15. Kichiku: Banquet of the Beasts (1997) 6/9
A hidden treasure from that shining Eastern jewel, Land of The Twisted - Japan. This is one of the more obscure members on the list, but worth searching out. When their leader is jailed, a radical leftist group in 1970s Japan is taken over by his disturbed girlfriend. Like a female Charles Manson, she exerts growing power and influence over the male cult members, both sexually and psychologically. The film is obtuse and a bit stiff at first, but stick with it, because the second half is a sickening ride of jaw-dropping extremity. The girlfriend takes her followers into a secluded patch of woods, and plays mind games that inspire and goad them to turn on each other.
Mutilation and dismemberment follow, highlighted by an unfortunate collision of forehead and shotgun blast upon which the camera lingers, accompanied by cringe-inducing squirting and squishing sound effects; it is simply one of the most audacious and disgusting things in recent horror-pantheon memory. As the cult members buy the farm one by one, the mood descends into an existential dread and hopelessness that is truly unnerving. You might want to have a suitably sunny, uplifting antidote like E.T. or Forrest Gump on hand to cleanse your mind right after this one's done.
14. Emanuelle In America (1979) 5/9
The original, mildly high-brow Emmanuelle with Sylvia Kristel as a globe-trotting she-devil became a minor sensation in the early 70s and of course a glut of sequels followed. Not satisfied with the number of Emanuelle films in existence, a number of your average low budget schlock auteurs began churning out Emanuelle films 'inspired' by the original sexy screen siren, but not subject to copyright infringement because of the innovative deletion of one of the “m's” in the title character's name.
And so from Emmanuelle was born “Emanuelle,” allowing a spate of auteurs who wanted to get away from the classy connotations of the original Emmanuelle to explore the uncharted low-rent, slightly skuzzier world of Emanuelle. The difference between the two Em(m)anuelles has lead to consumer confusion, and rampant disappointment across America as many a film fan has left a video store with an Emmanuelle flick discreetly tucked under his jacket, only to find once he is home that he has mistakenly invited the cheaper, unsophisticated Emanuelle into his home. And vice-versa. In any event, the fresh crop of Emanuelle films, many featuring “Black Emanuelle” (Laura Gemser), produced this chapter in the saga by perhaps the most reprehensible exploitationist of the late 70s/early 80's Italian sleaze picture industry, Joe D'Amato.
Otherwise an undistinguished entry to the soft-core genre, D'Amato's best-known work boasts a two minute sequence that catapulted it from obscurity to be take an honored place as a darling of Disturbing Night at The Movies. Emanuelle is a jet-setting high end hooker, who stumbles upon a fantasy retreat owned by a very wealthy fan of snuff films. Infiltrating his fortress of pervitude and pulchritude, Emanuelle gets the loaded lothario to show her one of his productions one night in his room, and what she finds is: a torture room in which women are being sexually attacked with all sorts of murderous sex toys, violated and murdered at the same time; big spiky shafts are used, and I think whips and chains and racks, and at the very end a woman's breast is carved off with a large blade…
Commingling sex and violence in a very brief but almost unprecedented fury, D'Amato gives us an impressionistic nightmare that by oddly showing us flickers of the worst of the worst, with sights that leave ostensibly nothing to the imagination, it sparks our imagination to further fill in the gaps. Hey folks, I don't make 'em; I just watch 'em.
13. I Spit On Your Grave (a.k.a Day of the Woman) (1978) 5/9
Ah, the old standbys…they have a special place in our heart. This exercise in bad taste and disfiguring female revenge is well regarded among Disturbists as the film that first ruined many a modern American teenagers' mind. Widely distributed to the extent that it was available (beginning in the early 80s) in your average video store, alongside Beverly Hills Cop or Poltergeist, but vicious and potent enough to qualify as a transformative experience, people of my generation remember it as their first dance with the Devil of The Disturb. Pretty much universally reviled by parents, feminists, and movie critics, this inspired one of Roger Ebert's rare campaigns against a specific film based on its moral fiber. Ebert, the best known American critic of the last 30 years, and the first film critic to win the Pulitzer prize (and screenwriter of his own entry into the disturbing pantheon, Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), attacked this film, as he later did Friday the 13th and the recent Last House On The Left rip-off Chaos, for what he saw as irredeemable and base misogyny, misanthropy, and nihilism. He makes a distinction between suitable targets like this film, and ones like the original Last House On The Left, or John Carpenter's Halloween, which he loved, because in his opinion those latter two films, unlike I Spit On Your Grave, displayed mastery of suspense, atmosphere, and pacing - bringing artfulness to the grisly proceedings.
I may be getting soft, I tend to agree with Ebert; while not feeling compelled to aggressively dissuade people from seeing I Spit On Your Grave, even for the reprobate Disturbist there is a clear difference between a Disturbing Film that inflicts its wrath on an audience with primarily dollar signs in its eyes, and one that does a number on you with an infusion of skill, or insight, or vision (even if it slips in almost by accident or miracle.)
A NY actress (played by Camille Keaton, Buster's granddaughter; I'm sure he's deadpanning in his grave) travels to a house in the sticks for some rest and relaxation, but instead gets attacked, raped, and beaten by a group of four country-bumpkin creeps. One of them is mentally challenged, and is prodded by the others to attack her too. (It's that kind of stuff that makes even a confirmed Disturbist question the faith.) Well, all's well that ends well, because Camille survives to systematically seduce and exact brutal revenge on all four assholes using some clever methods, including a surprise hanging, and disposing of one's head by means of motor boat. But it is the attack plan she saves for the leader of the gang that sticks in the memory. This is one of the only flicks men will cheer seeing a pair of testicles brazenly dismantled.
But for all its supposed “feminist” aspirations, cynically touted by producer Meir Zarchi (who made tons of money, helped by Ebert's' inadvertent publicity), all Disturbists know what is going on here: this is the basest form of exploitation material. Probably, the world would be a better place if it never existed, and in the interest of bequeathing a happier and healthier nation unto our grandchildren, as many eyes as possible should be shielded from this travesty as possible. Recently, however, a small film company acquired the rights. A remake is slated for 2010.
More disturbing movies coming soon, after you recover from this list...
Continued with Disturbing Film #12 >>
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*most frequently sex and madness, or the many combinations and permutations thereof: necrophilia, sadism, masochism, cannibalism (either of the sexually arousing variety or just as a nutritive choice), frotteurism (undue rubbing up against strangers in subways or other modes of public transportation), zoophilia, pederasty, masturbation, auto-erotic asphyxiation, voyeurism (and other modes of Peeping Tom-ism including severe leaf-peeping), vampirism, emetophilia (vomit lovers), telephonic scatologia (use of obscenity during phone calls), blennophilia (slime games), celluloidophilia (making humping motions against physical objects like film reels, cushioned armrests, or projectors), supra-terrestrialophila (sexual arousal by alien species, whether real or imagined, such as ETs, Venutians, or replicants), assorted obscure fetishisms involving Corinthian leather, upholstery, imitation leather, paper-mache, sand paper (and Krazy glue), infantilism, cyberphilia, your standard grab-bag of obscure para-philias including syphilophilia (syphilis admirers) and nyctohylophilia (obsession with forests at night), exhibitionism, “pinballs” (covert leaning against arcade games), urophilia, auto-erotic crucifixion (getting off while redeeming humanity), snot cabaret, German Filth Parades, Beatlemania, memorabiliaphilia (erotic delight related to collector's items), para-psychophilia (physical manifestations - strange creatures, second heads, alter egos, demonic children - of repressed psychological states such as rage or lust), and general all out irreverence; all of these predilections and many others too numerous to mention make their way into the witch's brew of vaunted elements.
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