ALMOST no movies shock me. That said, when I make a statement like that, most people consider it a challenge. Sure, they'll recommend shocking movies to me like the Darren Aronofsky flick, Requiem for a Dream. While films like that might disturb me (in fact, most of Aronofsky's movies --which we've ranked -- disturb me), that doesn't necessarily mean I'll find them shocking.
But then, there are movies that are so brutal, or so intense, that even I find myself turning my head or gasping. We're going to lay out five such features. Oh, and just so we're clear, there won't be anything like Emperor Tomato Ketchup on this list. Because, believe it or not, there are certain flicks that even I won't seek out.
Directed by Pascal Laugier and starring Mylene Jampanoi, Morjana Alaoui, and Catherine Begin, this French horror film is about abuse. Really, really intense abuse. It centers on a woman who was tortured in her youth and is out for revenge against those who she perceives as her abusers. But it goes much deeper than that, as the title “martyrs” implies. By the time the credits rolled, I felt cold inside and emotionally drained.
A major part of that is because the violence in this movie is just so hard to stomach. It’s not stylized like you might find in a highly exciting Jason Statham movie like Crank, where you’re cheering for the bad guys to get shot or punched in the face.
No, a punch in the face in this movie is absolutely horrendous. It almost reminds me of an instance in my gym class, where I witnessed a fight break out in the locker room. One student was beating the living hell out of another, and there was blood splattered all over the lockers. When it was all over, one of their faces was so puffed up, you would've thought they had an allergic bee sting reaction.
Now, imagine that multiplied by ten, because there's a lot more violence in this movie than a punch in the face. And it's all so mean-spirited and aggressive (toward women) that I had to stop it a couple times since I was getting really uncomfortable, and quite frankly, shocked on several occasions.
If you also want to check it out, then watch the 2008 version, and not the panned American remake. That’s shocking for another reason -- it's shockingly bad.
Good 'ol Lars von Trier. When he’s not getting in trouble with the MPAA over gruesome murder scenes, he may be contending with walkouts during screenings of his movies at film festivals. In other words, VVon Trier is no stranger to controversy. That said, I admire some of his films, such as Melancholia, Breaking the Wave, and Dancer in the Dark.
I also admire 2009’s Antichrist, which stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, even though I nearly threw up due to one scene. Like a few of Lars von Trier’s other films, this motion picture centers on depression. What causes said misery, in this case, is the death of an infant falling out of a window while its two main characters, a husband and wife, are having sex. What follows is the husband taking his wife out into nature to help treat her unhappiness, but it spirals out of control and results in some really harsh sexual violence.
You know how The Exorcist is considered one of the best horror movies of all time? Well, a lot of people consider that movie to be shocking, but I think it’s pretty tame by today’s standards. Besides the part where Regan stabs herself with a crucifix in a very sensitive area, of course. Well, picture that (or don’t), being a million times worse, because Antichrist has some of the most disturbing sexual violence I have ever had the displeasure of watching.
Yes, given that it's an arthouse film, there's a lot going on beneath all the genital mutilation, but it’s really hard to sit through to the end. And on more than one occasion, I genuinely couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
A Serbian Film (2010)
A horror movie apparently popular amongst TikTok users, A Serbian Film -- which is directed by Srdjan Spasojevic, and stars Srdjan Todorovic -- is about a former porn star who is trying to make some quick cash for his family by producing an art film, However, he ultimately finds out it’s really a snuff movie.
Snuff films are already controversial by nature, but A Serbian Film takes it several steps further with the progression of its plot, which goes into deeper and darker territories by the minute.
There’s one scene in particular involving a newborn that I refuse to say anything more about, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more shaken in my entire life when watching a movie than I was while gazing upon that one scene. I honestly wanted to turn the movie off at that point, but I stuck it through, only to just cringe my way through the rest of the film.
And what makes matters worse is the general tone. In no way is the movie promoting any of the grotesque acts that we’re witnessing, but the characters (sans the protagonist) are all very much gung-ho about what they’re filming, and it just makes you feel dirty for even watching it. To put it simply, yuck.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
One of the grandaddies of shocking cinema, Cannibal Holocaust (which probably has one of the most soothing intros to a horror movie ever) is genuinely just as disturbing as people make it out to be. Basically found footage horror before it became a genre, the flick is about a documentary crew who want to film some cannibals, but -- you guessed it -- the team bites off more than they can chew. Or maybe the cannibals bite off more than they can chew. (You get the idea.)
Cannibalism, believe it or not, is not the most disconcerting element this movie. Instead, it’s the violence toward animals that made my jaw drop. Yes, there is a “cruelty free” version, so that you don’t have to witness animals getting decapitated. But once you see that, it’s kind of hard to get that visual out of your head.
There’s also a scene so brutal that the director, Ruggero Deodato, was called into court because it was believed that the documentary was actually real and that he murdered his cast. So yeah, this is definitely not for the faint of heart.
Salo, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom (1977)
Lastly, I want to bring up what's probably the most well-known movie on this list amongst people who seek out shocking cinema; Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom. Renowned for its notoriety, it's about a group of fascists who hold some young men and women hostage and make them perform horrible acts on one another. There’s a dinner table scene where the “guests” are forced to devour feces. And that’s one of the tamer moments.
As I mentioned in my article about movies my sister warned me to never watch, I saw Salo with my jaw open for much of its 116-minute runtime. It’s just scene after scene of depravity, and what bothered me the most about the film is that I could genuinely imagine the events actually happening.
Humankind’s basest instincts have allowed people to perform some horrific acts against one another, and this film just seemed like documentation of that. That knowledge shocked me to no end but saddened me as well.
And that’s the list. Have you seen any (or all) of these movies? If so, did they shock you like they shocked me? For more news on all kinds of jaw-dropping entertainment, make sure to swing by here often and also seek out these five movies listed, along with Requiem for a Dream, if you're really that curious (and can stomach them).