If you’re looking to ramp up for Halloween by watching some horror flicks, you could go the typical route of Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street marathons, but if you’re really looking for a spooky movie fest, why not go the extra mile?
The films on this list are all so violent and so offensive that they have been subject to protests, boycotts or censorship and many have even been banned in a few countries. While many of these are lesser known and hard to find, some of the big name controversial movies may surprise you. Because offensiveness and scariness are so subjective, these are presented in order of release date.
Warning: this post contains video clips that may be disturbing to some viewers, as they are from intentionally disturbing films.
The Last House on the Left (1972)
This movie was the directorial debut of Wes Craven and depicted two teenage girls who are kidnapped by escaped convicts on their way to a rock concert. They are then sadistically tortured, raped and eventually murdered. By using a grainy, hand-held 16 mm camera, Craven’s picture seemed all too real to many movie viewers. He tried to defend the violence by saying it was "a reaction on my part to the violence around us, specifically to the Vietnam War." Craven’s excuses didn’t do much to quell the controversy and the movie was censored in many countries, particularly the U.K., where it was banned for seventeen years and remained subject to censorship until 2008.
The Exorcist (1973)
You probably already know this is a darn creepy movie, but you may not know that it was so shocking to movie goers that many viewers were subject to nausea, convulsions, fainting and shocking displays of anger –one viewer in San Francisco attacked the movie screen, attempting to kill the demon. Paramedics began to be called to the screenings and it wasn’t long before picketers started showing up at the theaters. The film was even banned on video for 14 years in the U.K.
After the film was released, there was a major increase in requests for priests to perform exorcisms and a drastic rise in alleged spiritual possessions and psychoses by people claiming to be possessed. Taking advantage of the hysteria, Reverend Billy Graham claimed he "felt the power of evil buried within the celluloid of the film itself."
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
While this film is a classic horror favorite known for its violence, it actually shows little blood and no close ups of the fatal blows, making it quite a bit more tame than most horror films to follow. Even so, it was loathed by censorship boards, resulting its being banned in Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, West Germany, Chile, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Singapore, Sweden and the U.K. France banned the film twice claiming it would incite violence and the U.K. even instituted a rule banning the use of the word “chainsaw” in a films title shortly after they first banned the film. The country didn’t allow it to be issued uncut for 25 years.
Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)
(I couldn't post the trailer because it's too R-rated for Neatorama) Bloodsucking Freaks is one of the most legendary films from the goremasters at Troma Entertainment. The film is a story of a theater troupe in New York that specializes in performances of humiliation, torture and murder of the group’s white slave ring. It has been voted as one of the worst films ever by a number of critics and review sites and was subject to protest by the Women Against Pornography for its violent sexual depictions of women.
Whether you call it Zombi or Zombi 2, it was undoubtedly one of the best of the many highly controversial films by renowned Italian director Lucio Fulci. While the film was billed as a sequel to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, it actually was unrelated in any way, other than the fact that both movies have zombies.
The plot involves a small tropical island where a mysterious disease is affecting the local population. As you may have guessed, the people suffering from the disease all become zombies and hunt down the uninfected people on the island. The film is pretty well known and was even featured in a Windows 7 ad recently –the scene on television with the zombie bonding with the shark.
While it was a big hit and fairly well received by critics, the gore content caused it to be banned in a number of countries, including Finland and the U.K., where it was not released uncut until 2005.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
This fake documentary about a film crew researching the last remaining cannibalistic tribes in the Amazon is filled with sickening images such as a woman receiving an abortion with a rock, human impalement, castration and surprise, surprise, cannibalism. One of the most upsetting scenes to modern audiences doesn’t involve the torture of a human, but shows the slaughter of a giant tortoise -and unlike the human torture scenes, this one is completely real. Even so, the footage of murder looked so convincing that the director, Ruggero Deodato, was arrested and charged with murder after the Milan premiere of the film.
Unfortunately, the actors all signed a contract agreeing that they would not appear in public for one year after the film’s release in order to keep up the idea that the movie actually featured lost documentary footage. When Deodato denied the actors were dead, the police countered by asking where they were if they were still alive. Finally, Deodato was able to beat life imprisonment after he voided the contracts and had the actors appear on an Italian television show. After the trial, the courts still banned his movie for the genuine animal slayings, but he was able to have the ban lifted 1984.
The film was also prosecuted for obscenity and banned from the U.K. in 1983, an edited version was released in 2001, but it is still unavailable uncut in the United Kingdom. While the film distributors claim it was banned in 40 countries, this is unconfirmed. It has been confirmed to have been banned from Australia, Norway, Finland, New Zealand and, as mentioned earlier, Italy and the U.K.
The Evil Dead (1981)
If you haven’t seen The Evil Dead and you like horror movies, you’re missing out…of course, if you don’t like horror movies, then why are you reading this?
The story follows a few students staying in a cabin in the middle of the woods. One of them plays an audiotape in the cabin that releases the evil spirits of the The Book Of The Dead and then things get nasty. The film launched the career of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. Unlike the remake, Evil Dead 2, or the sequel, Army of Darkness, this film is not as comedic and involves far more brutality, including a woman being raped by a tree.
Because the film was so violent, the movie was banned in seven countries, including Finland, Germany, Iceland and Ireland. In America, the film was rated NC-17, and the movie has only recently been released in its entirety to many countries although some still ban the unedited version.
Evilspeak follows a military academy cadet who is rejected by his classmates and turns to Satanism to get revenge. There is a lot of violence and murder, as well as Satanist themes, which led to the film's banning in the U.K. and the uncut version was not released in the country until 2004. Adding to the movie’s controversy was the fact that the founder of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey, was a big fan of the movie and said it was highly Satanic. Supposedly there is an even bloodier version than the one released, but much of it was cut to get a lower rating from the MPAA. This director’s cut has never been released though.
(Believe it or not, this was the only clip I could find without excessive gore or nudity.) Tenebrae is often considered one of the greatest films by horror director Dario Argento, but its original release was censored and many critics loathed it, only to change their mind when the uncut version was released.
The movie follows an American writer who is promoting his novel in Rome, when a serial killer starts to follow the plot of his murder-mystery tale, forcing the writer to take plot in the manhunt. The film was immediately banned in the U.K. for its sexualized violence and its release in America was delayed two years. When it did come out in the U.S., it was highly edited and released under the name Unsane. While the uncut film has been available in the U.S. for some time, it was only released in its entirely to the U.K. in 2003.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
How do you really get people up in arms? Don’t just show blood and gore, show the perpetrator of the violence dressed as an adored childhood icon. Silent Night, Deadly Night featured a young boy who saw his parents murdered by someone dressed as Santa…naturally, he grows up and goes on a killing spree dressed as Santa.
The National PTA fought against the movie. Protesters picketed the theaters showing it, and critics loathed it. Leonard Maltin asked, "What's next, the Easter Bunny as a child molester?" The movie was never officially banned in the U.K., but that’s largely because it was never submitted for distribution approval until 2009. It probably would have been banned though, given that the sequel was in 1987.