the camera records her from floor level.  Terrifying.

The Killer Inside Me  (2010)

Based on the controversial novel by Jim Thompson, this is difficult watching throughout, mainly due to psychotic Deputy Sherrif Lou (Casey Affleck) Ford’s  extremely nasty, and often unprovoked murders.  What hit the hardest wasn’t the much publicised beating of Jessica Alba (which is horrendous), but the murder of Ford’s wife Kate Hudson, possibly breaking her spine in the process, and how she crawls agonizingly across the kitchen floor, coughing and spluttering until she’s dead.  It’s nasty stuff indeed, especially for an American movie with an all-star cast.

…and my opinion of all this?  Well although I am against censorship, and feel that cinema should indeed push boundaries, there is a lot to be said for such scenes being featured in context and for a reason.  In Hostel’s case although the subject matter is believable and unnerving, it is clear to me that director Eli Roth just wanted to shock without any real justification.  Movies such as Martyrs and Irreversible however do have an underlying message, even if their horrible scenes of cruelty and  violence can cloud such things, but in both cases the director does go a bit too far.  It’s hard to say whether we need such movies like the list above, and certain subjects are not really entertainment, but more endurance – can you make it to the end credits etc, and I think on a whole horror and extreme cinema is getting much more daring and difficult to categorise.  At the end of the day though, it is genuinely a matter of taste whether you get something out of these movies, if you can see beyond the nasty stuff and take home something more, something thought-provoking.  Some of the toughest movies perhaps only effect the viewer because they have something to say about human society as a whole and what people are capable of … and in that respect, their existence is justified.  I just don’t see the point in a movie that just goes out to shock for the sake of shock.

Would I recommend the list above to movie goers after something that will push their boundaries?  Indeed.  Should they be seen by your average horror or cinema fan?  Perhaps not, with the exception of [REC] and Sympathy For Mr Vengeance which are exceptional movies in their own right, despite their tougher moments.   In all cases, I recommend you do your research first, know what you’re in for and if you are the kind of movie fan that will ultimately get something out of such material.  They each have their reason for existing I think, but don’t blame me if something upsets you or plays on your mind afterwards.

You have been warned.

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