There are numerous things that attract people to horror and genre cinema, but one specific key element with some films is the violence that they showcase. For some people it’s the draw; for others it’s the cherry on top of a well made movie; and then there are the select few who simply do not have the stomach for it. Now, while there is an incredible amount of variety to be had when it comes to movie violence, today I am looking specifically at scenes that are, quite frankly, brutal.
These particular moments weren’t picked necessarily because they are gory (though, most of them very much are) but in how they are presented. These 10 hand-picked scenes are harsh, shocking and, for some, possibly even revolting. So, needless to say, you won’t be seeing anything like the lawnmower sequence from Dead Alive in here. There is no humor or fun meant to be taken away from scenes like those listed below (even if some of us DO find them quite enjoyable), and that is exactly what makes them 10 of the most brutal death scenes!
Haute Tension (2003)
When Alexandre Aja came on the scene with the flawed but utterly terrifying 2003 film, Haute Tension, he did so with a bang. Literally. The first 40 some odd minutes of Haute Tension is, as the film’s title plainly states, about as tense as it gets, but what sets everything in motion is when the killer (played by Philippe Nahon) first shows up at the house and makes one of the most brilliantly gruesome entrances of all time. Moving furniture has certainly never seemed so dangerous.
Sleeping with the Enemy
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
If the Nightmare movies are known for one thing it’s, well, Freddy, but without those dazzling death sequences that became a staple of the series, Freddy certainly wouldn’t have had the same impact. In fact, the most frightening Fred Krueger has ever been is, ironically, in a scene where he is neither seen nor heard.
Tina’s death scene in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street is a masterpiece of brutality done in a way that’s as brilliant and frightening as it was when the film originally hit the scene in 1984. Tina’s death is, without a doubt, the high water mark for Nightmare death sequences, with Glen’s volcanic bed geyser coming in just behind it.
Outside of being one of the most interesting and talented filmmakers working today, Nicolas Winding Refn also portrays on-screen violence in a way that is as shocking as it is satisfying for genre fans. One of the more brutal examples of this comes from his 2011 crossover film, Drive, in a scene that goes from a fairytale kiss on an elevator to a grotesque head stomp that is likely to leave its victim with a bit of a headache. This is one scene where The Driver really puts the pedal to the metal.
Eye Eye, Captain
Zombi 2 (1979)
When you hear the name Lucio Fulci, one thing comes to mind: ocular violence (well, that and fog). No one jacked up an eyeball quite like Fulci did, and Zombi 2 is certainly the greatest example of this. What really makes this scene so awesome is just how it’s shot, with the camera going back and forth between the menacing wood and poor Paola as has her head is slowly pulled towards the jagged piece of wood. Also, the fact that the wood is so splintered looking makes it all the more painful, if you ask me!
Gaspar Noe has an incredible knack for disorienting an audience, sending anyone who watches his movies into a hypnotic state with the use of pulsating sound and dizzying camerawork. The way he approaches the first third of his very controversial rape/revenge tale, Irreversible, is wild and erratic to the point where following along is near impossible (and I mean that in a good way), but when he finally does begin to slow the camera down, it‘s to focus on one of the most realistic and brutal death scenes ever put to screen, as one character literally obliterates a man’s head with a fire extinguisher in a way that is as hard to watch as it is to look away from.
Hung Out to Dry
Dario Argento is a master of murder set pieces, crafting dozens of memorable death scenes throughout his career, but if there is one scene that stands out, it’s the opening to his 1977 masterpiece, Suspiria. Not only is this elaborate death scene one of the best the director ever crafted, it is one of the greatest death sequences ever put to film, and one that still dazzles as much as it did the first time I saw it as a young buck. This scene is as beautiful as it is frightening, displaying what can be done when a true artist puts their heart into horror. A master at his finest.
Have a Knife Day
I Saw the Devil (2010)
Kim Ji-woon has always shown immense skill when it comes to what he brings to the screen visually, specifically when it comes to his action sequences. Often times these scene can be quite brutal in their own right, but Kim really outdid himself with the taxi sequence featured in I Saw the Devil.
From the way the camera brilliantly rotates around the cab’s interior, capturing the eruptive spurts of arterial spray, to the incredible sound design that brings to life each and every stab in the most painful of ways, this moment is maybe one of the best examples of on-screen knife violence ever put to film.
Messed Up Milkshake
Blood Sucking Freaks (1976)
Exploitation director Joel M. Reed made a controversial splash on the horror genre with Blood Sucking Freak, a film that showcases horrific acts of torture and violence on a slew of female victims. One of the most notable scenes comes when a demented doctor drinks the brains from a female victim’s head, and through a straw, no less.
It’s a moment that is so crazy even the other characters, who are completely disturbed themselves, seem to be a little grossed out. Unlike the other clips on this list, this scene, and much of Blood Sucking Freaks in general, is kind of humorous in the darkest of ways, but we’re still talking about a guy drinking a woman’s brains from a straw, something that is pretty shocking no matter how it’s presented. Talk about brain freeze.
The Baby’s Room
Álex de la Iglesia’s The Baby’s Room is a paranoid thriller meets haunted house film where the chills come from subtlety as opposed to gore and violence. However, there is one moment in this successful, if not somewhat predictable, little horror flick that delivers an incredibly brutal shock that is especially effective due to the fact that it comes completely from out of nowhere.
The scene is incredibly graphic, and the way Sonia gasps for air and slams her hand on the ground as Juan steps on her back to jam the screwdriver further into her neck is particularly painful (and quite brilliant) to watch.
*I couldn’t find the clip by itself, so you’ll have to fast forward to the 56 min spot*
In the Flesh
Silent Hill (2006)
While the film has some major story and pacing flaws, Christophe Gans screen version of Silent HIll is a visceral masterpiece filled with brilliant set pieces and style to spare. But for as many visual splendors as Silent Hill has on display, the one moment I will never forget is seeing Pyramid Head, in one fell swoop, rip all the skin right from a woman’s body and toss the blood-soaked skin at the lead characters as they duck for cover. Better yet, he does this right at the entrance of a church, which totally makes the moment all the more incredible. If there was ever a horror moment where I jumped up and cheered, this is it.
That’s about all the brutality I have in me this time around, but I’ve already got a follow-up list in my head that I certainly plan on sharing some time down the line because, let’s face it, there are plenty of awesome moments that I would love to talk about! But for now I turn it over to you: what movie moments do you consider to be the most shocking and brutal?!