As this year’s biggest horror film SMILE prepares to put a smile on the face of home viewers across Australia, we look back at the freakiest horror films out there. From outrageous gore fests and revving chainsaws to mutant twins and grotesque grins…
Weird stop-motion monkeys! Lawnmower massacres! Kick-ass Pontiffs! 300 litres of fake blood! Welcome to the horrifically hilarious world of Peter Jackson’s Braindead. Before Frodo, King Kong and The Beatles, Peter Jackson was the king of low-budget splatter fests thanks to his low-rent debut Bad Taste (1987), the puerile puppets of Meet the Feebles (1989) and this, his blood-splattered maximum opus. The final battle between mother’s boy Lionel and the undead hoards who have been infected by the toothy simian is shocking, hilarious, gore-soaked and relentless.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Tobe Hooper’s brutal original is one of the greatest horror films of all time. A ferocious scream of a movie about a cannibalistic family that hooked drive-in audiences and changed the face of the horror genre. The buzz was back in 1986 when Cannon Films funded a long-awaited sequel and Hooper cranked up the crazy turning his searing commentary on American values into a grand Guignol fun fair ride complete with an OTT performance by Dennis Hopper, human skin face masks and Leatherface in love. It bemused fans of the original and despite a fabulous ad campaign that spoofed The Breakfast Club (1985), failed to cut through the mainstream.
A phantasmagorical journey into one man’s hell, Mandy is a brutal Grand Guignol tale of revenge as the idyllic life of Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) is ripped apart when his troubled artist girlfriend Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) is murdered. The culprits are a terrifying hippie cult and a trio of LSD fuelled demon-biker assassins who look like they have stepped off the set of Hellraiser. No stranger to going off the rails for the camera, the crazed Oscar winner takes that opportunity and rips it to shreds. It’s a brave and raw performance, a gut-wrenching scream from the depths of the human soul. His going postal response to the savage death of his life partner at the hands of the cult talisman involves a sculled bottle of vodka, tainted hallucinogens, chainsaws, axes and head-crushing rage.
Getting to second base has never been so dangerous. Especially for anyone going on a hot date with good girl Dawn (Jess Weixler) who happens to live in the shadow of the local nuclear power plant and is an upstanding member of the high-school chastity club. She lives a chaste life, but teenage temptations run rampant, as do the victims of her vagina dentata when hormones rage. And when she does find true love, consummating a relationship proves perilous. Gleefully playing with audience expectations with hilarious results, Teeth plays with feminist issues and American high school abstinence while skewing horror tropes. A horror comedy with bite.
Beatrice Dalle stars as a scissor-wielding psychopath who terrorises pregnant widow Sarah (Alysson Paradis) in this relentless addition to the New French Extremity genre. With eyes on her unborn baby, Dalle’s crazed character will do anything to get the infant. She bashes, cuts and slices her way into Sarah’s womb as a CGI bub dodges the incoming blades. As with the equally horrific High Tension (2003), Frontier(s) (2007) and Martyrs (2008), the extreme violence will turn many off but the brilliant turns by the two leads and the outré taboo-breaking scenes ensure this is an extraordinary transgressive experience to be avoided by the faint-hearted.
Basket Case (1982)
Frank Henenlotter’s skid row gonzo classic is a snapshot of a bygone era when 42nd Street and Times Square were The Big Apple’s rotten core. The seedy plot follows Duane Bradley, an awkward young man who carries a locked wicker basket with him wherever he goes. Its contents? His extremely deformed, formerly conjoined Siamese twin brother Belial. And vengeful Belial is pissed off that he and his sibling are no longer joined at the hip. The pair head out to slay everyone involved in their operation in an increasingly gory fashion. Belial is a demented fusion of puppetry and very cheap stop-motion that makes the delirious plot unravelling before you an unhinged quality, even during the most disturbing scenes.
Writer-director Parker Finn’s startling feature debut has changed the face of horror. After ranting and raving about a grotesque grinning entity that has been stalking her ever since he witnessed the suicide of her college professor, disturbed Ph.D. student Laura (Neighbours star turned Hollywood star Caitlin Stasey) stands in front of psychiatrist Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) with a huge demonic smile on her face. And slashes her own throat with a broken piece of a shattered ceramic vase. It’s a shocking opening and the striking image of the smile has reinvigorated a genre that is always looking for fresh blood.
By David Michael Brown
SMILE: BUY OR RENT ON DIGITAL NOW. COMING TO BLU-RAY & DVD DEC 14.
Thanks to Paramount Home Media, SCARE has 3 digital copies of SMILE (on digital platforms November 16) to giveaway!
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