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LIFE

If you want blood... 10 gruesome cinematic slashers to get you in the mood for Halloween

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 October, 2014, 11:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 October, 2014, 10:41am

With Halloween almost here, our minds are turning to the nastier things in life, and cinema has produced - even celebrated - its fair share of those over the years.

However, since the 1970s, it has seemed that pure horror is not enough for audiences wanting ever more death and destruction. Filmmakers have increasingly turned to shock and gore as they try to entertain - and most of us have at some stage given in to these guilty pleasures.

So ahead of Halloween, here's 10 of the most gruesome and gory productions in film history for your consideration. Watch them on Friday night, if you dare.

 

Ebola Syndrome
(Dir: Herman Yau Lai-to; 1996)

For those who suspected Hong Kong director Herman Yau was a man ahead of his time, look no further than this film which predicted many years ago the fear the Ebola virus might spread across the globe. Was the director giving us a warning? Anthony Wong Chau-sang plays his role as though he believes he's really the cannibal who chops and minces up his victims to make hamburgers, and helps spread the virus out of Africa after raping and killing a poor lass who suffers from the disease. A small budget proved no limit to the imaginations of Lau and his tech teams as the arterial blood sprays, and virus victims fall apart - often literally.

 

Bloodsucking Freaks
(Dir: Joel Reed; 1976)

Master Sardu (Seamus O'Brien) and his midget assistant dare their audiences to sit through a theatrical show in which the cast of mostly nubile writhing wantons is tortured and put to death. The trick is, these are not actors but innocents the macabre Master and his henchmen have plucked from the streets. Bloodsucking Freaks is a sometimes bumbling but often brilliantly bizarre B-grade gore-fest that sends up the genre it celebrates. There are the shadows cast by the darker sides of sexual desire, with all the whips and chains, before director Joel Reed gets brutal with a guillotine, the rack and screw, and a power drill, among other tools. The film's legend was assured when O'Brien was stabbed to death and co-star Viju Krem gunned down on a hunting trip just after the film hit cinemas.

 

Cannibal Holocaust
(Dir: Ruggero Deodato; 1980)

Italian director Ruggero Deodato certainly won't die wondering. The legends swirl around this B-grade shocker that seems to have been produced simply to see how far the director could test the tastes of both audience and censors. Were real victims used for the cannibal scenes (said to be shot with real cannibal tribes)? Some of the animals being butchered for the filmmaker's pleasure certainly were - and that fact alone will decide whether you bother with watching this or not. Italian and American actors were shipped to the Amazon for filming and the production set a template of some sorts for the likes of The Blair Witch Project (1999), in that audiences were initially told they were witnessing the real events that occurred after a documentary team travelled into the jungle. Take a deep breath and keep the remote handy.

 

The Evil Dead
(Dir: Sam Raimi; 1981)

Part of the fascination with the Sam Raimi-directed classic is that the cast - among them Bruce Campbell and Ellen Sandweiss - really do look as if they are being put through a living hell. Turns out they were. Raimi locked them in a remote cabin in the Tennessee woods, and let the wild and very real forces of nature add to the horror of the experience as forces of evil are summoned via audio tape in his cinematic world of make-believe in which a succession of students are possessed by evil spirits and put out of their misery in a shower of blood and gore.

 

The Exorcist
(Dir: William Friedkin; 1973)

The voice, and all that vomit. Source-book novelist William Peter Blatty lifted the story from a real case of exorcism in the late 1940s and the fear factor comes from the fact that the church, the one thing history claimed could protect us from evil, here seems so impotent when faced with pure evil. There are also the scenes of often perverted possession that still send a shiver down the spine 40 years later. Linda Blair plays the little girl/demon whose head can turn 360 degrees, with Max von Sydow and other odd lookers cast to heighten the sense of anxiety. Director William Friedkin called on the then-groundbreaking talents of make-up artist Dick Smith (later an Oscar winner for Amadeus) to make the experience seem a little too real.

 

Ichi the Killer
(Dir: Takashi Miike; 2001)

Japanese maverick Takashi Miike doesn't just tackle different genres - he seems to defy what we know them to be. Miike even dabbled in romance - albeit a romantic horror film in Audition (1999) - a while before he let loose with this nasty piece of manga-inspired mayhem. The director set out to shock - and found a perfect partner in crime in the seemingly emotionless Nao Omori, who plays the bloodthirsty title character. For an opening, we find Ichi pleasuring himself while watching a brutal attack - and things spiral out of control from there. It's a traditional yakuza story of feuding gangs, but Miike's creature is the wild card - so scary his enemies inflict pain on themselves rather than be subjected to his torments in a world where everything - love and life itself - is torture, and anything can be used to carry it out.

 

A Nightmare on Elm Street
(Dir: Wes Craven; 1984)

The film that pretty much set the standard for the slasher genre with its iconic character. At its core is Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), who lays down the slice and dice on a group of teenagers in a small Midwestern town. And as the bits and pieces go flying, as Freddy's fingers do their worst, it's not just the brutal way these youngsters meet their ends that reaches deep into the psyche, it's the fact that the killer is able to reach into their dreams to do so, to slip into that place where we are supposed to find sanctuary. There's a nasty little moral sting to this teen tale, too: watch out if you put out, you might not like the consequences.

 

Bad Taste
(Dir: Peter Jackson; 1987)

Little wonder the orcs look so real. Long before he turned his attention towards turning J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books into an Oscar-munching cash cow, New Zealander Peter Jackson showed the world he was one sick puppy. For his first effort as a filmmaker, Jackson created almost everything you see onscreen in this gruesome yet much-loved yarn about a bunch of Kiwis taking on some human-eating aliens. Bones crunch, eyeballs pop, and gizzards fly all over the place as the blubbery beasts run riot - and are then run out of town. Put together on a micro budget, Jackson and his flair for the grotesque captured the attention of the big studios. The rest is cinema history.

 

Saw
(Dir: James Wan; 2004)

Bloody, gross and psychologically challenging. Australian filmmaker James Wan couldn't initially find a backer for a film that would go on to grab more than US$100 million from the box office. More fool them. Wan and scriptwriter Leigh Whannell put their audience in the picture and force you to wonder "what if". Shot over just 18 days, it wears its influences on its bloody sleeve - slasher films from the 1970s and '80s mostly - but reimagines their conventions for a modern audience not so easily shocked. For the filmmakers that means getting inside the audience's heads and they do so by setting up a game scenario that pits victim against victim as they fight for survival, and then throwing in all manner of devices through which the fury and fear can unfold.

 

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
(Dir: Tobe Hooper; 1974)

Ed Gein wasn't much of a man. Apparently he was fond of digging up skulls and bones from the graveyard and turning them into decorations for his home, among other perversions. He has also been the inspiration for the likes of the novel The Silence of the Lambs, Norman Bates of Psycho (1960) fame, and for the character Leatherface (Horror film genre's defining moment) in this nasty little exercise in violence. It involves cannibals, torture, lost kids and the titular chain saw. A sensation on release due to the level of violence on show, it turned an estimated budget of US$300,000 into a worldwide collect that now stands at about US$30 million.

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