Hyde’s Secret Nightmare (2011)

At what point does a sexually explicit art film simply become porn, and what is the distinction between art and porn exactly? A large part is the director’s intention but it’s also about the ratio between scenes with fucking and scenes without and where the real focus of the film is. Porn is porn because the main event is the sex and everything else is either lead up to that or filler. The only value the non-explicit scenes have is how much they prop up and enhance the explicit ones. A sexually explicit art film by contrast is focused on expressing ideas and uses sexuality as a tool in service of that rather than simply being a vehicle for titillating imagery. It seems obvious enough but aspirationally artistic porn films and excessively explicit art films have a way of muddying the waters.

While Hyde’s Secret Nightmare positions itself as an art film, a case can be made that it is nestled a bit more snugly in the gray area than it would like to admit. The story follows a young doctor/mad scientist Henry Chagall (Claudio Zanelli) who is desperately trying to find a scientific solution to cure his impotence. His work involves a lot of shady use of stolen female corpses and (somehow) he stumbles upon an elixir that turns him into a beautiful woman (Roberta Gemma) for a short period of time. Once he is in this new form, he adopts the persona “Eva Hyde” and starts exploring the world from a different perspective. This leads him on a journey of self-discovery filled with graphic ultra-violence and a whole lotta explicit sex.

There’s a lot to unpack in the movie’s more than two hour runtime but what jumps out the most here is that this is a film of strange choices. No, I’m not talking about all the genital mutilation, violent murders, necrophilia, and explicit fucking, that part I get. I’m more referring to the fact that the characters break into near-constant soliloquies delivered straight to camera that cover a range of lofty topics such as feminism, the ethical implications of animal testing, theology, etc. In case these unrelated divergences weren’t 4th wall breaking enough, writer/director Domiziano Cristopharo also occasionally includes the pre-take slates for, uh….some reason. Another piece that sticks out is the fact that Henry’s assistant Hans (Giovanni la Gorga) is constantly referred to as old and crippled but the actor looks barely older than Henry himself and no effort is made to cosmetically adjust his appearance to fit how the character is described.

Curious choices aside, there is also a lot that Nightmare does right and it unquestionably falls into the Extreme Cinema category. There is no shortage of graphic, unsimulated penetration and the film is also not limited to heteronormative coupling, which is nice touch. There are also some moments that really stood out to me such as a blowjob that turns into a dick being graphically bitten off and an unsimulated scene where a couple sews themselves together, piercing various parts of their bodies with a large needle including their faces and genitals. The performances are decent overall and Zanelli especially brings a great energy and earnestness to his role.

I always appreciate explicit sexuality being incorporated into a film but the sheer abundance of it, and the fact that the plot seems structured around it rather than vice versa, cheapens the experience. This is actually a situation where a “less is more” philosophy can give the explicit scenes more impact as seen in more plot-centric films such as Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, Catherine Breillat’s Anatomy of Hell, or John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus. The film does touch on some interesting ideas, such as gender fluidity and identity, but merely pays lip service to them rather than digging in and exploring more fully. This is unfortunate since a modern, explicit retelling of the Jekyll & Hyde story viewed through the lens of gender identity and societal stigmas could have been fertile ground for some interesting commentary. So, while light on substance, Nightmare does provide a generous amount of unfiltered sexuality and well-crafted violence that should make the journey worth it for fans of Extreme Cinema.

Availability: Upcoming Release

Film is scheduled to be released on physical media in July of 2022 at http://www.tetrovideo.com.

Short Film Review: Sadistic Pleasures (2021) Duration 23 min

As a site whose primary goal is to feature reviews of the most fucked up and grotesque films ever made, it’s long over due that the underground company A Baroque House (whose bread and butter is extremely graphic erotic horror shorts) had some representation. That’s not to say this is a review of the company’s varied output as a whole but since Sadistic Pleasures was a first time watch for me, it seemed a good one to start on for an unbiased and fresh take on the merits of that particular film.

It’s important to meet films on their own terms and understand the goal of a particular production to be able to assess how successful it is at achieving it. Since this film has about as much plot as early Guinea Pig entries, it’s not really fair to judge what is essentially just scenes of erotic titillation followed by graphic mutilation by conventional narrative standards. Instead, you must understand that this is down-n-dirty underground shock cinema meant to deliver a jolt to the more primal parts of your brain by delivering a taboo experience that you won’t be able to find on any conventional streaming service.

The film starts with a nameless young woman (Kaiia Eve) playing to the camera as she starts to put on a progressively more explicit show for the viewer. This continues for a little while until hands come into frame from an off-screen person (Leila Lewis) and things start to get a lot rougher, even escalating into a bit of cutting and knife play (simulated). The woman is soon drugged with a syringe full of a mysterious dark liquid and the real brutality begins.

Given the previously mentioned criteria, my main complaints center around areas that could have been tightened up to make the viewing a more cohesive and satisfying experience. The fact that the footage cuts between handheld POV and set-up shots is disorienting and makes it hard to establish where the characters are in time and space and what the viewers relationship to them is. The film would have been better served either leaning all the way into the handheld POV and framing the whole thing in more of a found footage context or visually distinguishing between the POV and the other shots so it doesn’t completely demolish the fourth wall when she looks right down the barrel of the camera.

It would have also been nice to have a little bit of dialogue to establish the context and maybe some interaction between the girl and the person behind the camera to make the situation she’s in a bit more clear. Regardless, the film has to be judged on what it does have and to that end there are some impressive visual elements that I want to call out. The scene that was particularity noteworthy was the image of the woman lying on the bed, brutalized and covered in bandages except where Eve’s real life tattoo of a demonic face on her lower belly remains perfectly framed by blood soaked gauze. Its a moment of horrific beauty and works excellently with the ominous sound design that accompanies it.

The FX here are also pretty on point, especially in a scene that features the best graphic breast cutting since The House that Jack Built, helped in large part by the attention to detail that went into making the prosthetic match Eve’s actual tattoos. So while Sadistic Pleasures may not have much to offer from a narrative or intellectual standpoint, it gets right down to business by delivering some edgy, uncensored content and at 23 minutes doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Availability: Moderately Available

Film is available for rental or purchase exclusively at http://www.abaroquehouse.com.

How to Raise Women from the Dead (2021)

Mutilation performance artist/musician Daniel Valient is back with another batch of twisted videos from his band White Gardenia. While Blood Tastes Like Perfume was more of a standard collection of the kind of videos fans of the band would expect to find (and may have already seen online) How to Raise Women from the Dead takes a big swing with some new content and goes in a very different direction. In art, taking risks is often necessary for growth but is also inherently a gamble, so lets discuss to what degree it did (or did not) pay off in this case.

The first disc in this two disc set is the Blu-ray featuring four separate videos on the main menu. The primary draw here is the short The Secret Perfume of Decay which marks Valient’s first foray into proper narrative storytelling as a director. This departure from the more abstract and experimental work that White Gardenia is known for is part of the risk I was referring too but ultimately was not nearly as significant a change as the other videos would end up being. These are experimental in a whole different way as all three of them are comprised of a series of static images with audio clips playing over them that discussed transhumanism and the singularity in depth with a particular focus on the scientist Frank J Tipler.

For the uninitiated, the concept of transhumanism ultimately boils down to a philosophical and intellectual movement based around the goal of conquering death through advanced technology. The singularity is the hypothetical point at which artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence, becomes self-aware, and creates an irreversible and uncontrollable change that permanently alters the course of humanity. If this is a subject that interests you then you may find these segments to be informative and enlightening but if not then watching them feels a lot like being cornered by a belligerent family member who is dead-set on converting you to their religion. This is certainly a rich topic to explore but it would have been better done through some kind of artistic interpretation rather than an information dump of raw audio interviews.

On the other hand, in The Secret Perfume of Decay Valient does a good job portraying the story of a nameless serial killer and his most recent victim, both played by uncredited actors. The short still features Gardenia’s trademark self-mutilation, off-kilter tone, and a very interesting appearance by Valient himself which was the highlight of the whole experience. I also enjoyed learning about the real-world practice of re-creating paper mâché busts of unknown victims in the 60’s and 70’s which lead to some incredibly uncanny and downright creepy results. While very different in form from the other shorts it is still tied to them thematically as transhumanist views of death and resurrection play heavily into the story. My only major complaint here is Valient’s over reliance on text cards when he would have been better served following the classic “show don’t tell” rule of filmmaking.

The other disc in pack is labeled as “Extras Disc” and in a bewildering formatting choice features another copy of TSPoD which has been unceremoniously dumped onto an auto-play DVD with no menu, rewind or chapter separation along with ten other Gardenia films. I’m very pleased at the inclusion of these films as this is the first time any of them have been released onto physical media but am confused why they weren’t featured prominently on the main disc with the long form audio interviews more fittingly relegated to the extras section.

While I did like TSPoD, the real gem of this collection is the inclusion of some classic WG shorts that I absolutely adore. Films like (m.i.p.a.m.h, Mobius Strip and Video for Teilhard de Chardin) exemplify White Gardenia at its best, showcasing the surreal, abstract and disturbing content they are known for. These are the kind of deeply unsettling, genuinely strange videos that feel like something you would wander into in the darker corners of the internet and help to make up for the inclusion of some overly tepid BDSM and the absolutely egregious inclusion of the censored version (!) of A Perfume Made from Blood and Tears. In short, the disc is a mix of highs and lows which is an apt description of the overall collection itself but in both cases there is enough great content to be found within to make it well worth having in your collection.

Availability: Limited

Limited copies of the two disc set are available https://www.abaroquehouse.com while supplies last.

Double Feature: The Girl with the Cutter/Golgota (2021)

Today I’ll be doing something a little bit different as I talk about the recently released double feature by underground Extreme Cinema director Mikel Balerdi (Vore Gore, Larva Mental). The release features both The Girl with the Cutter and Golgota whose combined running time only totals about 78 minutes and as they are packaged together, I will be discussing both within the same review. Things kick off with the more produced of the two,The Girl with the Cutter, which stars Cofi Valduvieux as a woman struggling with mental illness and the urge to self-harm with a boxcutter.

Information about both films is pretty sparse, but from what I understand TGwtC was inspired by a set of real pictures that gained notoriety within certain circles of the internet featuring an unknown young woman who had performed some of the most graphic and extreme self-mutilation ever seen. The film itself seems to be a creative reimagining of her life, the events that lead to her cutting, and where it may have ultimately taken her. Even though the untranslated (Italian?) text in the beginning seems to state that this was based on real events and some of the actual source photos are intercut throughout the film, her story is really more of a creative springboard to launch the fictional narrative than an account of what actually happened.

Golgota on the other hand is a different animal entirely and is about as down-n-dirty and to the point as Extreme Cinema gets. There is no plot to speak of just real footage of a Dark Web performer known only as Wendy putting on her debaucherous show while Balerdi films her in a forever tainted hotel room. Aside from minimal editing and some background noises put in to further enhance the unpleasantness of the experience, this is really just six segments (labeled as 1 hour, 2 hour, etc) that feature ever heightening acts of depravity. Think Two Girls, One Cup crossed with a White Gardenia video so, needles to say, those with weak stomachs need not apply.

TGwtC represents a significant step forward in terms of technique from what we saw from Balerdi in Larva Mental most notably in the editing department. The glitching effect he employs throughout the film really adds a level to the fragmenting reality and surreal aspects of the story as we see Valduvieux’s character spiral further down the rabbit hole. He is also able to create some effectively scary shots using relatively simple make-up effects and camera work. Credit also must be given to Valduvieux who delivers a committed and compelling performance through what I imagine must have been a physically taxing shoot. The graphic special effects are incredibly well made and the inclusion of the real pics adds a disturbing layer of reality to the whole experience.

While this segment is ultimately very successful and well made, there were still a few notes I had about the production. Chief among them is the footage of her everyday life as well as some idyllic memories that I know were meant to give depth and dimension to her character but ultimately succeeded in slowing the film down. The scenes were too disjointed and random to effectively add to the storyline and Balerdi would have been better served by either further expanding the whole segment into a proper narrative with a fleshed out story or excising them in favor of creating a more streamlined and purely surreal, fast-paced experience. Furthermore, opening text tells us the film takes place in 1990 which is a baffling choice as it adds nothing to the story and only succeeds in making the cars, smart phone and the Asus laptop feel incredibly anachronistic.

As for Golgota it’s hard to judge its merits as a film as it isn’t so much a movie as a shock video. Still, there is something compelling and intriguing in the presentation and as soon as the ambiguous title screen comes up you know you are about to journey into some very dark territory with imagery that can shock and repulse, even in this jaded age of easily accessible atrocities. I will say though, the fact that the shot of her actually shitting and everything that happens next is separated by an edit may undermine the credibility of the horror that follows for some. While I can’t say with unimpeachable certainty that what we see isn’t a well-crafted forgery as Pasolini did in Salo, given what I know of Balerdi’s work and the underground nature of the production, I find it extremely unlikely that this is anything but genuine.

So, while these two films may be different in some key ways, they do work together to create an effectively disturbing and truly extreme work of boundary-pushing art. It may not be perfect but in the end it manages to be a harrowing experience that any fan of truly provocative cinema owes it to themselves to partake in. Plus, Golgota has the unsavory distinction of being the only film I’ve ever seen that made me physically gag while watching it. So there’s that.

Availability: Limited

Limited copies of the DVD available on http://www.tetrovideo.com and http://www.goredrome.com while supplies last.

Xpiation (2017)

The term “expiation” refers to a kind of atonement, the act of making amends or the reparation for some kind of wrongdoing. By its title alone, Xpiation is already tipping its hand to show that this brutal, torture-focused film is about more than simply being a showcase for senseless brutality. How much more and how effectively it’s executed is the real question though and today we’ll peel back the layers like so much skin off the face of a terrified man in the bowels of a torture dungeon.

This 2017 entry from hardcore underground filmmaker Domiziano Cristopharo tells the story of an unnamed man, credited as “Latino Guy” (Emanuele D’Elia) who finds himself tied up in a decrepit room being tortured in a variety of ways by a giggling maniac known as (naturally) “Torturer” (Simone Tolu). The event itself is being dispassionately observed by a strange and mysterious woman known only as “Her” (Chiara Pavoni) who sits close by recording it all on her camcorder and occasionally joining in. The graphic and explicit torture scenes are interwoven with surreal moments, hallucinations, and flashbacks that eventually shed light on who these people are and why they are doing what they are doing.

First and foremost, Xpiation is Extreme Cinema and as such delivers on the gruesome violence with excellent practical effects that render the uncompromising brutality in exquisite detail. There’s plenty to satisfy the gorehounds here as the film viciously doles out cutting, burning, beating and even an exceptionally explicit ball smashing scene that’s sure to have every viewer with those parts cringing and crossing their legs. While extreme violence in a film is fun, it can also become repetitive on its own and as someone who has seen a LOT of dirty basement Torture Porn, I was glad to see the film at least attempt to expand on the spectacle of violent titillation through use of surreal imagery.

The attempt was not entirely successful though and the inclusion of these scenes (as well as the flashbacks) made it seem like the film was on track to deliver more of a creative mind-fuck twist on the story than what we ultimately got. I do like how it plays with the concept of perspective and audience expectation but in the end the story itself is quite thin and the success of the experience relies quite heavily on the graphic, shocking effects. I like the violence and the weirdness but I would challenge filmmakers like Cristopharo to bring more attention to character development and story arc to create art that is overall more affecting and ultimately more provocative. As an exercise I would recommend that part of the scriptwriting process should involve removing all the violence, shoring up the story that remains and then adding it back in.

Like the rest of the film, the acting is a bit of a mixed bag as Tolu gives off an energy that is a bit more goofy than convincingly deranged while Pavoni’s stoic presence exudes a more engaging depth of character helped in no small part by her exquisite and unconventional costume design. So while Xpiation may not hit every mark perfectly it’s still an interesting and visceral experience that showcases a level of free expression that you won’t find in mainstream cinema.

Availability: Limited

Limited copies of the DVD can be found at http://www.tetrovideo.com while supplies last.

Blood Tastes Like Perfume: The Short Films of White Gardenia (2021)

When watching an experimental film it’s important to meet the movie on its own terms and view it through that lens. There seems to be a knee-jerk impulse in mainstream culture to immediately label films without a conventional narrative as nonsensical, images of violence as gratuitous, and unsimulated sex as pornographic. This kind of thinking is incredibly reductive and limiting, especially when art in other mediums such as paint and sculpture are more frequently praised as “bold” and “daring” for containing similar depictions. Artists should be free to use any item in their toolkit to make a creative expression that is genuine for them and true artistic freedom means anything and everything that happens between consenting adults must be allowed to be expressed. Art that pushes boundaries must be approached with an open mind and a strong stomach and it is with that mindset that I evaluate the unconventional, provocative collection that is Blood Tastes Like Perfume: The Short Films of White Gardenia.

The band White Gardenia is headed by musician Daniel Valient and are well known in certain underground circles for their shocking fetishistic mutilation and blood drinking short films that are underscored with their original music. White Gardenia’s work primarily exists online but has been featured in some films that received a physical media release such as XXX: Dark Web and Vore Gore, both of which were put out by Tetro Video. Blood Tastes Like Perfume marks the first time the band has received a proper home video release on their own (this time courtesy of Bizarre Theatre) and the collection features eight of their videos including Blood is Sweeter than Honey, Akasha Drinking my Blood, and A Perfume Made From Blood and Tears.

The most pertinent question here is how well this collection works as a showcase for the work of White Gardenia. While this is by no means a complete collection of their work, the eight shorts do provide a solid representation of what White Gardenia is all about and gives viewers a glimpse into their twisted world. Still, I was a little disappointed by the omission of their most provocative film (and my personal favorite) A Midnite Snack which was one of the segments featured in XXX: Dark Web. What stuck out the most as a strange choice as far as the Blu-ray release itself goes however was the occasional references to additional White Gardenia videos online that appeared after some films. I understand the thought process here but the biggest problem with the execution (aside from sometimes neglecting to put in the web address) was that the text after one film advised that “full and uncensored” clips can be found online. Given the explicit nature of the scenes that are shown, the film is clearly not censored for content but that message seems to imply that some of the most interesting parts may be missing. Fans shelling out for a Blu-ray release like this should feel like they are getting the definitive collection, not a tease for more info that has to be found through a series of confusing links. It’s not clear at this point if there will be additional volumes released with more of White Gardenia’s output but if this is to be the only physical release then it is a glaring oversight to not include all the best, nastiest content in its full and uncensored glory.

Like any short film collection the quality varies from film to film as some are inevitably more compelling than others. The couple of bondage themed scenes that were included were actually the least interesting part of the collection as the scenes felt quite tepid and restrained for BDSM play and were further weakened by their juxtaposition to the far more intense scenes of real cutting and blood drinking. Even though it may have been a little repetitive I would have still preferred the inclusion of some of their other cutting and blood play videos in lieu of these to have a more cohesive and consistent experience.

Where this collection really shines is in its ability to showcase boundary-pushing art as Daniel and the rest of the performers go to extreme levels to create spectacle that is beyond the limits of what you will find in most films. Aesthetically, there are some strange choices such as including flubs and outtakes that could have been easily trimmed out but they do have a way of adding to the gritty, cinéma-vérité style of the production. The minimum production values of the scenes where shaky hand-held footage reveals genuine mutilation and blood drinking add to the dangerous, provocative feeling of voyeuristically consuming taboo acts that are shunned within mainstream society.

Another thing I really appreciate about this film is that it is far from simply being a collection of shocking content created to illicit a cheap reactionary response. There is a genuine surreal quality to the footage (especially when consumed all in one sitting) that make for an engaging and unique experience. This is thanks it large part to White Gardenia’s experimental and at times wonderfully discordant music and sound design that underscore most of the film. It is also due to some fantastic editing choices that heighten and enhance the scenes in very interesting ways. Probably my favorite moment occurred in Akasha Drinking my Blood when a constructed shot resulted in a scene so minimalist yet so perfectly unsettling that it felt straight out of Lynch’s Inland Empire. So, in the end while it’s not a perfect release, it is still a damn good one and will provide viewers with a unique experience that is provocative, unsettling and legitimately boundary-pushing.

Availability: Limited

Blu-rays can only be purchased through bizarretheatre.com while supplies last. Not available to stream.

10 Best Extreme Films You May Not Have Seen (But Definitely Should)

Horror comes in so many flavors. Whether you prefer bloodless psychological thrillers, graphic Torture Porn, or anything in between, the genre’s got you covered. With so many films available at our very fingertips, it can be overwhelming to try and find one that’s really worth your time. For this list I’ve decided to focus on the subgenre that’s nearest and dearest to my black little heart, Extreme Cinema. If you’re reading this then you are probably already aware of the extreme movies that have bubbled up from the depths into the mainstream horror consciousness such as A Serbian Film, Martyrs and The Human Centipede franchise. What you may not be aware of is all the films out there that are lurking in the underground, numerous other hidden gems that show you art willing to push past the boundaries of what’s found in conventional cinema.

These are films that provoke reaction and force us to confront subject matter that many of us would rather turn a blind eye to. It’s the truth within these films that make them such vital and essential pieces of art, whether that truth is based on its creator’s own darkest emotions or simply an accurate depiction of real events. Violence in the real world is horrible, it is disgusting and it does provoke an extreme reaction so the art that reflects it should do the same. As someone who has plumbed the depths of the darkest and most grotesque cinematic art ever made I can confidently say that there has never been anything created in a film that hasn’t had a real-world equivalent which was even worse. Art mirrors the world, not the other way around, but you don’t have to take my word for it, just watch the news on any given day and see for yourself.

Due to the inherent subjectiveness of art and a lack of any kind of standardized rubric for measuring quality, it can be difficult if not impossible to make any kind of list that is able to definitively capture the best in any given genre. What I have compiled here is a list of ten of the best films that not only exemplify legitimate Extreme Cinema at its finest but also may not be as familiar to the average horror fan. Whether you’re looking for a jumping in point to Extreme Cinema itself or are curious about the few films on here that you may have missed, I hope that this list will serve as a helpful guide. As many of these movies can be hard to track down I’ve also included the best places to locate the films themselves, as of the date this article was published. I am of course omitting any ad supported services like Tubi because watching them on there is worse than nothing.

29 Needles (2019):

What it is: Francis Bacon (Brooke Berry) is a troubled man who uses alcohol and pain to try and abate the symptoms of his inner turmoil. As his self-destructive coping mechanisms become less effective and his bizarre hallucinations more prevalent, he is plunged into even more hopelessness and despair. A mysterious young man named Hans (Jamee Nicholson) may have the solution he needs when he offers an invitation to a secret society where there are no sexual limitations. Is this the cure he’s looking for…or just the beginning of a different kind of nightmare?

Why it’s great: 29 Needles is a perfect example of raw, unfiltered cinematic expression that gives no fucks and takes no prisoners. Writer/director Scott Philip Goergens clearly has a vision and that vision includes presenting unsimulated gay sex, mutilation, watersports, and blood-play as well as fetishistic acts that even I had never seen before (eyeball tube anyone?) Beyond the shocking content there is a compelling and harrowing narrative anchored by Berry’s incredible, method performance. Top it all off with some great Cronenbergian practical effects work that bring a giant sentient cock to life and you have a truly unique film experience.

Where to find it: Currently available at unearthedfilms.com on Blu-ray and DVD, diabolikdvd.com on Blu-ray and has been found on eBay. Not available to stream.

XXX: Dark Web (2019)

What it is: When it comes to salacious and provocative titles XXX: Dark Web really takes the cake. No, Vin Diesel isn’t suddenly taking his lame action franchise in a very bold new direction; what we have here an anthology film that plummets into depths of darkness rarely seen on film. The framing device has the nameless audience surrogate (Franz Dicarolo) searching the Dark Web for depraved jerk-off material and each segment is a video he clicks on.

Why it’s great: While there isn’t a lot in terms of story within each segment, the beautifully gruesome detail in the special effects and brilliant, committed performances do an excellent job of holding the viewers’ attention. Guinea Pig level eviscerations are just where the brutality in this film starts and before you know it you’re seeing graphic genital mutilation, explicit, unsimulated sex and even a scene that went to a level that I had never seen in a film before (which is saying a lot). The scene in question features a real video of musician/cutting performance artist Daniel Valient doing something that I don’t want to spoil but suffice to say it must be seen to believed. If you’ve got a strong stomach and very morbid curiosity then this is a trip you definitely want to take.

Where to find it: DVD sold through TetroVideo.com but is currently out of print. Not available to stream.

Atroz (2015):

What it is: When an out of control car claims the life of a pedestrian, the two men inside are immediately arrested and taken into police custody. Inside their car the officers find a video camera with a tape that shows them graphically torturing a prostitute to death. The remainder of the film switches between the violent interrogation of the primary suspect in the killing, Goyo (Lex Ortega who also directed) and the graphic content the police find on tapes as the investigation moves forward.

Why it’s great: Atroz is able to achieve a level of disturbing, brutal violence that is rarely seen on film, even within the horror genre. While there are many films out there that showcase graphic gore, few are able to replicate the unflinchingly realistic, vicious, and sadistic ways the murders are depicted here. This can be attributed to the incredibly committed performances from the cast as well as the exceptionally crafted gore effects that are even more impressive given the film’s $7,000 budget. Most importantly, the film isn’t simply a collection of meaningless violence but instead is Ortega’s cinematic representation of the climate of hopelessness and fear that he himself and so many other residents of Mexico City experience on a daily basis. In a city that has an annual murder rate of nearly 30,000 and a conviction rate of less than 2%, that is certainly an understandable feeling.

Where to find it: Available on Blu-ray and DVD through multiple sources including Amazon, unearthedfilms.com, deepdiscount.com, Best Buy, and Walmart and has been found on eBay. Only available to rent or own on streaming through vimeo.com.

Grotesque (2009):

What it is: On their way back from a date, a young couple (Hiroaki Kawatsure and Kotoha Hiroyama) is assaulted and kidnapped by a nameless creep in a van (Shigeo Ôsako). Next thing they know they are being tortured in a room at an unknown location as the man tests their will to live and claims that he will let them go if they can sufficiently excite him.

Why it’s great: Given that Grotesque is light on story and heavy on torture, there are many who would simply dismiss this as a voyeuristic indulgence in suffering. However, there is more at play here as director Koji Shiraishi presents us with a visceral, bold piece of uncensored artistic expression that eschews conventional storytelling and strips down the experience to its raw, base emotional levels. The film itself is a meditation on the experience of watching violent content as it puts us in the position to not only cringe and root for the victims but also indulge in the suffering that the man is inflicting for his own pleasure. The excellent level of realism that both the actors and the SFX team bring to the production really put it over the top and make for a genuinely harrowing experience.

Where to find it: Both the DVD and Blu-ray are currently out of print but have been found on eBay. Available to rent or buy via streaming on iTunes and Amazon Prime.

Trauma (2018):

What it is: The film begins in 1978 as on-screen text lets us know that the movie is inspired by true events. After an incredibly graphic opening scene the bulk of the film takes place in 2011 and follows a group of young Chilean women who rent a vacation home in a remote part of the country. Before long, the events of the past are catching up with them in a very brutal way.

Why it’s great: Gore and violence for its own sake is fun to see in a film but what really pushes it into the category of art is the meaning behind the shocking content. In this case, understanding the environment that it was made in is a key part to understanding what Chilean writer/director Lucio A. Rojas is expressing here. In 1973 Augusto Pinochet overthrew Chile’s democratically elected government and seized power as an iron-fisted dictator. Following that, the country experienced an unfathomable amount of death and suffering and the cruel scars of the past continue to rear their heads in the modern era. Like Atroz and A Serbian Film, this is an unflinching expression of the real world pain and fear that is born from living in a country where violence and horror is very much a reality.

Where to find it: Available on DVD only through Amazon, Target, Walmart and has been found on eBay. Available to rent or buy via streaming on Vudu, Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube and Flix Fling.

Inside (2007):

What it is: There are some films (The Human Centipede for instance) where just the very concept is enough to shock and horrify most people. Another such film is Inside which tells the story of Sarah (Alysson Paradis) who is about to give birth to her first child and the mysterious nameless woman (Béatrice Dalle) who will stop at nothing to break into her house and try to cut the baby out of her.

Why it’s great: The New French Extremity movement brought us many great films around the first decade of the new millennium and this one is an excellent representation of the qualities that those movies embody. Like all of the notable films in the movement, this is exceptionally well made and features gorgeous shots, brilliant lighting design, and realistic, visceral gore. The two female leads both do an incredible job with harrowing performances that really bring the film to the next level. If you want a unique horror experience that delivers gruesome thrills and a tightly paced, unpredictable story then this is one you won’t want to miss.

Where to find it: Uncut import Blu-ray can be found on Amazon, Walmart, daaveedee.com and has been found on eBay while out of print uncut DVD can only currently be found on eBay. The R-rated version is available to rent or buy via streaming through Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu and The Microsoft Store but you should stick with the uncut. The uncut streaming version can be bought (but not rented) on YouTube and Google Play.

Guinea Pig 6: Mermaid in a Manhole (1988):

What it is: For the uninitiated, the Guinea Pig films are a collection of underground Japanese horror films made between 1985 – 1988 that are notorious for their levels of sadistic violence and cruelty. The frequently bootlegged series gained exceptional notoriety in 1991 when Charlie Sheen (yes, Mr. Tiger Blood himself) watched the 2nd entry (Flower of Flesh and Blood) and reported it to the FBI, thinking it was a real snuff film. The 6th entry is considered by many fans to be the best and most grotesque of the series with its highly unconventional and disturbing story about an artist (Shigeru Saiki) who brings home a living mermaid that he finds in the sewer.

Why it’s great: Each of the films in the series has a self-contained story and as such can be viewed in any order, so if you want to see what the true Guinea Pig experience is all about, I recommend jumping right in on this one. Despite the fact that this story is actually somewhat atypical for the franchise (featuring a man trying to help a female character rather than torture her) it still manages to be the most grotesque and disturbing entry. The revolting body horror is brought to life through excellent practical effects as the artist paints with her multi-colored pus, pulls live worms out of her tumors, and cleans up piles of them from her bloody puke. Gather the family around and watch this one with dinner!

Where to find it: Used, out of print DVDs can be found on Amazon and eBay and box sets of all 6 Guinea Pig films have been found on eBay. Not available to stream.

American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts

and Gore (2014):

What it is: Previously only available via increasingly hard to find VHS copies, the Guinea Pig series was first released to DVD in North America by Unearthed Films. Being a fan of the series himself, the company president Stephen Biro kicked off his own franchise as an homage to the cult classic with his directorial debut American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore. A spiritual successor to the original series, this film is similar in style to the first two entries as it features a light amount of plot and a focus on the graphic torture of two abducted women.

Why it’s great: Based on the above description of the film, at this point you’re either in or you’re out. For fans of the original series though, this serves as the prefect love letter to the franchise as it captures the gritty, dangerous feel that they invoked and possibly even surpasses it in graphic content. Limbs are laboriously sawed through, eyeballs are slit, and jaws hacked off with amazingly realistic detail and any fans of great practical effects work owe it to themselves to check this out. Like all great underground films this is an example of an uncensored, uncompromising artistic expression that hasn’t been watered down and sanitized for mass consumption. The barometer of what’s considered “acceptable” in art is always fluctuating and it’s content creators like Biro who push out against the edges and keep the doorway open for everyone else.

Where to find it: Available on DVD only through Amazon, Walmart, unearthedfilms.com, deepdiscount.com, fye.com and has been found on eBay. Available to stream only through midnightmoviesociety.com.

Brutal (2017):

What it is: Brutal is a film that definitely lives up to its title. Divided into three sections, the first focuses on a character known only as ‘Man’ (played by the actor known only as Butch) as he gruesomely tortures a group of young women. The next section focuses on ‘Woman’ (played by the similarly mononymous Ayano) as she viciously dispatches men in comparably violent ways. In the third section….they meet.

Why it’s great: What starts off seeming like a run-of-the-mill torture porn ends up evolving into a unique, supremely fucked up love story of sorts with engaging twists and occasional detours into surreal territory. It’s a refreshing change to also see males on the receiving end of the abuse and the film actually has a lot of interesting commentary on the subject of gender itself. It also has no shortage of highly disturbing imagery (especially towards the end) that’s sure to linger in your mind long after the credits roll.

Where to find it: Widely available on Blu-ray and DVD on Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, unearthedfilms.com, deepdiscount.com, fye.com and has been found on eBay. Only available to rent or own via streaming at vimeo.com.

Visceral: Between the Ropes of Madness


What it is: Another film that lives up to its provocative title is Visceral: Between the Ropes of Madness. This brutal Chilean film tells the story of an unnamed boxer (writer/director Felipe Eluti) who tries to rekindle his failing career with one more fight against an undefeated opponent. The story unfolds in a nonlinear format to reveal why he is committing a series of horrifically gruesome murders and who the mysterious figure compelling him to kill really is.

Why it’s great: This film was clearly a passion project for Eluti and it shows in every detailed shot. The nonlinear format is deliberately disorienting and adds to the nightmarish, surreal feeling of the film but Eluti cleverly uses the boxer’s hair length as a guide point for differentiating between the timelines. He is also able to use simple techniques such as voice modulation and an uncanny mask to imbue the mysterious visitor (listed only as Judas in the credits) with an effectively menacing presence. Hardcore gore fans will also be pleased to know that the film is violent with a capital ‘V’ and if you thought A Serbian Film was the only one with the guts to feature an explicit skull-fucking, well, buckle up!

Where to find it: Widely available on DVD only on Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, unearthedfilms.com and deepdiscount.com and has been found on eBay. Available to stream on midnightmoviesociety.com and available to rent or own via streaming on vimeo.com, Google Play and YouTube.

Mai-chan’s Daily Life (2014)

Mai-chan’s Daily Life brings to mind questions I never thought I’d ask such as “what if instead of being a badass superhero Wolverine was a tortured sex slave?” That’s essentially the central plot of this film, where a maid with infinitely regenerative powers (who can still feel pain) is used by her sadistic “master” to fulfill his violent, brutal fantasies. Loosely based upon the 2003 Manga Mai-chan no nichijô by Waita Uziga the film was adapted and directed by Sade Satô in 2014. While the story may deviate quite a bit from the source material, it maintains the same spirit of gleeful brutality thanks in large part to direct supervision of the process by Uziga himself.

The storyline in this adaptation centers around a new character created for the film named Miyako (Miyako Akane) who starts work as a maid at the remote house where Mai-chan (An Koshi) already works. Once Miyako dons her short, fetishistic maid outfit, Mai-chan starts showing her the ropes. This includes how to dust the jars filled with dead puppies, as well as how to be appropriately subservient to their wheelchair-bound employer known only as “Master” (Shôgo Maruyamawho) and the cruel head maid Kaede (Soako Roman). After witnessing the brutal punishment Mai-chan receives for daring to spill the milk that she was forced to lap up from a bowl on the floor, Miyako becomes aware of Mai-chan’s special ability. Rather than horrifying her, this seems to awaken something in Miyako who becomes obsessed with the idea of “devouring” Mai-chan.

Despite its incredibly brutal violence, the film actually feels toned-down from the Manga as it contains none of the graphic sex or (thankfully) pedophilia of the source material. I can’t say that there is really a lot beneath the surface here, as both the film and the Manga seem primarily created to indulge the Torture Porn fantasies of the audience and the lingering shots of bent-over maids and sadistic violence certainly work to support that idea. Don’t get me wrong though, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and it’s great when a film knows what it is and owns it. Despite all the violence, the film has a lightness to it and doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s something about Mai-chan that just makes it so damn engaging (dare I say fun) and the experience is reminiscent of the similarly graphic yet lighthearted Guinea Pig 3: He Never Dies.

It helps that the acting and special effects are both excellent which serves to keep you immersed in this strange, twisted story. The film does (for some reason) alternate between black & white and color at seemingly random intervals which may have been an homage to the B&W source material, but I found to be a needless distraction. Even though it originally came out in 2014 the film is getting a proper re-release courtesy of Tetro Video in July of 2021, which is great news for fans who can no longer get a hold of the OOP edition that Redemption Films put out in 2016. Connoisseurs of twisted, splatter cinema would do well to check this one out because at just over an hour, it goes down real easy and has a great rewatchability factor. It may not be the most complex thing on the menu but it’s a satisfying treat that Extreme Cinema fans will want to devour over and over again.

Vore Gore (2021)

For the uninitiated, vorarephilia (more commonly shortened to vore) refers to the fetishistic desire to be consumed or to consume another, typically for sexual gratification. As the opening text of this film clarifies, this has less to do with a cannibalistic desire to eat human flesh and more to do with the fanciful desire to be consumed by a much larger entity (human or otherwise), often swallowed whole. There are different types of vore, but as the title Vore Gore implies, this film focuses specifically on hard vore with a series of nine separate shorts all relating to gruesome, oral consumption of some kind.

In an apparent nod toThe Rocky Horror Picture Show the segments are introduced via disembodied lips, which imbue each title with a subtly salacious inflection. It’s the perfect framing device for a collection like this and the fact that the lipstick thematically ties to each film is an excellent touch. Though all segments do relate to the central concept, there is a wide variety of styles and approaches at play here, each reflecting the unique vision of their creators.

While Mouth, The Egg, and Infernal Gluttony 2 all take an abstract, experimental approach, other segments like Please, Not in My Mouth and Italian Ladies do it Better are more narrative focused horror shorts that bring their story arcs to a clear resolution. Other segments like Sweet as Honey, Finger Licking Good and Stretching take a more meditative (although no less gruesome) approach that falls somewhere in the middle. As I’ve now come to expect with anything relating to the band White Gardenia, their segment Yummy Fur belongs in a category wholly unto itself, but more on that in a moment when I delve into the individual segments in a little more detail.

It can be hard to maintain consistent quality when featuring a collection from various directors, but fortunately the segments in Vore Gore deliver high quality pretty much across the board, with each one bringing something interesting and different to the table, albeit with occasional mixed results. For instance, at first I wasn’t sure how I felt about relatively cheap looking special effects and seemingly simple concept behind Infernal Gluttony 2, but in the end, was won over by the sheer audacity of the engaging, surreal spectacle it created. Conversely, Finger Licking Good stood out as an incredible piece of work with its deliberate pacing and gloriously gruesome effects, but eroded some of the goodwill it achieved by tacking on an ending that feels like a bit of an unnecessary cop-out.

While there were a few minor missteps in some of the films, the only one that overall just didn’t work, was Italian Ladies do it Better. I hate to call out a single film like this, but in addition to having the least to do with the subject of vore itself, the highly telegraphed ending of the rather ludicrous plot simply doesn’t deliver in any kind of satisfactory way. The film also has trouble adhering to the rules of the world it creates and would have benefited from putting the script through another draft (or two). Stretching, on the other hand, was a highly satisfying and meticulously crafted piece of filmmaking that did an excellent job visually articulating the emotional experience of having a fetish. Though strikingly different in tone, another standout was Please, Not in My Mouth, a fun, nasty little film that I actually reviewed on its own back in 2018 but thoroughly enjoyed and was more than happy to revisit.

Speaking of films I’ve reviewed, anyone who has read my review of XXX: Dark Web knows that the film contains a segment in which Daniel Valient, of the band White Gardenia, completes an act of gruesome performance art that is fearless, shocking, and brutally real. In Yummy Fur, it’s Daniel’s turn to step behind the camera as the woman who filmed his segment in XXX: Dark Web (Cher Nevin) takes the spotlight for her own piece of hardcore performance art that threatens to outdo even that incredibly shocking scene. This is an amazing thing to witness, and my only complaint is that a unique, irrevocable act like this deserves really thorough and precise coverage to ensure no part of it is lost. Still, the erratic hand-held camera and occasional loss of focus actually work quite well with ambient music and cosmic-themed voice-over to give an unsettling, surreal quality to the segment.

Vore Gore may have a couple of chinks in the armor, but overall remains an overwhelmingly positive experience that I could continue talking about for pages. This is an excellent example of bold, unfiltered Extreme Cinema by a collection of brave artist who dare to push the boundaries of the medium in creative and provocative ways. Connoisseurs of authentic underground cinema take note, this is one twisted treat you’ll definitely want to devour.

XXX: Dark Web (2019)

When you’ve seen as many extremely fucked up films as I have, you start to feel like you’ve seen it all. After watching A Serbian Film, Atroz, Cannibal Holocaust, all the Guinea Pig films, and countless others, what can an extreme film bring to the table that I truly haven’t seen? Well, that’s where XXX: Dark Web comes in and with a name like that, it’s already setting the expectations quite high. No, Vin Diesel isn’t taking his impotent, PG-13 action franchise in a bold new direction; what we have here is far more interesting (although I am now more than a little curious about what that would look like). Rest assured fellow sick fucks, this is a legitimate underground film and the very definition of a piece of truly Extreme Cinema. There’s even a scene toward the end that blew my mind and showed me something shocking that I’d definitely never seen in a film before, but more on that in a minute.

The film utilizes a standard anthology format with five separate segments, each by a different director, plus a wrap-around story to tie it together. The framing device here is a nameless young man (Franz Dicarolo) who is searching the Dark Web for twisted shit to jerk off to and each segment is a different video he clicks on. It’s a clever format for a film like this and pays homage to the inherently voyeuristic role the audience itself is playing as we wait for the next shocking segment to come on and try and outdo the depraved insanity we just witnessed. This also adds an ingenious layer of discomfort for the viewer as we see the audience surrogate eventually taking on a more interactive role in the twisted entertainment he is consuming.

There isn’t a lot of “story” to speak of within this film as each segment plays out with little to no narrative in service of moving along the gruesome visuals as quickly as possible. That’s not a knock against it though because by its very nature, the Torture Porn subgenre tends to be pretty light on story and at no point did I really feel like I needed more character development to keep my eyes glued to the screen in rapt anticipation of what would happen next. In fact, even for seasoned veterans of Extreme Cinema, this is perhaps the most squirm-inducing film I’ve ever had the twisted pleasure of sitting through.

Graphic, unsimulated sex and gruesome Guinea Pig-style evisceration is just where the depravity starts and before you know it you’re seeing dicks being bitten off and sewn back on, vomit blowjobs, knives in bloody assholes, nutsacks full of needles, people jerking off to pics of (probably) real mutilated corpses and so much more. Obviously the bulk of the film is made up of well constructed and convincing special effects (otherwise you’d have to find it on the real Dark Web) but the final segment brings it in a whole other direction with a bit of gruesome reality.

In it we see a real video of musician Daniel Valient (of the band White Gardenia, who also do the music for the scene) and a young woman with black lipstick (Allison Simon) engaging in actual cutting and drinking of each other’s blood. From there we see Daniel turn it up to 11 in a scene that I don’t want to spoil but suffice to say it blew my fucking mind! It would be disturbing either way but the fact that it is 100% real (trust me, I looked into it) officially makes it one of the craziest things I have ever seen in a feature film.

Clearly, this movie has a lot going for it in terms of being an effectively shocking piece of underground cinema. Still, there were a couple of minor tweaks that I wish had been made to really bring it home. There are a few instances where characters speak in another language or text appears on screen but there is no subtitle translation option, which is unfortunate because I was really curious about what was being said. Also, the actual title of Daniel’s blood drinking segment is “Allison’s Mouth fills up with Blood and Semen” and despite seeing his blood-soaked boner, the actual blowjob is more implied than explicit. Not a big deal but given the segment title and the precedent already set of explicit sex, it felt like a situation where edgy material should have been leaned into rather than shied away from if it was to be presented at all.

Regardless, this is an incredible piece of dark art with brilliant, realistic performances and special effects punctuated by moments of visceral reality. It really is some of the most brutal and disturbing footage you’re going to see outside of a real world shockumentary like Traces of Death and frankly, real death compilations are nothing but cheap, artless, shock-value trash anyway. I’d take the brilliant special effects work and hardcore performance art of XXX: Dark Web any day!