Torture porn films (and their antecedents)by Mighty_Emperor | created - 18 Oct 2011 | updated - 24 May 2020 | Public
Does what it says on the tin, films that tend to fall into the 'torture porn' category.
However, what I thought would be interesting is to look back on other films before Hostel and Saw that also delivered over-the-top, unflinching depictions of ultraviolence to see the history of this sub-genre. The films on this list are typified by a relentless, bludgeoning brutality that, if you are lucky, delivers a cathartic experience. What they usually aren't is actual porn (although some are borderline, just don't expect porn with BDSM here) as the "porn" in torture porn is from a different meaning of the word, as nicely outlined by wiktionary:
3. (uncountable, slang) a collection of images of something desirable, such as "car porn" or "gun porn".
What putting the mid to late-2000s films in context demonstrates is that there wasn't a sudden step change in such films but they are part of a continuum. The real change is that these are American films with higher budgets and more market penetration. This means that what has bubbled away off the radar of normal civilised folks has come bubbling up into the mainstream. The problem is that these larger budgets means they still have to be accessible, which means they need to include story, plot and character development. So, while being more entertaining, they also can't possible include the unrelenting cruelty that you'd find in the low budget US flicks or the films from Continental Europe and East Asia which I include here (films which do deserve being called 'torture porn'). If you have Saw or Hostel in your "Top Ten Sickest Flicks" list then you really need to watch more of the films below, just make sure you space them out and schedule a few weeks recovery time between viewings.
Oddly while I expected to feel a little shaken by compiling this list, as the memories came flooding back, I was surprised that I also got a little nostalgic. A lot of the early films and documentaries were shared around on worn VHS tapes like samizdat literature and allowed a safe one for people to test their limits and flirt with the grim realities of mortality. Unfortunately, life has a way of showing you that there are things out there that are far worse and horrifying for very different reasons and these films don't hold my interest as they did in the past. I have watched quite a few of the recent offerings to see what the fuss is about but have largely been underwhelmed (on the violence front, they are fairly entertaining) but I doubt I'll be watching A Serbian Film, for example, not because it is depraved and revolting but because... life is too short and there are plenty of other films I do want to watch.
You'll find quite a bit of crossover with my lists: backwoods horror / rural survival films, video nasties and those on my extreme Japanese films list.
See also: The Splat Pack and their films, the creators of many of the key films that would get labelled as 'torture porn,' even if it isn't a term they like. As Eli Roth has explained "I find the whole notion of torture porn insulting. People assume these are movies made by idiots for idiots. They're not. These films are very subversive." And he is right, if you are looking for sick depraved films then, as I say above, look elsewhere as these films have a story and actual subtext. However, it is a catchy label. In addition see the New French Extremity list, which is a group of French films and film-makers who are pushing the envelope of what is acceptable in number of different directions, including violence. Someone else has a list for Roughies, which combine hardcore sex with violence.
Excluded: As mentioned above I am not including porn with violence (it also reduces list visibility) but there exampes worth mentioning as they support some of the above comments, like the Japanese series Eccentric Psycho Cinema: #1: Bottled Vulva: Bank Teller Noriko and #3: Female Body Collection: Stewardess Risa, there are at least eight in the series, but I can only find those.
Further reading: A History of Gore and Splatter in Cinema and The Story Behind Torture Porn.
Comments: As I don't have a Facebook account I cannot interact with the new comments system, so have switched it off. I will start a thread on the message board and link it in here shortly.
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76 min | Documentary, Horror
A probe into the urban myth of the snuff film: one of the most controversial, elusive and vile forms of video.
Here for the thumbnail graphic, the list proper starts below:
2. Intolerance (1916)
Passed | 197 min | Drama, History
The story of a poor young woman, separated by prejudice from her husband and baby, is interwoven with tales of intolerance from throughout history.
Votes: 15,457 | Gross: $2.18M
4. Maniac (1934)
Not Rated | 51 min | Horror, Sci-Fi
A former vaudevillian gifted at impersonation assists a mad scientist in reanimating corpses and soon goes mad himself.
5. Les yeux sans visage (1960)
Not Rated | 90 min | Drama, Horror
A surgeon causes an accident which leaves his daughter disfigured and goes to extreme lengths to give her a new face.
Votes: 31,302 | Gross: $0.05M
7. Black Sunday (1960)
Approved | 87 min | Horror
A vengeful witch and her fiendish servant return from the grave and begin a bloody campaign to possess the body of the witch's beautiful look-alike descendant, with only the girl's brother and a handsome doctor standing in her way.
aka Black Sunday
8. Blood Feast (1963)
Not Rated | 67 min | Horror
An Egyptian caterer kills various women in suburban Miami to use their body parts to revive a dormant Egyptian goddess while an inept police detective tries to track him down.
Votes: 6,687 | Gross: $4.00M
HGL pretty much invented the splatter movie in one film filled with cannibalism and enough blood to keep Countess Bathory's full for weeks.
9. Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)
Not Rated | 83 min | Horror
Six people are lured into a small Deep South town for a Centennial celebration where the residents proceed to kill them one by one as revenge for the town's destruction during the Civil War.
11. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Not Rated | 96 min | Horror, Thriller
A ragtag group of Pennsylvanians barricade themselves in an old farmhouse to remain safe from a horde of flesh-eating ghouls that are ravaging the East Coast of the United States.
Votes: 126,582 | Gross: $0.09M
Deserves a mention for helping popularise gory special effects, without this and HGL you'd have to wonder what the nastier horror films of the 70s and 80s would have been like - thin stuff probably.
The film is public domain.
12. Shogun's Joy of Torture (1968)
Not Rated | 96 min | Drama, Horror
Three tales of punishment and torture set in Japan in the Middle Ages.
13. Orgies of Edo (1969)
Not Rated | 89 min | Drama, Horror
A collection of stories dealing with punishment toward women.
aka Tokugawa III
14. Inferno of Torture (1969)
94 min | Crime, Drama, Horror
High demand for tattooed geisha generates an entire industry for their "production". Europeans pay more for tattooed beauties. Against this background, and considering the gorgeous tattooed... See full summary »
92 min | Drama, Thriller
Discover 4 famous Japanese murderers: Takahashi Oden, the last woman beheaded in Japan, Sada Abe, a crazy lover, Kunihiko Kodaira, a rapist-killer and finally, the Toyokaku case, a woman who did everything to own a hotel.
aka Meija Era, Taisho Era, Showa Era: Grotesque Cases of Cruelty to Women
16. Yakuza Law (1969)
Not Rated | 96 min | Action, Crime, Drama
A story of yakuza lynching during the Edo, Taisho, and Showa periods.
aka Yakuza Torture History: Lynching!
For a change largely features men inflicting torture and violent death on other men.
17. I Drink Your Blood (1970)
R | 83 min | Horror
A group of Satanic hippies wreak havoc on a small town where a young boy, whose sister and grandfather were victimized by them, tries to get even - with deadly results.
18. Mark of the Devil (1970)
R | 90 min | Drama, History, Horror
In 1700s Austria, a witch-hunter's apprentice has doubts about the righteousness of witch-hunting when he witnesses the brutality, the injustice, the falsehood, the torture and the arbitrary killing that go with the job.
aka Mark of the Devil
19. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
R | 136 min | Crime, Sci-Fi
In the future, a sadistic gang leader is imprisoned and volunteers for a conduct-aversion experiment, but it doesn't go as planned.
Votes: 814,034 | Gross: $6.21M
20. A Bay of Blood (1971)
R | 84 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller
The murder of a wealthy countess, which was erroneously deemed suicide, triggers a chain reaction of brutal killings in the surrounding bay area, as several unscrupulous characters try to take over her large estate.
21. The Last House on the Left (1972)
R | 84 min | Crime, Horror, Thriller
Two teenage girls heading to a rock concert for one's birthday try to score marijuana in the city, where they are kidnapped and brutalized by a gang of psychopathic convicts.
Votes: 37,065 | Gross: $3.10M
22. Sacrifice! (1972)
Unrated | 93 min | Adventure, Horror, Romance
After a photographer is captured by a primitive tribe, his life is spared and he's accepted into the village after the chief's daughter falls for him, but he has to survive the jungle's harsh life, including the cannibals.
Votes: 2,275 | Gross: $0.04M
The start of the jungle cannibal sub-genre.
23. Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile (1974)
R | 84 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller
A deranged rural farmer becomes a grave robber and murderer after the death of his possessive mother, whose corpse he keeps, among others, as his companion in a decaying farmhouse.
Votes: 5,089 | Gross: $0.05M
24. Wife to Be Sacrificed (1974)
71 min | Drama, Romance
A woman must endure an extreme ritual when her ex-husband, who has recently escaped from jail, kidnaps her.
aka Wife to Be Sacrificed
25. The Transgressor (1974)
91 min | Drama, Thriller
In order to investigate her mother's strange death, a woman enters a sacred convent run by hypocritical, perverse nuns.
aka Convent of the Sacred Beast
26. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
Not Rated | 117 min | Drama
In World War II Italy, four fascist libertines round up nine adolescent boys and girls and subject them to 120 days of physical, mental, and sexual torture.
27. Torture Chronicles: 100 Years (1975)
62 min | Drama
aka Torture Chronicles: 100 Years
28. Vase de noces (1974)
Not Rated | 80 min | Drama, Horror, Romance
An allegoric male character falls in love with his pig.
Not violent per se, but it makes the list for the weird and unrelenting beastiality.
29. Snuff (1975)
X | 80 min | Horror
A so-called "snuff" movie involving the exploits of a cult leader leading a gang of bikers in a series of supposedly real killings on film.
Became infamous for the supposedly real murder stuck on the end, but this is more a "triumph" of hype rather than moviemaking and continues to disappoint to this day.
30. Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)
Unrated | 84 min | Comedy, Horror
Sardu, master of the Theatre of the Macabre, and his assistant Ralphus run a show in which, under the guise of 'magic', they torture and murder people in front of their audience. But what the spectators see as a trick is actually real.
31. In the Realm of the Senses (1976)
NC-17 | 109 min | Drama, Romance
A passionate telling of the story of Sada Abe, a woman whose affair with her master led to an obsessive and ultimately destructive sexual relationship.
80 min | Drama, Horror
Two short stories set in Edo during the Shogun era. 1. During a time when Christians are persecuted vehemently, Iori falls in love with young Christian girl. When she and her family are ... See full summary »
aka The Joy of Torture 2: Oxen Split Torturing, although not an official sequel to the earier film (the studio wanted to cash-in on the success of the earlier films so drafted in another director).
33. Assault! Jack the Ripper (1976)
72 min | Crime, Drama, Horror
Two restaurant employees begin a torturous and sexual killing spree after they accidentally kill a hitch hiker and find that murder and mutilation is their mutual aphrodisiac.
aka Assault! Jack the Ripper
34. Jungle Holocaust (1977)
R | 88 min | Adventure, Horror
An oil prospector is captured and imprisoned by a violent and primitive cannibal tribe in the Philippines' rain forest. He manages to escape with a female hostage, and begins searching for his missing companion and their airplane.
36. The Gestapo's Last Orgy (1977)
Not Rated | 96 min | Horror, War
A Jewish WWII survivor revisits the ruins of a hellish concentration camp, and the memories are still vivid. How did she escape the humiliation, the tortures, and the destruction of human flesh? How did she flee from Gestapo's last orgy?
One of the more brutal Nazispoitation films that dropped the camp edge in order to really go for the sadistic angle.
38. Torture Chronicles Continues: 100 Years (1977)
62 min | Drama
aka Torture Chronicles Continues: 100 Years
40. Caligula (1979)
Unrated | 156 min | Drama, History
A dramatization of the ascent to Caesar and subsequent reign of Caligula, one of the most notorious leaders of ancient Rome. We see his ambition, his scheming, his perversion and decadence, his brutality and his lunacy.
Votes: 35,663 | Gross: $23.44M
41. The Driller Killer (1979)
Not Rated | 96 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller
An artist slowly goes insane while struggling to pay his bills, work on his paintings, and care for his two female roommates, which leads him taking to the streets of New York after dark and randomly killing derelicts with a power drill.
42. Beautiful Girl Hunter (1979)
Unrated | 100 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller