Horror and its subgenres are designed to give rise to our most unnerving emotions. They scare us, shock us, thrill us, and disgust us. The stories and visuals present in numerous horror films can turn stomachs and drop jaws, almost to the point where audiences have to turn away from the screens.
Disgust is a key objective for filmmakers in this genre. As a reactional state, Lockwood cites it psychologically as “a universal human emotion that functions to protect the physical and psychological self”. When horror movies use their stories or other stylistic elements to violate manners, we succumb to the emotion of disgust to shield ourselves.
Physical disgust derived from gore and blood is an aftermath of body horror, mastered by filmmakers such as David Cronenberg. This is due to how this sub-genre concerns itself with bodily violations and re-imaginations of what we know as familiar, and this is what disgusts us
Psychological disgust is more prevalent in horror thriller combinations, such as those made by Jordan Peele. These can be more story event-driven and regard acts that disgust audiences. Sometimes these two examples of disgust are combined in stories and visuals.
Here is a list of ten films that show either or both. Hopefully, your stomachs will be able to handle it.
10 most disgusting horror films of all time:
10. Deadgirl (Marcel Sarmiento, 2008)
This 00s American horror, written by Trent Haaga and directed by Marcel Sarmiento, is an exploration of both physical and psychological disgust. It’s about two troubled teen boys (Shilo Fernandez and Noah Segan) who find the zombified corpse of a girl (Jenny Spain), which one plans to keep for his own shocking use.
Taking a rather disturbing view on the male adolescent journey, the film has some visually gross material, alongside its disgusting plot, which explores some unsettling themes.
9. Guinea Pig: Devil’s Experiement (Satoru Ogura, 1985)
Japan is consistently cited in horror and extreme cinema as rarely holding back, and this Satoru Ogura feature is a testimony to that. Presented in the, at the time experimental, found footage style, the film follows the torture of a young girl at the hands of three men.
The torture is outlined as experimentation on the victim’s tolerance of pain, and the audiences’ tolerance of disgusting actions. It’s horrific and brutal, a notion of unbearable horror that is elevated by the camcorder style and realistic acting performed by all parties. This film is disgusting because it doesn’t feel like fiction at times.
8. The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)
David Cronenberg is the unchallenged king of body horror. His vision of what the body can be pushed to knows no limits, and The Fly embodies this to the best of his discography. A brilliant scientist (Jeff Goldblum) suffers a horrific transformation to a human-fly hybrid following a failed experiment.
Chris Walas brings Cronenberg’s imagination to life using his award-winning makeup. There were seven stages representing the transformation, each one more disgusting than the last. Goldblum’s Seth shocks and terrifies audiences with his physical decaying into a disgusting monster. His skin slowly peels away to reveal a hard sickening exterior, and his face loses humanity in an asymmetrical deformation.
7. Megan is Missing (Michael Goi, 2011)
Michael Goi was thinking ‘PSA on internet safety’ when he made Megan is Missing, however, a lot of people wish he didn’t. The film takes on a found footage style to tell the story of a teen girl who disappears after meeting a ‘boy’ she met online, prompting her best friend to look for her.
The film received mass criticism for its depiction of sexual violence and brutal imagery. What happens to both the girls is both disgusting and terrifying. The found footage choice only brings this over the edge. Clips from the film went viral on TikTok in 2020, with several trigger warnings shared as a result of its disgusting content, as even short clips are enough to twist stomachs.
6. The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972)
Master of Horror, Wes Craven, made a name for himself when he wrote and directed this exploitation film in the early 1970s. It’s about the abduction and assault of a teenage girl, her attackers soon end up begging for mercy from her vengeful parents.
The initial tagline for the film was “Can a movie go too far?” and a short segment with the words “to avoid fainting, keep repeating ‘it is only a movie'” played before screenings. The first act of the film is termed as revolting and horrific. The cruel actions depicted are both physically and mentally disgusting to watch, so much that several actors feature express regret towards taking part.
5. Dead Alive/Braindead (Peter Jackson, 1992)
Peter Jackson got his name in film records when he directed this over-the-top horror comedy. A naïve and wholesome man (Timothy Balme) finds his world upside down after his mother is bit by a hybrid rat-monkey, causing a gory zombie outbreak.
Jackson’s work is a perplexing but entertaining blend of comedy and disgust. The infamous lawnmower scene racked up so much fake blood it broke the world record (later outdone by the raining blood sequence in the Evil Dead remake). Despite having the occasional laugh, Braindead is known as one of the goriest movies of all time. Your stomach may hurt from laughing, but make sure you have a strong one for the blood and guts.
4. Matyrs (Pascal Laugier, 2008)
This psychological horror was directed by Pascal Laugier. It’s a disturbing story of revenge as a woman (Mylene Jamponi) seeks closure for the abduction and torture she experienced years prior.
A pinnacle of the New French Extremity movement, Matyrs shows no boundaries in exploring the horror of the body and mind. The film is brutal and shocking but also heartbreaking and tragic. The graphic visual combined with the deteriorating mental states are horrific to endure and push out every negative emotion possible.
3. Cannibal Holocaust (Ruggero Deodato,1980)
No list of disgusting and extreme cinema is allowed to exist without Cannibal Holocaust. This Italian cannibal blood bath depicts a rescue team heading out to the Amazon rainforest to find a missing crew of filmmakers. Footage from the crew is found and shows the gruesome fate they met at the hands of a tribe.
Cannibal Holocaust is notorious for its graphic violence and the controversy that surrounds it to this day. It was so extreme that its director was arrested for obscenity (offending prevalent morality of the time) after its release. Re-assessments of the film attempt to seek out a deeper subtext on the ethics of journalism and the exploitation of developing countries. However, these are buried deep by the gore and blood.
2. The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) (Tom Six, 2011)
A sequel that topped its predecessor, but not in a good way. This film follows a troubled man who decides to make his own human centipede after watching the first.
Tom Six’s second instalment in The Human Centipede franchise went bigger than the first, mostly through the number of victims who are forced to become the centipede. Critics panned and censored it out of pure disgust. The film is made from graphic depictions of both sexual and physical violence, alongside a plot that prompts the question of “Not just how, but why?”.
1. Audition (Takashi Miike, 1999)
Takashi Miike adapted Ryu Murakami’s novel, only two years after it was published, into this shocking horror. A rich widower (Ryo Ishibashi) stages a foil audition process in hopes of meeting a new romantic partner. The woman of his choice (Eihi Shiina) harbours a dark secret.
Despite its stomach-churning content, Audition is regarded as one of the greatest horrors ever made, and features on a few directors’ favourites lists. The actions carried out by the chosen woman are unsettling and shockingly gruesome. The last 15 minutes of the film are considered unbearable to watch.