Gore flicks, exploitation, blood movies – whatever you want to call them; it all comes down to the same thing and the same particular area. Movies made to make you barf. Something like that at least. Once you’ve entered the dangerous (to your sanity at least) world of extreme cinema for any considerable amount of time, the reasoning behind searching these films out becomes something entirely different. It’s all part of the trip, and I have to assume it’s much the same for most horror movie fans who walk that twisted road of uber gore. For those who don’t pleasure themselves in corpse makeup and drape their bodies in black nylon garbs that is. It started for me with an expansion of the horror genre. Slipping into the more violent oriented films of Italy, leaving behind my past of mainsteam (and not so mainsteam) slasher flicks I grew up with. By the time I was up to this point in my cinematic evolution I was doing more reading up on than actually experiencing when it comes to most of these obscure ‘gems’, if you will. When reading articles on films like Cannibal Holocaust, Salo – The 120 Days of Sodom and The Guinea Pig series, there was actually a time when I swore to myself I would never sink to seeing such depraved works of exploitation… yet, here I am, probably five or six years later and I’ve seen almost every film I at one time promised myself I would never degrade myself into seeing – and now that I haven’t seen, I’m actively seeking out with few exceptions.
What exactly defines ‘extreme’ is going to be pretty hard to define, it’s all depending on the groups you hang with. Some consider the works of Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento to be pretty hardcore, while some would probably take a look at Rugerro Deodatto’s Cannibal Holocaust (which if you don’t already know, is a very shocking film) to be nearly tame in comparison to some of the more brutal things to witness out there in this world. These people are most likely the types to seek out real death tapes, such as Traces of Death or Banned From Television – but as a fan of cinema, and a bit of a sissy, I’ve never been the least bit curious about that subgenre of "entertainment." I’ve seen some brutal films in my time; I’ve literally sat through hundreds of horror movies, but the second someone downloads a video of an execution off the net – I’m the first one out the door, usually angry and possibly shouting. Such a concept is probably pretty out there for a lot of people, at least I know I have been ridiculed a time or two in the past for my strict views of fact and fiction. That is what it comes down to, fact and fiction, and I believe after you’ve slowly introduced yourself to cinematic violence and it’s capabilities, the line grows more and more distinct. Some have criticized me in the past, and taken things far more personal than they should have if you ask me, with the claim that my being desensitized to cinematic violence makes me somehow less human or vulnerable to compassion. Granted, I am a bit hard-hearted and probably a bit of a lug, but that probably has more to do with my growing up than the films I have taken in. As I mentioned, real cinematic violence leads me running for the hills. Quite literally. I even quit watching shows like Real TV long ago out of fear of some of the clips they show being a bit too extreme. This is all just personal detail mind you and it works different ways for different people – but I have known many hardcore gorehounds who are as just as fearful of real violence as I am. Does any of this make me a sissy? You bet your bacon it does.
There have been three or four profound moments in my life where a work of fiction has actually damaged me from brutal acts of violence. When I was maybe eleven or twelve I was introduced to both Casino and Scarface in the same year, part of my childhood obsession with the mafia (weird kid, I know) and the other was from reading a Stephen King book called Bag of Bones where a lead character that I had become attached to was painfully ripped away in a brutally described shooting. From then on I dodged violent movies (even passing up my chance to see the conclusion to Dawn of the Dead years before I went back to it) and even for a few weeks wouldn’t play violent videogames! It was an important time in my life as it helped strengthen me for what I would later become slightly enamored with. I bring it up mostly, and I do it often, as a way of describing just how much of an impact violence in film can have. The first time I screened Takashi Miike’s film "Audition" for a good friend of mine, he had to take fifteen minutes or so before he could talk to me again. Rarely can film have such a gutteral impact on it’s audience. It can be used for good or exploited, but in all instances the power remains. How you choose to assault your audience is based purely on the respected director behind the lens – but if used effectively, boundaries, taboos and the cinematic rule of law can be broken in half.
When it comes to the really dark and horrific side of things, I have to admit that there’s still plenty out there for me to see. As of yet I still haven’t had the courage to witness three films that instantly come to mind for being extraordinarily notorious. There’s the Japanese prisoner-of-war shocker Men Behind the Sun, most known for it’s rumored scenes of violence against animals. Granted, you’d probably think of me as a hypocrite for being a bit antsy about animal butchery since I am a known fan of Cannibal Holocaust which featured the deaths of a muskrat, monkey, turtle and others – but the big thing that stands in my way is what kind of animal is said to be slaughtered in Men Behind the Sun. A cat. A Kitty. Sorry, I’ve had my pet cat for over fifteen years… it would just hit too close to home! The second film on my list that I still have not seen is from The Guinea Pig series. Mermaid in a Manhole is the installment. For those who don’t know, the Guinea Pig series started off as a small Japanese video project with a few films trying to directly simulate ‘snuff movies.’ The most graphic of this variety was Flowers of Flesh and Blood (pictured in the paragraph above this one) which I have actually seen, and believe it or not, was impressed with. There’s nothing more to Flowers than a woman being hacked into pieces by a sadistic guy dressed like a samurai, but it pushes the envelope well past the realms of good taste and remains something of a cinematic oddity. Just something to be amazed by, and if you want to make a friend vomit – it’s always good for that too. Mermaid in a Manhole is said in some circles to be even more gruesome, but in entirely different ways it seems. Telling the story of a man who finds a real life mermaid in the sewers who he brings home to paint and discovers that the festering boils that keep popping on her skin make for great paints. Once again bodily dismemberment is said to take a prominent role. The third gore flowing film I have yet to get my hands on is one that I just simply haven’t got around to watching. That is Beyond the Limits by Olaf Ittenbach. I’ve heard good and I’ve heard bad, but after I first saw his film Premutos Der Geffallene Engel (Premutos: The Fallen Angel, featuring the bloody chainsaw guy pictured left) completely in German with no subtitles some years back, I’ve considered myself at least a partial fan of his. I wish I could give details on the plot of that film, but my German is a bit rusty so I’ll just say it’s the biggest, funniest, goriest low budget splatter zombie flick since Peter Jackson’s Dead-Alive/Braindead. Only, imagine Brain-Dead without the budget that is. I have read bits and pieces about BtL in the past, even something about a sledgehammer to a child’s head – but I will simply have to see for myself. Which I’m still not sure I will do when it comes to Men Behind the Sun.
So, I guess this article doesn’t really have much of a conclusion when you think about it. I understand someone not wanting to witness a woman’s nipples being sliced off in Ichi the Killer, but I won’t lie and say it doesn’t bother me that people simply jump to conclusions if you admit that you are a gorehound in public. It’s to be expected, I realize, but maybe I’ve went over some of the basics as to why this sort of thing is interesting to at least a select minority of us out there. Who knows. A shame this couldn’t have been a funnier topic though. Like, maybe, Michael Jackson! Hey, that guy is in the news a lot, am I right? Pedophilia is always funny(!)… or not. Curse you late night comics! Curse you!