Low 0-4. Actually pretty un-violent.
Guarded 4-6. More Tea Vicar?
Elevated 7. Ewwwwwwww…
High 8-9. Yuckadoos.
Severe 10. I WANT MY MUMMY!!
Onscreen violence has been diluted over the years through sheer repetition and desensitization. We have become numb to all but the most graphic and perverse, leading to purpose built-to-shock crap like The Human Centipede and A Serbian Tale.
When used correctly though and within the confines of a decent and interesting storyline an unexpected jolt or sudden burst of action can still shock and move a viewer – in good ways.
Here are ten violent moments that made me cringe and squirm in my seat.
In a film purpose built to gross out (and titillate) from start to finish, one moment stands tall amid the sea of severed limbs, distended eyeballs and pureed torsos. It occurs in the infamous wet T shirt contest attack, where thousands of wide eyed spring breakers have descended onto a small town to witness some moist boobies and to drink some beer.
The fun and games turns to gore and screams for all when the titular school of fanged beasties show up to nibble on the nubile nubbies, leading to the shore rapidly becoming blood soaked, with countless now not so festive party goers attempting to flee.
The actual ‘moment’ is really one of a great many, but it stands out in any case. A bonehead teen has decided to forego friendships and any potential hook-ups by grabbing a speedboat and ploughing through the floundering throng to what he perceives as safety, only he hits a snag – literally – when his propeller becomes entangled in a young woman’s hair and stalls.
Undeterred, our fearless (gutless) hero tries to gun the motor, with the woman screaming to stop – else the sudden propeller movement might tear her face off.
Squirmometer Rating: 5. Hard to be too moved when this is but one gag lifted from hundreds, with severed limbs, decapitations and, ummm, half chewed penises are the norm, but this is a cool little gore moment.
Yes the slightly cheesy and decidedly teen friendly Ghost movie gets a guernsey here, because despite being a Boo-fest from start to finish it does actually boast one effective moment that is more ‘eeeewwww’ worthy than eleventy-seven pasty Japanese child-ghosts…
Character actor Ivan Raimi is slightly surprised to see one of his former staff walking – nay shuffling – through his offices in the dead of night, especially since she has been missing since… well the opening scenes of the film, probably a couple of days anyway. He seeks to grab her attention with a few ‘Hey’s that gradually grow softer once he realizes not all is above-board here as the figure continues its robotic shuffle downstairs away from Ivan.
The suspicion of a situation awry becomes swiftly validated as the girl slowly turns to face her questioner, giving him a good look at her ashen face and the parts of her lower face where her bottom jawbone used to be.
No wonder she was so quiet!
Squirmometer Rating: 5. Undoubtedly more impactful if you’re a teen at your first horror movie, this scene nonetheless stands alone as a solid scare amid the long haired wide-eyed jump out sequences.
In the 80s and 90s action films had a meeting and decided that more is well, more. Thereafter every shot bad guy had to roll dramatically around with arms flailing before summoning just enough energy to deliver one last meaningful line, a crashed car needed to flip a minimum of 17 times to be considered more than a bingle, and a fist fight didn’t even start until the 50th punch landed flush on the face of a guy.
Abel Ferrara at least temporarily put a halt to that and reminded us in the process that sometimes sudden violence is more impactful than all the flips and death rolls in the world.
The first example comes half way through the film, a raid on Frank White’s ‘crib’ results in a mass exodus of survivors, except one of the raiders isn’t giving up that easy. He grabs one of the passengers through a car window and a struggle ensues as the car drives off. The driver casually glances to the unwanted stowaway, then looks up the street before veering just a little towards a strategically placed fire hydrant.
The screaming and struggling instantly stops and the hanger-on suddenly and dramatically becomes a pedestrian. The dull thud that accompanies his dismount remains one of the more unexpected and shocking moments in an action film.
But Ferrara wasn’t finished there, later in the same scene the now on foot occupants play cat and mouse through an industrial area. After Jimmy Jump – a bad guy – kills a good guy he immediately starts crowing and whooping it up standing above his nearly dead foe. Until that is the vengeful partner shows up to sink half a dozen bullets through his Jimmy’s chest.
That isn’t the shocking part though. That comes when the cop stands over Jump’s prostrate body as it oozes blood and spits profanity and pointless threats. Calmly and silently he remains for a few seconds until Jimmy screams ‘kill me!’. No speeches. No final words. One bullet to the forehead and all is once again silent…
Squirmometer Rating: 5. Not so much violent as sudden. But it should have you turning to your movie-going buddy with your lips pursed in an ‘ouchie’ fashion.
Actually this Jean-Claude Van Damme dross from last decade may me squirm from beginning to end – never in a good way – but when a hardened gangster sends a message to his crew by stabbing a man, gutting him and feeding chunks of flesh to his pit bulls my eyes opened big and wide real fast.
“They’re not gonna show that!”
“OK they did…”
The actual act wasn’t necessarily graphic or even all that violent, Axel Foley used to get stabbed like that all the time back in Detroit… But at the conclusion of the bizarre and out of place act the killer turns back to his crew and calmly licks his fingers clean of his victim’s blood.
That shit is just violent and gross Dog.
Squirmometer Rating: 6. More unexpected and strange than ultra-violent.
Imagine if you will being taken by a serial killer in South Korea. Said killer calmly explains what will happen to you in the coming moments in methodical detail and then sets about performing his tasks.
In the hours that follow you are beaten, tortured and traumatized to within an inch of your life. More than once.
After more pain and stress than one could possibly imagine a valiant (anti) hero arrives to extract you from the very grasp of death, leaving you exhausted, defeated, empty… but alive.
What a grueling ordeal right? Indeed the stuff movie’s are made of.
Imagine then, that after this ordeal is now past tense, you pop into the local corner shop to explain just why you look like you’ve been to hell and back – because you have – only to run smack dab into the same guy who has been tormenting you for so long. After a moment in which he regains his bearings he gets straight back on track and quickly, painfully and bloodily, finishes his job right in the store.
In South Korea they don’t play fair, even in the movies.
Squirmometer Rating: 7. More a ‘NOOOOOOO’ moment. After all the poor woman went through it was more stressful for the viewer once you realized that she was going straight back into the spider’s web.
Even though it was a little too coincidental this scene packed more punch than any ‘don’t go into the spooky haunted house Kate’ inducing moment you can imagine.
Ocular trauma is a popular and easy target for cinema gore-hounds.
Zombi 2 had a woman being de-eyeballed on a long splinter in torturously slow time.
The original Hostel had the young Japanese girl severing her eyeball in a glorious squirm inducing ooze of colourful pus and blood. Even the scene in The Terminator when the T1000 methodically removes his own human eyeball and ‘plinks’ it into the waiting glass of water was gross in a robotic way.
But for today’s list I have gone with a newbie.
Julia’s Eye was a by-the-numbers ‘vulnerable woman being preyed upon’ flick notable only for Guillermo Del Toro’s involvement and the fact that it was subtitled – and somehow more palatable for the critics.
But amid the over-celebrated dross was one moment that demands mention. After all everyone hates needles, especially those that are poised above the victim’s eye for several seconds before being deliberately plunged into the awaiting retina.
Squirmometer Rating: 7. Obviously the centerpiece of the film where gore is concerned. Without it Julia’s Eyes would have been an over-rated genre flick, with this scene it becomes ‘the over-rated genre flick where that lady’s eye gets needled’.
As ultra-violent as it was ultra-weird, Valhalla Rising alternates between realistic scenes of frequently horrific violence and freak-out scenes of baffling psychedelia. To say that it is a ‘difficult’ film to watch is an understatement.
Take an early scene where the main protagonist – and primary dealer of violent acts – ‘One Eye’ (I suggested Blinky but was over-ruled) calmly secures a former tormentor in place before deliberately and slowly disemboweling him and methodically removing his entrails and positioning them so that the victim can get a good look at his now out-inners…
One Eye then walks off quietly, presumably thinking of how to top that later in the film. Make no bones about it this is one gut-wrenching, gut-removing scene.
Squirmometer Rating: 8. The thing that perhaps counts against it is that by this stage in the film we had already seen at least 4 or 5 acts of ultra-violence, so a strategic disembowelment is but a trip to the shops for old One Eye.
In fact one viewing of Valhalla Rising could be enough to permanently desensitize someone for life.
This year’s little ‘period action film that could’ was The Eagle, an unexpected under the radar flick about a determined Roman soldier and an unexpected ally on a mission to return a treasured symbol to its rightful owner. It was actually a pretty good effort.
The film was in reality a mélange of various other swords and sandals flicks with some Braveheart style battles and an ‘impossible mission’ mid section, but the finale had the Roman Marcus Aquila and his once-slave, now buddy Esca facing down the most recent owners of the titular Eagle ensign, a most vicious tribe of savages, who also happen to be Esca’s former tribe.
The inevitable standoff between the rag tag bunch of scruffy Romans and the well muscled, fierce and determined tribesmen is tense enough, but the stakes are elevated more than just another notch when the tribe leader barks an order and Esca’s own younger brother is pushed to the forefront of the group. The tribe leader never takes his eyes off Esca’s as he drains his kin of blood, a chilling lesson in what to expect when you choose to betray the ‘family’.
Squirmometer Rating: 9. Oh I squirmed then, and I squirm now as I write this. Again the violence isn’t so much the thing, but calmly killing an innocent just to prove a point? That’s ice cold right there.
This is a pretty well discussed scene, and for good reason.
It’s one thing to be a shaven headed, Nazi quoting, multi-tatted open racist who tries to indoctrinate his young and impressionable brother. Quite another still to demand that your soon to be victim prepare for his own inevitable demise with one tersely barked order:
“Bite the kerb!”
Three words that leave me grossed out just thinking about it now – and I haven’t seen the film for years.
Squirmometer Rating: 10. This is one moment that is not easy for the easily squeamed – and I am not generally squeamish. By this point in the film we already knew that the guy was a stone cold nutbag… way to prove it!
War might make for good movies, but the consensus seems to be ‘War is hell’, especially real war and not fake stuff versus giant robots, mythical beasts, made up viruses and cars that turn into giant robots.
I think it’s also fair to say that no-one likes being stabbed in war or not.
Can we at least agree on that?
It’s probably even worse to be stabbed slowly, worse still once you realize that yep this is happening and there is precious little that I can do about it but sit here and become slowly impaled as my life blood gradually drains away from me.
Having your killer try to lessen the blow by whispering ‘Shhhhhhhhh’ as he delivers the death blow is probably not going to make your final moments more festive… and it is a sound that echoes through my nightmares.
Squirmometer Rating: 10. Steven Spielberg has given movie-goers many iconic moments and the most precious of cinema memories over the years. In this one moment he proves beyond doubt that regardless of what a million war movies might suggest war is indeed fucked up.
So that’s my list.
What did I get right? What did I miss? What just ain’t so bad?