Series: Top 5 of the Past 25, #3 – Gorefests


[…in which I expound on the great genre darlings of the past 25 years in everyone’s favorite format:  the tried-and-true, oh-so-digestible Top Five List.]

If you’re here, it’s safe to assume that you’re here for the scaries, though I like to think that even for those outside the loving embrace of the genre, there’s something to be found in horror for anyone with an open mind.  Me, I like my movies juicyThere’s really nothing so joyful for me as a good, old-fashioned, balls-to-the-wall splatter party, and I’m here today to smear my glee all over you.

Putting this particular article together, I had to take a look at how, exactly, to define “Top 5”.  Am I talking about my favorites?  The ones that I think are the best, from a technical standpoint?  Or, in this case, should it be the movies that are actually the goriest?   In the end, I decided to keep it simple, and true to the form of the rest of this series:  the films listed here are simply my favorites; the ones that fill me with the aforementioned smeary glee.

Blood is the backbone of the horror genre, and believe me, there’s plenty here to get you good and wet. First, though, I feel like I should say a few things.  There may be some films that you feel were left out – and they are, intentionally and for very specific reasons.  Some of you might read through this and go, “Where’s Guinea Pig?  Where’s Mordum?  Where’s Nekromantik?”  And you’re right.  Yeah, all of those give good grue, but they just make me feel bad inside when I watch them.  They’re mean in a way I can’t personally reconcile.  Same with A Serbian Film (though I suspect many of you will be in agreement with me on that one).  I just can’t put those (or the Saw movies; deal with my not-caring) in a list of my jubilant favorites, so they’re not included. I won’t deny that there’s plenty of superior splat to be had in the real uglies of the genre, but what can I say?  For me, gore is at its best when it’s a party.

Last, it would be wrong if I didn’t name-drop the true grand-pappy of gruesome, with an honorable mention to Day of the Dead.  Obviously, it’s only excluded because it doesn’t fit the criteria for the time period.  Go watch it again anyway.

All that said, I’ll get down to the gristle.  Steel yourselves, my hardcore, blood-hungry sickies – it’s my Top 5 Gorefests of the Past 25 Years.

#5.  Feast (2005, d. John Gulager, w. Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton)

Grooviest gross-out:  Judah Friedlander’s head finally, mercifully explodes. 

Even some of the staunchest critics were on board with this straight-to-video stroke of genius.  While the structure built around the splatter could be looked at as pretty standard fare, the decision to go meta with this little monster is what really pulled the thing together.  Self-aware cinema is a slippery slope, but done right, there’s major potential for a home run.  With a wink and a nod to so many stereotypical survival stories, director John Gulager (son of the iconic Clu, who also appears in the film) amped up the camp, trimmed the fat, and for lack of a better word, just killed it.  Feast wouldn’t have worked if it took itself too seriously; then again, I don’t know how it could, considering all the creature genitalia.

Feast made its gore look good.  It’s not just that it looked real – it looked pretty.  With all the various and copious fluids to be had here, it really went for broke in the arena of the visually stimulating.  Not only is there plenty of blood for your buck, but tons of maggots, beautifully-backlit mucus, and undefined alien creature super-slime as well.  If you’re in it for the violence, take comfort in the exploding heads, the eyes hanging from their eye-strings, and many a torn-off limb or face.  Fun for the whole family.

#4.  Cabin Fever (2002, d/w. Eli Roth)

Grooviest gross-out: Token strumpet picks the wrong moment to shave her legs.

(Let me take a detour here.  As much as I really like this movie, I have a bone to pick with this. Why was she even shaving right then?  Who takes a bath in a nasty, contaminated, cabin bathtub?  More importantly, who shaves her legs AFTER a romp in the sack?  Even if that did make  any sense, why would you even attempt to shave over an enormous, gaping wound?  These are questions that need answers.)

Let’s face it:  regardless of your feelings about Eli Roth, it can’t be denied that his directorial debut was a sick, slick little sucker.  Biological horror like this is always a treat – the flesh-eating virus lives in a world of gruesome all its own, and provides some great opportunities for creative bloodshed.  Roth really came out swinging, and the finished product is a pretty tight, cringe-inducing little beast.

What really gets me going about Cabin Fever is that it doesn’t place the entire burden of bloodshed on the illness itself, although we get some really decent effects work out of the deal on that.  Violence is just as prevalent here, and it’s some pretty sweet and inventive violence at that.  It’s a nice marriage of the traditional kids-getting-picked-off-in-the-woods situation and the bacterial-infection-gone-wrong.  Rider Strong (and who among us didn’t say “Hell yeah, it’s Rider Strong!”) gets a righteous rage going as the shit continues to hit the fan, making for some good-looking kills when he screwdrivers, shotguns, and spray-coughs his way through murdering an entire group of teenagers in his freaked-out search for help (the harmonica-in-the-throat death especially tickled my fancy).  Poor Rider Strong.  All he wanted to do was get drunk with his (pretty douchey) buddies and finger-bang the girl next door.

Deterioration of the human body is a singular kind of horror, and it’s on full, glorious display.  Truly, there’s plenty here to make your skin crawl, rot, ooze, and peel off in chunks.  I guess it could be argued that the Hostel movies are gorier, but there’s something about the sickness that really does it for me here.

#3.  Ichi the Killer (2001, d. Takashi Miike, w. Sakichi Satō)

Grooviest gross-out:  The pimp’s boot-blade bisection.

There’s no way to describe this film but saturated.  What else can be said for a film whose opening titles are spelled out via money shot?

By this time, you all know I have the deep-down, super-touchy-feelies for Japanese horror, and this film is one of the reasons why. Ichi, in all its face-melting, torture-porn-ing, arterial-spraying wonder, is one hell of a crowning achievement.  There are literally entire rooms full of indefinable gore, complete with entrails, random chunks, and buckets upon buckets of the red stuff.  Similarly to Feast, it’s obvious that Miike never lets things get too self-serious; however, conversely to Feast, he never lets it get too real either (okay, except for all the suspension-from-skin-hooks.  That shit got really real).  Honestly, when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter if the bloodbath is believable when it’s so obviously and purposefully that far over-the-top.  That’s the beauty of camp.

Now, I do need to address the fact that Ichi gets pretty rapey at times.  Yeah, it’s kind of problematic if you take the whole thing as a drama, and while it does go dramatic at times with some of its gangster moments, it’s just glaringly obvious that Miike isn’t asking us, as an audience, to take this seriously.  So while all the raping isn’t really ideal, it’s sort of gets a pass when you put it in context.

Regardless, and overall, Ichi is just super fun, and I have to say, what really sold the copious carnage for me were the sound effects.  How could one go wrong with so much well-placed squelching?

#2.  Slither (2006, d/w. James Gunn)

Grooviest gross-out:  The explosion of Grant Grant’s tawdry mistress in a sea of bugs and organs.

Oh, James Gunn.  How I love your Troma roots and your gooey little heart.

Just as bio-horror provides much occasion for a lovely gross-out, equally messy is the age-old story of the alien insect.  Slither is a loving little throwback to the era of the Alien and/or Bug Movie, updated to accommodate the high level of organ-spillage that the most discerning gorehound demands.  There’s so much to love here; chest-burrowing slugs, slime, more slugs and more slime, along with some lovely liberated entrails and a pretty sweet X-Ray Bug Cam.

There’s some CGI here, but take comfort! It’s carefully used and pretty much only implemented for enhancements here and there.  Most of you purists will agree that this is the way to go, since CGI has been known to ruin an otherwise good movie, and can therefore pretty much suck it.  Slither clearly adores the practical effects of its sci-fi/horror ancestors, which it parodies affectionately, without a hint of snark or smugness.

The two giant monsters of the piece – Grant Grant’s expanding/exploding mistress and the enormous Grant-Grant-redneck-people-hybrid-thing, are worth the price of admission alone, and they’re more than appropriately sickening.  Extra points for the fact that you have to feel sorry for the Grant Grant Monster.  Disgusting practical effects.. with heart!

#1.  Braindead (a.k.a. Dead Alive, 1992, d. Peter Jackson, w. Peter Jackson, Stephen Sinclair, Fran Walsh)

Grooviest gross-out:  The lawnmower scene (do I really need to specify?).

It seems only right that a zombie movie would take top honors in a Best of Gore list, and I don’t think anyone will argue with me when I say that Dead Alive is really the best of the best.  With oceans of blood, piles of entrails, and so much arterial spray, this will quench the hardcore bloodthirsty and satisfy those with a taste for silliness.  It’s the perfect splatter comedy.

For someone who basically re-invented the world of CGI at the peak of his career, Peter Jackson works the shit out of his practical-effects chops in his first effort.  Limbs fly, appendages fall off, zombies fornicate and the mountains of viscera are a sight to behold.  Deaths and dismemberments are some of the most creative in all of horror, and all so terribly moist; this is really the perfect example of gore on a budget.  We even get some gorgeous stop-motion, which, if you’re like me and super emotional in your old-school-horror heart, will bring a tear to your eye.

Dead Alive is ultra-violent, but never hateful in the way that, say, Irreversible was (although that film is awesome and supremely creative — again, no matter how rapey); the film is so rooted in both splatter and slapstick that the violence feels like an extension of the comedy, and the comedy an extension of the violence.  It all had to be excessive for any of it to work.  And oh, it works so beautifully.

[If you’re undead and you know it, clap your hands! Check in with me next time for my zombie round-up in Top 5 of the Past 25, #4 — Zombie Movies!]


About Kara_E

Kara is a Senior Office Assistant for the Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics at Indiana University. A past English major and lifetime writer, she has also served both as an actress and behind-the-scenes assistant for several projects with our friends at Clockwerk Pictures. Kara lives with her husband in Bloomington, Indiana. In her spare time, she is a freelance editor/proofreader for international students at Indiana University, and serves as an organizer of the Dark Carnival Film Festival (

Other posts in this series:

  1. Series: Top 5 of the Past 25, #4 -- Zombie Movies (May 7, 2012)
  2. Series: Top 5 of the Past 25, #3 – Gorefests (March 27, 2012)
  3. Series: Top 5 of the Past 25, #2 - Female Killers (March 8, 2012)
  4. Series: Top 5 of the Past 25, #1 - Films about Serial Killers (March 1, 2012)
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