A-List: Gross Out Films

By Sean Collier

July 31, 2008

I've had first dates like this.

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When I was a kid, I was scared of everything. Ghosts, monsters, the dark, bugs, disease, madmen; if you could put it in a campfire story, I was scared of it. In second grade, someone told me the Bloody Mary story, and for the next five years, I slept facing the mirror – so I could see her coming.

Yet, I was obsessed with horrific media of any kind. I read every kiddie and teen horror story I could check out of the library, and was a passionate devotee of the church of R.L. Stine. I begged my parents to let me watch watered-down horror movies on TBS, and wondered what they might look like with all the glorious violence and profanity restored.

My imagination, of course, was infinitely more vivid than the films turned out to be. I think that when you're young, you imagine that the world of grown-up entertainment is an endless orgy of sex and violence, the likes of which your little brain can't possibly fathom. Somehow, you're just convinced that a parade of gore and nudity is what adults are into.

Obviously, this is usually not the case; however, there are certain films that manage to outdo the dreamed-up splatterfests of even the most creative ten-year-old boy. Some directors enjoy celebrating just how sloppily, outrageously gory (or perverse, or hysterical) they can be, and some that believe a heavy dose of disgust is the best way to get a message across.

Obviously, most of these films only appeal to a certain type of filmgoer, but it seems that we're more willing to accept gore now than ever. Eli Roth has made a fortune out of finding ways to make us gag, and the Saw franchise has turned into a blood-and-guts cottage industry, cranking out a new, financially successful entry every October for the past five years. Gross has made the jump from midnight showings across town to a multiplex near you.

In honor of the impending release of Midnight Meat Train (which could also head up an A-List of most descriptive titles,) The A-List presents the best gross-out films.


Pink Flamingos

The only pure comedy on the list, Pink Flamingos is one of the original midnight films. The plot is so pure in intention, it's hilarious – angry lowlifes compete for the title of "Filthiest Person Alive." Horror films disgust by presenting violence and humanity gone horribly wrong – Pink Flamingos is repulsive just by showing how vile we can be quite naturally. The show truly belongs to the confusingly captivating Divine, whose outrageous appearance and films overshadowed the fact that she was a gifted actress – see the original Hairspray for proof.


Some would argue this inclusion as a gross-out film, but I could eat eggplant parmesan while watching Hostel with greater ease than I can gaze upon the monster in Eraserhead. Almost all of David Lynch's films could be described as nightmarish, but Eraserhead is the most troubling of them all. An incredibly dark and hallucinatory meditation on the fear of parenthood, few things ever captured on film are as disgusting and haunting as the being that Henry Spencer (the late, great Jack Nance) sires. If you ever get a chance to see Eraserhead on the big screen, take it – it's one of the most disturbing, terrifying experiences you'll ever have in a theater.

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