Also called splatter films and gornos, these nasties were, and still are, the worst of the worst. The exact definition varies, as it’s a broad term, but the shortest and the one closest to summing it all up is saying torture porns are a category of horror films mainly focusing on violence and gore.
Anguish was present on screen from its earliest days (the first “murder” ever filmed being Thomas Edison’s 1895 short “The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots”), but the first movies really fitting the statement given above were Herschell Gordon Lewis’ cheesy works from the 60s and 70s like “Blood Feast,” “The Gore Gore Girls,” “Two Thousand Maniacs” (which can be considered as the first hixploitation, too), etc.
As time passed, less and less of those were coming out of studios in the US where it started, but started coming out on the other side of the ocean. They came most notably from the UK and Italy, and further east in Japan, a decent number was coming into the theatres every year.
However, they were a touchy subject to talk about. The situation changed in the last couple of decades: with the speed of light, what was a taboo topic became a trend among the creative minds of the industry, from the Land of the Rising Sun to Los Angeles.
10. High Tension (2003)
Alexandre Aja’s breakthrough, featuring the talented Cécile de France and Maïwenn Besco as college best friends; and the veteran of the Seventh Art, Philippe Nahon as the unnamed killer, was the one that redefined modern French horror and paid homage to the classics.
Though the ending was not the best idea, the ambient of the old farm was way creepier than it is in many similar movies. The tension was unbearable, the script well written, and the gore, which was all over the place, was done convincingly thanks to Giannetto De Rossi.
Its classification as slasher by some fans (which it only partially is) and the bad reviews it received from a couple of eminent critics shouldn’t make you give up on it, because it is blood-spilling entertainment worth seeing, and rather interesting stuff if you’re a splatter lover.
9. Grotesque (2009)
Japanese horrors have been known for their strange style, from the “Guinea Pig” series to “Aku no kyôten,” and “Grotesque” can proudly say it’s among the strangest. Kôji Shiraishi, the director and writer, who previously made his way into the business with “Noroi” (2005) and “Kuchisake-onna” (2007), an adaption of an urban legend, did his best with this one, no doubt. But… there’s always a but.
It would be unfair to say it’s a bad flick, since it certainly isn’t. In fact, if you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll probably enjoy it very much. Yet, the repetitive parts of the script sometimes didn’t work out well, and the sequences of the events before the kidnapping looked like they were taken straight from some cheap college project. Other than that, it has everything you’d look for (if you’re a sick fellow): a crazy doctor; two innocent, hopeless individuals; and body parts cut off by sharp tools.
To conclude: maybe not a masterpiece, but this twisted title with a short running time will work just fine for a weekend movie marathon, or a really weird date.
8. Hostel (2005)
Praised for reinventing the subgenre, Eli Roth’s “Hostel” was filled with fun and gore. Made with a relatively low budget, it grossed over $80 million worldwide and was followed by two sequels.
The film began slowly with lots of (unnecessary) nudity, shocking us halfway through. Robert Kurtzman’s fantastic visual effects, combined with decent acting and Roth’s job behind the camera, made this piece of cinema very interesting and absolutely disturbing.
Although less so than most similar movies, “Hostel” had some nasty details. Aside from the violence, which expectedly got its load of criticism from quasi-moralists, and a somewhat justified disapproval from Slovakia for the way it was represented in the movie, the long, boring prologue is a big issue.
As mentioned above, dozens topless men and women, together with sinful parties in local clubs and tasteless jokes, all piled up in the first 30-40 minutes, seemed like a monotonous, uneffective way to start, and a possible deal breaker for some.
Generally, an enjoyable watch with a flaw or two. You’ll wait a bit before the carnage comes, but it definitely is worth waiting for. Also, an important thing is not to look at “Hostel” too seriously, because, to be honest, it’s far from a serious motion picture.
7. The Human Centipede Franchise
It began as a morbid joke from Tom Six, and became the most successful movie series ever made in the Netherlands (alas, in English). The artistic value isn’t really the strongest side of these movies, but it was pretty well compensated by the sadistic antagonists and creative, bloody show it surely was.
The first “Centipede” had its premiere on August 30, 2009 at London FrightFest. Since then, it faced heavy censorship and bans all over the globe. Next year, the gruesome Dutch filmmaker announced the new one, stating the sequel will beat original in terms of brutality and horror.
With the humorous tagline “100% medically inaccurate,” it was released in 2011. Sadly or not, Six’s words were completely true. Barb wire rape, a newborn’s head crushed shortly after its birth, and 12 poor folks instead of three were just some of the “innovations” that came with it. The reason why it was converted to black and white is still subject of theories, though it was claimed to be the director’s wish. And, as it usually goes, the third part was in production soon after. It saw the light of the day four years later.
The number increased. From twelve, it was now the whole damn prison. The stars of previous films, Laurence Harvey and Dieter Laser, appeared again, playing different characters. It was, just like the other parts of the trilogy, butchered by critics, but such flicks tend not to care much about it.
The name Tom Six carries controversy to this day. As of this year, he’s working on a new sick project (called “The Onania Club”) in Los Angeles, where he was brought thanks to the popularity of the infamous franchise. “The Human Centipede” remains banned in many countries, and continues to leave millions in disbelief.
6. Inside (2007)
Directed by the directing duo Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo (currently better known for “Leatherface”), “Inside” is most likely the weirdest entry on this list, and that ain’t an easy task. The bizarre story of a pregnant woman fighting for her unborn was a success by every meaning of the word, and it maintained its position as one of the very best when it comes to European cinema.
Yes, there were some unintentionally funny scenes (e.g. the CGI baby, the resurrected policeman) and some clichés (e.g. seemingly omnipotent and indestructible villainess, useless police), but you can’t deny that it’s highly entertaining for ones with a strong stomach, and surprisingly well-written and acted for such a film.
Just like many of these films from France, there wasn’t any room for quietness and slow tension building, as literally one of the first things we see is a dead man in a car and his pregnant wife sitting next to him, all covered in blood. Depending on your taste, it can be good or bad, but chances are you’ll love it if you’re a fan of gore and guts.