We’re back with ten more shocking and brutal banned horror films that dared to go to extremes, courting controversy and ending in infamy.
When I first jumped at the opportunity to comprise a list of banned horror movies, the amount of content out there was so vast it basically demanded that it would have to be divvied up into multiple sections. Of course, it wasn’t a given that a list of banned horror movies would be of interest. So, when tackling part one, I opted to keep the focus aimed largely at films that fall into the mainstream rotation, broken up by a few under-the-radar selections.
To the casual horror fan, it may be a surprise to learn that some of their favorite horror films they casually queue up on Netflix or Max wound up banned at some point in their existence. Many may not be in the know that franchise-starters like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Evil Dead or Silent Night, Deadly Night were immensely controversial when they first unspooled for unsuspecting audiences.
And who would have guessed that a seemingly harmless zombie movie like Land of the Dead hilariously ended up in hot water (the reactions to that being on the list gave me a hearty chuckle)?!
Naturally, I was aware of other selections that were infinitely more severe than some of those mainstream favorites. But entries like Men Behind the Sun, Salo (or the 120 Days of Sodom), and Cannibal Holocaust kept things pretty ghastly for those who shrugged at the softer picks (not that I Spit on Your Grave plays nice).
Now, I figure if you are going to do a follow-up, then why not try to top what you did before?
That was my mentality as I put finger-to-keyboard here. I dug out the real gnarly stuff, from true-blue shockumentaries that gave the finger to the earlier “mondo” material to a Greek Texas Chain Saw knockoff complete with a sex scene between a homicidal maniac and a goat.
This time, we go darker and nastier, with selections that may not be quite as recognized as the films found in part one.
So, let us pop in the tape. Some of what you are about to see is real (I’m not kidding). Only some has been staged, and what is staged is unabashedly raw and dangerous. Brace yourself, and remember, barf bags are available at the box office.
1. Island of Death (1976)
It boasts the reputation of being one of the most widely banned films in the world. Deemed “video nasty” in the U.K. For many years, it was subjected to heavy censorship and bootlegged releases.
What’s the Deal?
Gleefully inspired by the success of 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Greek director Nico Mastorakis’s 1976 picturesque stunner Island of Death was tailor-made to rake in the big bucks off a never-ending barrage of careening insanity that remains unparalleled to this day.
Following a young British couple posing as newlyweds, the crazed duo unleashes a terrifying killing spree on a scenic Greek island, where anyone unlucky enough to cross their path becomes a target.ISLAND OF DEATH delivers an onslaught of rape, torture, and bestiality that left censors and ratings boards in a frozen state of disbelief, all to the amusement of its director, who leaves no taboo untouched. Click To Tweet
Island of Death is downright relentless as it rockets from one grisly crime scene to another, never allowing you to really identify with anyone outside the hellacious harlots who dispatch junkies, gay couples, and even horny painters like sugar-high kids skipping around Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Notoriously branded a “video nasty” in the U.K., which also served to propel its reputation even further into the grindhouse hall of fame, Island of Death was particularly difficult to track down in its entirety for many years. Bootlegged copies flooded the DVD market (with the director even giving his full approval of these releases), and it wasn’t until recently that Mastoakis’s sleazy cash grab was finally available, restored and uncut for your viewing displeasure by Arrow in 2011.
Should I See It?
Only veteran exploitation aficionados need apply for Island of Death.
The film is far from what could be considered “good,” with a pair of clumsy lead performances and an overall amateurish vibe that confirms Mastorakis was quickly tossing this puppy together. While it certainly doesn’t care to cater to all horror tastes, I have to admit that the filmmaker’s quest to offend by any means necessary did leave me transfixed.
If the goat rape sequence doesn’t get you, you’re almost certain to be rocked by its deviously twisted conclusion, which, if you feel as though you’re brave enough to seek this feral little proto-slasher out, will leave you at an utter loss for words.
Needless to say, Island of Death won’t be a scenic expedition you’ll be able to scrub from your memory.
2. The Devils (1971)
Banned in numerous countries throughout the world. Subject to numerous edits and heavy censorship. Remains extremely controversial and rare to this day.
What’s the Deal?
Of all the films that have comprised this extended list of banned horror films, director Ken Russell’s lavishly unhinged 1971 epic The Devils has to be one of the most astounding entries on it. It threatens to be one of the most shocking films listed here.
A historical drama set in 17th-century France, The Devils first emerged as a medieval nightmare for ratings boards both in the UK and the US. It came under fire for two sequences in particular, one involving a coven of nuns masturbating on a massive crucifix while a priest watches and also masturbates, and the other being a concluding scene that finds a hunchbacked nun gifted a charred femur bone, which she proceeds to masturbate with.
Needless to say, the film was destined to ignite a frenzy.
Upon its release, The Devils was a critical disaster, with many of the leading voices at the time, including Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael, condemning the film into oblivion. Further fanning the flames was the Vatican, who spoke out against Russell’s damning examination of religious corruption by requesting the film not be shown at the Venice International Film Festival.
It was further banned in many places throughout the world and has been largely abandoned by Warner Bros., who have done nearly everything they can to make sure the film never sees the light of day.
Still, despite scattershot physical media releases, which vary in quality, The Devils emerged once again from the depths of hell, streaming for a limited time on Shudder.
Should I See It?
If you’re able to track it down, The Devils is must-see material for horror fans. Period.
Through its chaotic structure and apocalyptic examination of diseased religious institutions, The Devils is brimstone in a bottle that will singe the nerves of even the most seasoned cinema snobs out there. From the set design all the way to the cinematography, no component of Russell’s satanic tapestry here deserves to be lost to the dusty Warner Bros. vaults.
It also features extraordinary turns from Hammer Films alum Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave, both of whom deliver truly diabolic performances that could rank amongst their finest moments in front of a camera.
3. Traces of Death (1993)
Banned in multiple countries, it caused immense controversy at the time of its release and continues to be among the most infamous shockumentaries ever produced.