I lied. I do not love gore. If, in reality, I witnessed the brittle and rotting skull of a zombie being popped under a combat boot like a stinky grape or a river of blood splashing through the halls of the historic and creepy mountain hotel I have agreed to steward through the empty winter season, I would piss my pants. Maybe worse. However, within the safety of my home or local theater, I do enjoy being able to reach an imagined proximity to such events through the creative hands of a horror film’s FX team who can work such icky magic with corn syrup and pig liver.
There is no shortage of “Top Ten Gore Scenes” floating around the web, and so let me be clear that this is not one of them. These are scenes in movies that hit me personally and physically. Sometimes from fear, sometimes disgust, and sometimes glee. Here are ten yell-out-loud, cringe-worthy, and puke-inducing celluloid moments that truly and viscerally got to me. Some in a good way, others in a GoodGodNoIdidnotjustwatchthat! way.
High Tension — The blowjob scene.
As if the grunts emitting from this foul man were not enough, viewers realize that what they thought was just a sad exchange between repulsive troll and prostitute, or maybe even a molested niece, turns out to actually be said troll using a woman’s severed head as a semen receptacle. Yep. Pretty fucking disgusting.
Mirrors — The character’s reflections staring back at them hatefully before hurting themselves (such as grabbing hold of top and bottom jaws and ripping their head apart) and thus, the character.
This was not a great movie. With a rambling plot and an adequate performance from Keifer Southerland, I’d rate it 3 stars on Netflix streaming. Yet these mirror scenes, especially the jaw-ripping, dental shit-show ones, had me fearing my own reflection for weeks. Another score for French director Alexandra Aja, who also directed High Tension. I am choosing this remake version here instead of the original Korean film, Into the Mirror, because where the remake dumbed down the story, it upped the horror/gore factor.
The Shining — Elevator of blood scene.
This scene always disturbed me a bit, but it wasn’t until I went to a midnight showing of it where the theater was so crowded that I ended up in the third row that it became a contender for this list. I actually stopped breathing at some point during the scene, and I realized this when I had to catch my breath when the scene was over. Why? I don’t know. Where before, when I had seen it many times on television sets, I was merely riveted by the contrast of the still hallway invaded by this powerful and impossible river of blood, seeing it in the theater at midnight on a giant screen in my face just took it to a some psychological metaphor that struck me down in the brain where those deep fears crawl around and are never meant to be illuminated. The vintage elevator, with its two dials sitting above it like eyes, opens its mouth and spews out this overwhelming violence, before this tiny, sweet child… That’s some powerful art shit, man.
The Human Centipede— you know the one.
I was warned. I had received detailed explanations of it by my fellow horror fiends, and I thought I was prepared. However, I include this one because it actually caused me to vomit. No other film has done this, and I’m a huge John Waters fan. In fact, I don’t even like to talk about this movie with people because I begin to hear myself sounding like a prude. But seriously?! Yuck.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil and Fargo — Humans in the wood chippers!
Okay, this is a concept that will never fail to make me squeal like I’m eight years old at a slumber party. When flesh meets the powerful, grinding blades of industrial-strength machinery, it always gets a gross-out yell from me. I can’t even fish out an obstruction in the garbage disposal without checking five million times to make sure the switch is off. But, I must admit, I really miss being eight years old, and deep down I never tire of a good wood chipper scene.
Dead Alive, The Walking Dead, and others. — The zombie head stomp!
Hooray! Who doesn’t love a good, old-fashioned zombie head-crush scene? Nobody I’d care to know, I say! On the left we have the Sumatran Rat Monkey from Peter Jackson’s pre-Tolkien days, and on the right, of course, one of many fun deadhead crushings from AMC’s best show ever! Have I added enough exclamation points?!? Did you know I really enjoy watching zombie heads being squashed?!! I really do!
Prometheus — The med pod alien-ectomy scene.
Okay, this one is very subjective. True story. Eight months pregnant and a huge Alien fan, I went to see Prometheus as soon as it came out. As Noomi Rapace’s character climbs into the med pod, my unborn daughter decides to add to the drama. I was used to feeling her kick, but this was different. She wanted OUT. My belly rippled and moved, and in the dim light of the screen I could see the surface changing shape, and it seriously looked like JUST LIKE THE MOVIE. Add the context that this is my first child, I had no idea what childbirth was going to be like or if, as a narrow-hipped petite woman, I would be having a C-section. It was a very personal, surreal, and terrifying cinema moment for me. It was the first prank my daughter played on me, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
The Thing— The metamorphosis scenes. All of them.
For 1982, the FX in this film were remarkable. Thirty years later it still holds up. A perfect blend of setting, characters, plot and acting gave these scenes fertile ground to creep you the fuck out. I think what gets to me is watching the normal and familiar go through the throes of mutation with all the barbaric and entomologic qualities of a black widow spider chomping off the head of her mate. When Copper starts to perform CPR on Norris and then Norris’s chest caves in and clamps down on Copper’s arms like a set of jaws, taking his arm and life in the process, or when the spidery legs pop out of the side of that one guy’s severed head…eeewww. Creepy, crawly, icky fun. I enjoyed the remake, but even with all the modern tech, it still didn’t beat the original
Cabin Fever — The close shave.
Why is this girl shaving her legs?!? There’s a flesh-eating virus eating everyone up; who cares if you are a little stubbly? Why does she keep shaving while her skin is coming off? Seriously, it’s a silly scene but it really grossed me out. Just a basic feeling of: OH NO! What if I were shaving MY legs and while bringing the blade up through the shaving cream, instead of a soft hair-free stripe of skin I see a scabby mess oozing with rot? Yeah, I know it’s stupid, but still don’t layer the shaving cream too thick. I like to see a bit of the skin there beneath the foam. I had the flu when I saw this movie. Stuck to the couch and hacking up green stuff while wadded up tissues multiplied around me like tribbles, I pulled this out of my giant stack of sick-week rentals and put it in the DVD player. Unfortunately, I had little forethought that a horror movie about a flesh-eating disease might be a poor choice when you actually do feel diseased. Thus, that horrifying shaving scene ensured that my legs would remain hairy long after the flu had gone.
Last House on the Left, I Spit On Your Grave — Kill the Rapists!
I love to watch bad guys get cut up anyway, but there isn’t much more satisfying than watching the survivor of a brutal assault get her revenge on the pieces of shit that hurt her and didn’t expect her to still be alive, much less a threat. As a mom, I like to see parents getting their revenge as well. Since that is the only value I really see in these films, I just fast-forward through the actual rape scenes and get to the revenge parts. rewind. watch again. cheer.