Gory movies are great. There’s nothing I love more than watching Jason Voorhees commit a triple decapitation or seeing a Xenomorph burst out of somebody’s chest cavity. For me, gore (when handled with the right tone) is a way to test the limits of special effects and have some giddy, messy fun with your sense of propriety.
There’s not a lot that can faze me at this point. I’ve seen people pull out their own intestines or have their eyeballs gouged out, and I hardly batted an eye. But there’s one thing that never fails to make my skin crawl, and it might sound a little surprising: tiny, intimate gore sequences.
While most of the films I love are full of big, splashy effects, it’s when they operate on the micro-level that I have to reach for the Tums. For me at least, it’s probably because these scenes are more relatable. I’ve never had my leg sawn off, but I have stubbed a toe, sprained an ankle, and gotten a splinter. So when horror movies attack little moments like that with their more extreme sensibilities, it’s doubly traumatic. Don’t believe me? Check out five of the most gruesome scenes from gory movies, all involving relatively minor injuries. Just try not to throw your computer out of the nearest window.
Broken Fingers in JASON GOES TO HELL
Whether or not you enjoy this divisive FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel, you have to admit that it’s terrifically gross. A nubile camper is split in half with a machete, someone devours a beating heart, and a man melts into goo before our very eyes. And yet the scene that always sticks with me is a quiet moment in the prison between the male lead Steven Freeman and the deranged bounty hunter Creighton Duke. In exchange for information, Steven lets Duke break a couple of his fingers. The sickening snap of his fragile digits is the most subdued gore scene in the movie, but you can’t help but squirm and reflexively clench your own fingers to make sure they’re still working.
Rope Burn in THE DESCENT
One of the best horror movies of the 2000’s, Neil Marshall’s THE DESCENT based its scares on claustrophobia, lurking creatures, and fraught character dynamics, but it didn’t skimp on the gore. However, as gooey and gross as the many broken bones and pierced skulls are, the moment where one of the women grabs a rope to save her falling friend never fails to send a jolt down the spine. The rope cuts through her hands like a hot knife through butter, and anyone who’s ever been rock climbing will instantly start to feel a little woozy. (Note: Either the above YouTube clip has been slightly edited or my memory includes much more blood.)
Carotid Angiography in THE EXORCIST
Often hailed as the scariest movie of all time, THE EXORCIST has caused many an audience member to faint or puke out their guts. You know what scene caused the most damage? No, not the head spinning. Not the pea soup vomit. Not the crucifix self-mutilation. Despite its many harrowing effects spectacles, the EXORCIST scene that provoked the most bodily reaction was Reagan’s visit to the doctor, where she undergoes several gruesomely realistic medical tests. If you’re squeamish in the slightest, you might want to clamp your eyes shut during this one.
Concussion in EVIL DEAD
Fede Alvarez’s 2013 remake EVIL DEAD is a deeply disgusting movie. The bathroom scene alone features facial mutilation with a blade and multiple face stabbings with a syringe, but the part that truly hits you where it hurts is oh so simple. Slipping on a pool of blood, the dude clocks his head against the toilet tank with a loud thud. As much pain and terror as that character goes through (and it’s a hell of a lot), there’s nothing that will make you clench your fists tighter than that sickening noise of skull on porcelain.
Hangnail in BLACK SWAN
This is probably the single gore scene I’ve thought about most in my entire life. Natalie Portman goes through a lot during her psychotic break in pursuit of balletic perfection, but the most traumatizing is this simple little hangnail… Like EVIL DEAD, this scene also takes place in a bathroom, the place where we discover some of our most intimate and terrifying injuries and illnesses. It is a place of bodily care and reflection, and it has been rudely intruded upon by this disgusting rending of the flesh.