Top 12 Extremely Disturbing Horror Movies

Some films weren’t made to be enjoyed. Some films can only be endured.

After viewing a particularly nasty and violent genre offering with a less enthusiastic friend of mine, I was asked, “Who watches this shit? Why would anyone watch this shit?”

I went with my standard response: “Watching a horror movie is like riding a roller-coaster, and some people enjoy the thrill.”

“Thrill I can understand, but that was just extreme!” And then he asked me a question that made me take pause: “Did you enjoy that movie we just watched?”

I thought about it for a moment, “Actually no. I can’t say that experience was at all enjoyable.”

“So why do it to yourself?”

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Why indeed. That’s when it occurred to me that some films were simply not made to be “enjoyed”; some films were, seemingly, only made to test the endurance of their viewers. For those with the proper fortitude, viewing images of extreme gore and violence is a test of stamina. And it goes beyond the initial viewing; after enduring the extreme horror, viewers are left to ponder and process what they have just absorbed, the personal and societal implications.

Just like some people enjoy being pierced and suspended by hooks through their muscles, others are drawn to seriously devastating depictions of gore and violence. It doesn’t make someone a bad or damaged person, it just means he or she exists on a more extreme end of the spectrum.

The films below, I cannot in good conscious recommend to anyone. The films below are all emotionally devastating; some are disgusting enough to produce a visceral reaction. If you are, however, someone who seeks out the extreme, then take note.

 

Irreversible (2002)

Director: Gaspar Noé

Writer: Gaspar Noé

Stars: Monica BellucciVincent CasselAlbert Dupontel |

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This film did not make my recent list of Top French Horror Movies, despite being an excellent example of New French Extremity. And while I appreciate the bravery in both presentation and subject matter, watching Irreversible is a singularly miserable experience. Most infamous for a 10-minute, uncut rape scene and reversed-sequence storytelling, Irreversible starts off disturbing and only becomes more tragic as the film progresses.

 

Funny Games (2007)

Director: Michael Haneke

Writer: Michael Haneke

Stars: Naomi WattsTim RothMichael Pitt |

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Funny Games isn’t difficult to watch for its gore or brutality, rather it’s the way writer/director Michael Haneke constantly breaks the 4th wall, including and implicating the viewers in the on-screen violence and depravity. It’s like having someone shake his finger in you face for 90 minutes, chastising “Shame on you. This is all your fault!” We get the guilt-trip and Haneke cashes in on moral indignation.

 

A Darker Reality (2008)

Director: Chris Kazmier

Writer: Sxv’leithan Essex

Stars: Daniel BaldwinJames C. BurnsSunny Doench |

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At one point, without any context, the Jigsaw-esque villain “Ghost” (played by Daniel Baldwin) proclaims: “I am the stinky cheese man!” This left-field declaration is the only hint of humor (albeit unintentional) in an otherwise constant onslaught of torture and degradation. Not only is the torture extreme, heartless, and extensive, the female victims are hideous to each other when they should be working together for survival.

 

A Serbian Film (2010)

Director: Srdjan Spasojevic

Writers: Aleksandar Radivojevic (screenplay), Srdjan Spasojevic (screenplay)

Stars: Srdjan TodorovicSergej TrifunovicJelena Gavrilovic |

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Since I’m sure you’ve already heard all about it, I’ll just leave you with this one descriptive warning: “Newborn Porn.”

 

Megan is Missing (2011)

Director: Michael Goi

Writer: Michael Goi

Stars: Amber PerkinsRachel QuinnDean Waite |

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While the first half of Megan is Missing is no more difficult to watch than an MTV Reality Show about obnoxious 16 year-olds, the film’s second half is truly a test of endurance. What the “final girl” endures is soul shattering, and the film unfolds with few cuts and no music. Rape and live burial have never been portrayed with such devastating effect.

 

Thanatomorphose (2013)

Director:

Éric Falardeau

Writer:

Éric Falardeau

Stars: Kayden RoseDavid TousignantÉmile Beaudry |

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Contracted got all the buzz as 2013’s best example of gut-churning body horror, but in terms of creating a truly disgusting and unbearable experience, the Canadian film Thanatomorphose puts it to shame. A woman basically gives up on life and begins decomposing to the point of liquefaction. While she rots, she remains primitively sexual—a truly nauseating juxtaposition to say the least. Ultimately, it isn’t the abundance of putrid viscera that lands Thanatomorphose on the list; what makes it truly unbearable is that it’s so fucking boring!

 

The Snowtown Murders (2011)

Director: Justin Kurzel

Writers: Shaun GrantShaun Grant (story)

Stars: Lucas PittawayDaniel HenshallLouise Harris |

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The Snowtown Murders features a crippling scene in which manipulative sociopath John (Daniel Henshall) forces his protégé Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) to shoot his dog as a show of loyalty—and this isn’t even the worst punch the film delivers. The butchered kangaroos aren’t the worst thing about The Snowtown Murders either. It’s the utter tragedy of the entire situation (poverty steeped in violence and exploitation) that makes the film almost unbearable. PS: It’s a true story, so go rub that salt in your wound too.

 

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011)

Director: Tom Six

Writer: Tom Six

Stars: Ashlynn YennieMaddi BlackLaurence R. Harvey |

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Tom Six conceived of The Human Centipede II as an “I’ll show you!” to those who thought his first Human Centipede film was too extreme. Mission accomplished. Some may be able to find the absurdity of the situation laughable, but seriously, what’s enjoyable about forced defecation? 90 minutes of extreme potty humor/horror. I watched it and my head didn’t explode, but I’ll never set my eyes on this film again.

 

The Seasoning House (2012)

Director: Paul Hyett

Writers: Paul HyettConal Palmer

Stars: Rosie DayDavid LembergAmanda Wass |

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The palpable human tragedy at the root of The Seasoning House is only matched by the pure brutality of the film, one that eliminates any doubt that human monsters do exist. To watch this film is to experience the lives of Croatian sex-slaves during the 1990’s Balkans Conflict first hand. The only thing more harrowing than the present for the film’s protagonists’ is the hopeless future they face. Absolutely bleak.

 

Hidden in the Woods/”En las afueras de la ciudad” (original title) (2012)

Director: Patricio Valladares

Writers: Andrea Cavaletto (screenwriter), Patricio Valladares (screenwriter)

Stars: Siboney LoCarolina EscobarDaniel Antivilo |

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There is a moment of cathartic relief at the very end of Hidden in the Woods that almost makes the entire experience bearable—almost. Unfortunately, it’s too little too late to make this movie anything but an absolutely grueling experience.   Fleeting moments of joy can’t undo 90 minutes of abuse, rape, incest, and murder.

 

Antichrist (2009)

Director: Lars von Trier

Writer: Lars von Trier

Stars: Willem DafoeCharlotte GainsbourgStorm Acheche Sahlstrøm |

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Writer/Director Lars von Trier was in the grips of a crippling depression when he conceived of and produced Antichrist (Poor baby!). The result is a film that leaves its viewers with an approximation of this same debilitating mindset. The genital mutilations and marital violence are difficult to swallow, but what makes this film truly excruciating is trying to find artistic merit in a work created by a man who clearly despises all women. Oh yeah, and he’s a Nazi sympathizer too.

 

The Road (2009)

Director: John Hillcoat

Writers: Cormac McCarthy (novel), Joe Penhall(screenplay)

Stars: Viggo MortensenCharlize TheronKodi Smit-McPhee |

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Don’t get me wrong, I love (LOVE) a good post-apocalyptic chiller and the idea of pushing the reset-button on society. But there is nothing exciting or adventurous about The Road. It’s about as dreary and unglamorous as a film can be, and the sorrow of the two main characters is overwhelming. The farther this father and son duo travel down the road, the more hopeless and bleak the entire world seems. The entire film can be seen as a metaphor for the loss of humanity. It’s a great flick, but one I’ll probably choose never to watch again.

What films really got under your skin? Sound off in the Comments Section!

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16 Comments on this post.

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  • Evan A. Baker
    21 November 2014 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Considering that, as you point out, with at least some of these movies, “viewers are left to ponder and process what they have just absorbed, the personal and societal implications,” I would agree that they are certainly not made for enjoyment, but would also say that they were not made “ONLY made to test the endurance of their viewers” (emphasis mine).

  • Josh Millican
    21 November 2014 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    True that. The stamina test is just one aspect of extreme films like these. The filmmakers surely had many intensions, some more obvious than others. Just not “enjoyment” at least in the traditional sense of the word. There’s also a small percentage of viewers who actually do find sadistic pleasure in this type of entertainment, but that’s a can of worms I didn’t want to open.

  • Mike
    24 November 2014 at 12:10 am - Reply

    Found. was extremely disturbing about a boy named Marty who discovers his older brother Steve is a serial killer who takes his victims’ heads as souvenirs. The last ten minutes of the movie is played out entirely in the audience’s minds as Marty is tied to his bed listening to the murders of his parents in another room.

    • Josh Millican
      24 November 2014 at 12:18 am - Reply

      I’ve been meaning to check out Found for a minute now. Thanks for the feedback Mike!

  • Pablo Diablo
    25 December 2014 at 3:24 am - Reply

    i wouldn’t consider all of these to be “horror” films, but i’m always a, eh, “fan” of a “good” disturbing film (yeah, it’s hard to say that without the quote marks). a few more i’d add to the list:

    -Martyrs (french canadian film that starts out as a revenge film and turns into something much, much darker… in search of enlightenment no less)

    -Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (three words: nazi torture club)

    -Ichi the Killer (this is one that, while it’s almost laughably over the top–think arterial spurts that look like they were fired by a pressure washer–the subject matter and coldness of the characters makes it disturbing enough to make my list, and even if you don’t consider it disturbing enough, it’s still a great film anyway)

    -Happiness (the most dysfunctional “normal” family you’ve ever met. okay, it’s not technically horror, but it’s as black as a black comedy can get, and certainly disturbing from beginning to end… though i would say it’s a film that can be watched and, eh, “enjoyed” more than a few times. i challenge you not to either pity or loathe any one of the characters in this film)

    -KIDS (again, not technically horror by any means, but one of the darkest, most disturbing films ever produced in my opinion, starring real street skater kids, not actors, and introducing names like chloe sevigny and rosario dawson to the industry)

    -Straw Dogs (1971. relatively tame by today’s “standards,” but still no less disturbing, especially for a Dustin Hoffman vehicle. two words: bear trap)

    -Audition (japanese slow burn with a fiery ending)

    -Dread (film student attempting to make a documentary about people’s darkest fears)

    -Vulgar (a party clown pieces his life back together after being gang raped)

    -Santa Sangre (alejandro jodorowski is the master of the mind fuck, and this one is no exception)

    -I Spit On Your Grave (1978 version is far more disturbing and difficult to watch than the remake)

    -Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (enter the mind of a true psychopath. loosely based on real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas)

    -Man Bites Dog (a mass-murderer brings a camera crew along with him to document his talents, and his twisted philosophizing between killings is no less disturbing)

    there’s another japanese film i saw a year or two ago that is definitely worthy of the list, but unfortunately the title escapes me. i’ll try to find it again and post it either here or on https://www.facebook.com/groups/diabofilmreview/

  • Pablo Diablo
    25 December 2014 at 4:09 am - Reply

    ok just remembered it: while the entirety of the film isn’t as disturbing, there is one segment in particular in The ABCs of Death that definitely fits the category: L is for Libido. A man is unmasked to find himself strapped to a wooden chair, next to another man in the same predicament, both being watched by a masked audience. a naked woman appears and both men begin to masturbate. the first man ejaculates first, and the woman presses a button, releasing a large wooden spike that impales the second man. this is only the first in a series of “competitions” the man is forced to endure throughout the segment…
    that being said, The ABCs of Death is a great film as a whole, 26 short films, each made by a different filmmaker. the filmmakers were each given a different letter of the alphabet and given full freedom to do with it what they wanted, as long as there is death involved. SEE THIS FILM!!!

    • patrick c greene
      9 June 2016 at 2:15 am - Reply

      Because of the line crossed in that sequence -sexual violence against children- I turned it off and never finished it. Maybe potential viewers should be aware of thst.

  • Rob Nelson
    3 June 2015 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    Snowtown definitely deserves to be on the list. Soul blisteringly depressing, especially since it’s based on actual events. I’d add Requiem for a Dream. An amazing film I could only watch once. And maybe Red White and Blue. The Bunny Game made me disgusted with myself for even trying to watch it.

  • Lloyd Duff
    4 June 2015 at 4:28 am - Reply

    Where’s Gutter Balls? I found that film not so much sickening but also the dark humour aimed at sexual violence and a 10 min long rape the worst

  • Tonker
    4 June 2015 at 10:51 am - Reply

    Martyrs should be on this list.

    Eden Lake is pretty fucker up too.

    Poughkeepsie Tapes also comes to mind.

  • Hoff
    5 June 2015 at 10:14 am - Reply

    Watch “Dogtooth”. Probably one of the most disturbing films I’ve seen…and it’s on Netflix too! (or, it WAS at least…I watched it probably 2-3 years ago)

  • Chris Brandt
    9 June 2016 at 12:42 am - Reply

    Watch the August Underground trilogy. American Guinea Pig and it’s “sequel,” Bloodshock for a bloody good time!

  • Dani Moth
    9 June 2016 at 1:41 am - Reply

    Megan is Missing was unbearable. Even the “payoff” in the last – let’s be real – twenty minutes was not worth sitting through the inane stupidity of the previous hour. The ending is shocking and disgusting, yes, but the real endurance trial is “can you listen to a bunch of teenagers talk about the ridiculous twaddle of their day-to-day lives for an hour non-stop?” It took me three attempts to get through it, and only because people kept telling me that the ending was worth it. It’s not worth it.

    I haven’t seen Hidden in the Woods or A Darker Reality yet, but if you tell me they’re worth sitting through I will go out and watch them tomorrow.

  • Steven Rule
    9 June 2016 at 1:46 am - Reply

    A film that is not a horror film that got under my skin was “Alive” (1993). It wasn’t the cannibalism that bothered me as much as the plane crash, the aftermath, the avalanche when they are sleeping in the fuselage, and the general feeling of cold and hopelessness. The fact that it was based on a true story didn’t hurt either.

  • Lee Burgess
    9 June 2016 at 7:41 am - Reply

    Martyrs really broke me as did the Russian epic war film Come and see. The loved ones was very disturbing. Bad Boy Bubby also takes some doing.

  • M. Shields
    9 June 2016 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    The Night Train Murders was one of the few movies that left me wanting to take a bath. Last House on A Dead End Street and In A Glass Cage as well.

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