A-List: Gross Out Films

By Sean Collier

July 31, 2008

I've had first dates like this.

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Cannibal Holocaust

Look – you probably shouldn't watch this film. You think you're tough, you think you can handle any level of celluloid violence, Cannibal Holocaust will make you scream uncle. One of the most controversial films of all time, director Ruggero Deodato was arrested for murder after the film was released – because the public truly believed that what they had seen was entirely real, and his cast had been murdered while the cameras rolled. He had to publicly produce his cast and recreate certain scenes in open court to prove his innocence. This, of course, is to say nothing of multiple, graphic scenes of real, honest-to-god animal slaughter captured in the film. In all honesty, however, it is a well-made, effective film – one of the most upsetting horror films I've ever seen – and well worth your time, if you can handle it.

The Evil Dead

Bruce Campbell. Bruce Campbell, Bruce Campbell, Bruce Campbell. Bruce Campbell; Bruce Campbell. Bruce Campbell? Bruce Campbell! (One of my all-time favorite horror films, I couldn't sleep for days after The Evil Dead. Every other alone-in-the-woods scare flick doesn't come close to capturing the terrifying isolation of The Evil Dead; the cast is spot-on, and Sam Raimi's direction is brilliant in how simply he can terrify. The sequel, effectively a remake of the original with a higher budget, and Army of Darkness, the comedic conclusion to the trilogy, are also good, but The Evil Dead is the best of the bunch.) Bruce Campbell.

Braindead/Dead Alive

Few directors have made a more dramatic jump than Peter Jackson. The beloved auteur behind The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the King Kong remake was once better known for shredding zombies and aliens apart than leading lovable hobbits through adversity. Braindead, a campy zombie comedy that makes Shaun of the Dead look positively tame, was long considered the messiest film of all time; my favorite bit of trivia about the film is that during the climactic lawnmower scene (figure out what happens there,) fake blood was pumped from the lawnmower at a rate of five gallons per second. Furthermore, if the phrase "adorable baby zombie" appeals to you, rent this film now.


Cabin Fever

The Hostel films have attracted more attention, but Cabin Fever is easily Eli Roth's best movie so far. Capturing all that's good about gore and terror without the exploitation of his later films, Cabin Fever borrows liberally from The Evil Dead in setting and mood, to great effect. It's also frequently hilarious, sometimes accidentally, but sometimes just in bizarre, uproarious moments. I saw this during my first semester of college, and my friends walked around for weeks, randomly exclaiming, "Oh, he's a professor – of being a dog! FACED!"
Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead

All Releases by Troma Films

The reigning kings of gross for 35 years, Lloyd Kaufman's Troma Films production company is not only one of the longest-running horror houses, it's one of the most prolific truly independent studios ever. All of their films are irreverent, hilarious, sophomoric exercises in outrageousness, but are endlessly more entertaining and watchable than the countless imitators that have cropped up over the decades. Some of there best-known titles include Cannibal: The Musical (one of the first films by Trey Parker and Matt Stone,) Tromeo and Juliet, and The Toxic Avenger; their latest, Poultrygeist, is best described as a musical comedy about Native American chicken zombies. That's a description that sells a film if I've ever heard one.

One to Watch For

I somehow got through this list without mentioning Japanese shock-and-gore director Takeshi Miike, so I'd like to put in a quick endorsement for the upcoming Sukiyaki Western: Django. Starring a laundry list of Japanese stars...and Quentin Tarantino, Miike's film is a remix of Sergio Corbucci's 1966 original, with a western-style war between rival Japanese gangs. I can't promise that it'll be a true gross-out picture, but that would be a fairly smart bet to take.

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