Sometimes the directors of horror movies do too good a job.
Even when we know that what we’re witnessing on screen is just a bunch of actors using fake weapons and makeup, nevertheless we can be fooled into thinking that we’re actually seeing something we simply should not be seeing.
The gore and violence depicted on film often looks a bit too real for audiences to handle. In a few cases throughout history, there have been films that have been banned from being shown in theaters as a result of governments determining that they were far too graphic to be seen by anyone.
Here is a list of some of the better movies that were initially banned from being seen by the movie-going public, either in this country or abroad.
This film was shot in the 1930′s and explores the world of circus sideshows. The cast in the movie were actually veterans of the carnival circuit and many of them did indeed suffer from hard-to-look-at physical deformities.
So, when you were seeing characters such as “The Human Skeleton” and “The Armless Wonders” there was no clever special effects at work. What you saw was exactly what these actors looked like every day of their lives.
That realism was way too much for most audiences to handle and the film was largely unavailable for public consumption for nearly thirty years when it began to circulate via underground videotape dubs and at midnight showings at art house cinemas.
Eli Roth’s 2005 film was one of the first of a new brand of horror film where the realistic portrayal of torture took center stage at the expense of things like plot and character development.
American college students traveling abroad in Europe get lured to a Slovakian hostel, with the promise of “loose women” and a time they’ll never forget. Of course, the pretty girls are just for show and the whole enterprise is merely a way to collect fresh victims for the real paying customers in town: the ultra-rich who are looking to kill people without fear of reprisal.
Intensely graphic scenes of brutality caused many countries to ban the film, and the government of Slovakia was not at all pleased with the thought of their homeland being linked with such sadistic mayhem.
3) Last House on the Left
The United Kingdom refused to even consider allowing this film to run with the most restrictive rating. That’s how unsettling this 1974 film was to viewers of the time.
The movie’s plot centers on Mari Collingwood, a teenage girl who gets kidnapped, raped and tortured by escaped prison convicts as she was off celebrating her 17th birthday with her friend, Phyllis.
Through a bizarre twist of fate, the assailants end up at the house of Mari’s parents. As she bargains for her freedom, she and Phyllis continue to be brutalized. The convicts finally approach the Collingwood home and pretend to be traveling salesmen, happily enjoying the charity of the family while the girls approach death in the woods behind the house.
The film was remade, with rather lackluster results and a tepid box office, in 2009.
4) I Spit on Your Grave
It was banned by most of Scandinavia, Germany, Canada. The United Kingdom classified it alongside pornographic films of the day. Even in the United States, a censored version had to be made in order to get it past the movie ratings board.
Only in the last decade has the original version of the film found any sort of wide release on DVD. That’s how shocking and offensive most people found this movie, originally titled “Day of the Woman.”
The plot is, to be blunt, the traumatic gang rape of a New York writer who had rented an out-of-the-way cottage in order to pen her first novel. After several rounds of this brutality, shown in painstaking detail, the men leave her for dead.
The remainder of the film has the writer killing her assailants one by one, in increasingly graphic acts of revenge. While not exactly the most upbeat and positive film, it was one of the first to empower the victim and have her come out on top in the end.
5) Faces of Death
The premise of this movie was simple. It is a collection of short scenes, each one showing somebody getting killed. Although most of the vignettes were completely fake, they were interspersed with some real footage of deaths taken from newsreel footage of war-time violence.
The effect of this was to create the illusion that the viewer was watching a “snuff film” full of actual murders and accidental deaths. Underground videotapes of the movie were often passed around high schools and being able to reference scenes from the movie gave you status in some circles.
The film gained notoriety precisely because of its being banned around the world, and in fact, the producers continue to proudly claim that 40 countries have at one time or another forbidden the showing of their movie.
Much like the furor over heavy metal music, the film was often blamed when an incident of teen violence or suicide took place in a small community. In fact, cases of copycat violence and people attempting to make their own versions of the film, unaware that the scenes were not real still crop up occasionally to this day.
That, perhaps, is the true horror exposed by this film.