Horror is perhaps the genre where we are most frequently asked to confront our enjoyment of what we’re watching: Why do we like being horrified?
That question becomes all the more insistent when what we’re watching becomes overtly grotesque: when the fingernails get dislodged, the grime becomes thick, and the fluids that should be on the inside find their way out. This question might be a bit too big to even attempt answering in one article, but it might be worth taking a look at a few of the films that make us recoil, think about why they disgust us, and maybe, just maybe, come to some answers about what their nastiness adds to our viewing experiences.
From the overtly exploitative and pandering to the artful and affecting, here are 10 disgusting horror films.
10. Hostel (2005)
Eli Roth’s Hostel might be one of the most influential horror films of the 21st century. There had certainly been extreme films long before it, but Hostel might be foremost among the films that established torture porn as a defining horror trend of 2000s.
The film, about a bunch of womanizing jerks in Europe who get pulled into a torture ring, brought this kind of extreme horror to the mainstream, making over $80 million on a small budget, introducing the world to power tools puncturing skin and scalpels doing their work on Achilles tendons. The latter is used to shocking effect in a scene that leaves much of the horror up to the sound design and the viewer’s imagination… that is until we are suddenly shown everything in gory detail and we realize that Eli Roth’s imagination is much darker and more explicit than our own.
It’s skuzzy, bloody, brutal, and maybe it all has a purpose? Maybe it’s about showcasing the arrogance and entitlement of the developed world? Or maybe we’re just meant to enjoy seeing the worst kind of American tourists get punished? Maybe it’s much more than all that. Maybe much less.
But was that snipping eyeball scene all that necessary!?
Maybe it is. Maybe it’s kind of the point - cruelty for cruelty’s sake is a theme of the film and it’s something that the film practices on its viewer. Whether it’s meant to be sickly pleasurable, completely off putting, or somewhere in between - that’s up to you.
As an aside, the film has a cameo by extreme Japanese film director, and idol of Eli Roth, Takashi Miike. Let’s circle back to him in a minute.