Down In The Woods
An unflinchingly remorseless humiliation ("Piss yah pants!"), rape and murder from Wes Craven's all-kinds-of-banned debut.
The lo-fi trappings - birdsong, natural light, shuffling, awkward performances - make for a hopeless, baseless moment of despair and degradation.
Then, things get really nasty. As Craven says, "Until you disembowel a human and see the messiness of the inside, you haven't come to to the essence of the matter..."
(Scene at around 2.00)
The charming, articulate 'star' of Rémy Belvaux's faux serial-killer doc lulls an elderly woman into a seemingly innocent chat about her neighbourhood before suddenly screaming into her face and watching her slowly succumb to a heart attack.
The increasingly active role played by the film crew later in the film challenges the idea of audience complicity and desensitisation, but as Benoit boasts of having saved a bullet by inducing cardiac arrest, the satirical point feels blunted by the shock factor.
Paul Schrader's dark drama has Nick Nolte's drifting cop disintegrating in a swirl of alcohol and guilt.
An unbearable toothache matches his emotional pain, forcing a wrenching DIY extraction.
Nolte is all rage and fire, but it's the small details - the rattle of the pliers, the single tear, the red spit into the sink - that make the scene stick.
The whole first half of Tarantino's grimy exploitation flick is foreplay for this moment - the four sassy leads ground into squelching paste in a pornographic, repeat-play carve-up.
It's butcher-shop gruesome, and deliberately so...
"The point was to get really realistic about what happens to people in a crash," Tarantino says. "You kinda get ripped apart."
Cut Got His Tongue
This is how you apologise in a Miike Takashi film.
Masochistic Yakuza heavy Kakihara makes amends with a rival boss by slicing off the end of his own tongue.
The shot is held for so long you can almost taste the cold, cutting steel and iron blood, and the reaction of the watching gangsters - just as disturbed as we are - amplifies the rising tide of horror and disbelief.
Real and appalling animal cruelty, which you hope somehow the scene won't show.
The reflex foot thumping and tangle of neck tubes and gristle ram the reality home - it's so pointless and stupid and empty, it leaves you angry and heartbroken.
Actress Francesca Ciardi vomited, while Perry Perkinan, the guy holding the turtle down, cried after the scene was shot.
Divine Does The Doggy-Doo
John Waters' disgraceful classic, starring outrageous transvestite Divine out-debasing the world.
The coup de grace comes at the film's close, as Divine chases after a dog and scoops it's still-warm poop into his mouth.
It's base and motiveless, but Waters is typically matter-of-fact... "I asked Divine at the very beginning, 'Would you eat shit?' He said, 'Oh, sure'...It was a magic day in our happy young lives."
(Behind-the-scenes at 3:40)
Kurtz & The Cow
The death of wayward 'Nam Colonel Kurtz, lent morbid, hot-blooded weight by the intercut sequence of a cow's ritual slaughter.
Jim Morrison's frenzied roar and a chorus of cymbals wrap the two scenes together, surging to a life-taking climax as three tribesmen hack into the animal, which stumbles in a torrent of blood as Martin Sheen slices up Marlon Brando's tortured renegade.
The snarling terror of the starving rats snapping at Winston Smith's screaming face though a head-mounted trap is deeply, physically unpleasant. (Torturer O'Brien: "It goes beyond fear of pain or death. It is unendurable.")
But the real horror in this scene comes through the film's faithful take on Orwell's novel - the bleak depiction of Winston's helpless, wretched capitulation, and the damning smirk on Burton/O'Brien's face.
Will The Kid Get It?
Down in the favela, two neighbourhood runts are shot in the foot while a gang inductee is forced to choose which one to finish off.
It's devastating, thanks to the performance of the younger of the potential victims: at first hard-faced, a hint of infant confusion, then tears breaking through the miniature bravado.
Utterly heartbreaking and, thankfully, all a performance - the untrained kid was told to focus on his greatest fear (a toothache) and imagine it spreading to his foot as he was shot.
Nazi Demon Double Nightmare
Director John Landis had been planning a home invasion scene featuring zombie Nazis since he was 19, which might explain why this doesn't really have anything to do with the story.
The disconnectedness makes it more shocking, though, along with the then-revelatory dream-within-a-dream twist, and, like the whole film, it's underpinned by unusually graphic and realistic effects.
Look out for the slick squelch as a throat is slit, and Jenny Agutter's horribly twitching body.
Released from years of imprisonment, Oh Dae-Su's ragged victim drags himself to a noodle bar and tears hungrily at a live octopus.
Four octopii were used in total (director Park Chan-wook thanked them all when the film won the Grand Prix at Cannes) and collectively they're the star - wrapping writhing and desperate legs around Dae-Su's clenched fist, sucking and gripping as the head is torn clean off. Yum.
Losing His Footing
In the Stephen King book - and William Goldman's original script - Annie cuts captive writer Paul's foot off to prevent his escape.
But the revision makes the scene, which is all about brutality and impact: Kathy Bates' maniac calm undercut by the climbing panic of the piano score, before the sledgehammer swipe and that cruel angle of James Caan's ankle against the hobbling block.
And that scream...
Slice Of Eye
Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's short is a series of dream and nightmare images, none more famous than this.
The moment is expertly crafted - the jaunty music, the slightly-too-fast-cutting, and the incredible match-on-action cutaway to a sliver of cloud crossing the moon.
There's relief we're not seeing the moment of impact, given over to gushing horror that we are, and the spill and damage is worse than we imagined (It's a real eye - a cow's eye).
The only scene of relief in a film of tortuously-building tension, and it hits the gasping audience like a bucket of ice-cold water.
It's a moment of outrage and drama which seems to come from a different world - a sudden and suicidal throat-slash in a bare apartment, a gush of arterial spray - but which is so powerful thanks to Michael Haneke's deadening weight of ambiguity and guilt.
The nasty work here is done before the neck-snapping climax. It's all in that one close-up: clean white teeth pressed down and scraping against the block of rough concrete.
The killing itself is a formality, sandwiched between this and Ed Norton's chilling, slow-motion turn the camera as he surrenders to the police, eyes full of hate and sickening triumph.
Just a little change up from the routine.
In a film full of Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman discovering artfully staged corpses, this looks like a routine deal until John C McGinley's intense SWAT guy leans in close to the corpse, and it heaves into terrifying life.
The jolt is nasty, but it's the madness and agony in the eyes of the subhuman creature that cap it off.
There’s a real actor in there, folks. A very thin one.
Spielberg does away with propaganda-style glorifications of D-Day – smiling heroes surfing to France on a wave of justice – and instead shows us scared soldiers throwing up on the choppy channel waters with hot fire slicing soft flesh to mortal pieces.
It’s no less than a redefinition of cinematic conflickt, with Spielberg employing between 20 and 30 real amputees and 40 barrels of fake blood to hammer home the frailty of the human body and the inhumanity of war.
Nicky Strikes Out
Martin Scorsese plays brilliantly with voiceover here. It makes us feel *safe* - Nicky Santoro is narrating this scene, so we know it must end well-AARRGH!
Rudely ripped from our comfort zone, we’re forced to watch Nicky and bro’s brutal beating before they’re piled, still alive, into a shallow grave.
The worst? They’re still breathing, dust sticking to the still—wet blood covering their faces.
A warming thought: it’s based on a true story.
DNA In The UK
Malcolm McDowell's fresh-faced pilgrim Mick has his progress checked during a late-night walkabout at a medical research centre (he's hoping to cash in on a round of experiments).
He wanders into another patient's room... "How much are they paying you?"
The man trembles, mute. McDowell whips off the bedclothes to reveal an absurd but still gutspinning sight - a sheep/human hybrid aberration, clearly not long for this world.
McDowell: "This is still the scene that everyone remembers and considering it was before CG, the designer did a convincing job"
(Skip to 20 seconds in...)
"Is it safe?"
Dustin Hoffman’s bewildered grad student is tortured for the answer to a question he doesn’t understand by Laurence Olivier’s icy Nazi war criminal.
Echoes of the concentration camps hover in the background, underpinning the needlepoint horror of Olivier’s dental manipulation.
The intimacy is overwhelming – so much so that the scene was shortened after preview audiences complained it made them feel sick.
A moment of sharp, unprovoked brutality to clash with the film’s fairies and fancy.
Fascist Captain Vidal beats a man to death with the bottom of a glass bottle, the camera unblinking as the face collapses with a series of wet crunches and a red abscess opens up where the nose used to be.
It’s shocking and savage, and director Guillermo Del Toro had to fight to keep it in... “One of the producers said to me, the week we were going to shoot it, 'You don’t need that scene'. I said, 'Fuck you , you don’t need that scene. I need that scene!'"
The alien’s design is troubling and brilliant – full of sex and violence, of phallic curves and impregnation.
Aside from bloody physical horror, this scene is so effective because it absolutely nails all the nasty subtext, with John Hurt gripped by fits of agony as he gives involuntary birth to his cock-shaped rape baby.
See? Troubling. Even the Spaceballs cabaret version is only mildly less disturbing.
On The Lash
Christ’s public, pre-crucifixion flogging.
Being about Jesus means Mel Gibson’s harrowingly-accurate-when-it-suits-him epic can get away with things most other films couldn’t contemplate – like showing a man being beaten for five long minutes until the skin tears and flays from his body and he’s bathed in his own blood.
And, of course, it absolutely does not stop. What’s wrong with montages all of a sudden?
Blood Makes Noise
An infamous early short from Martin Scorsese, slower and more abstract than the violence of his later career but equally crafted, and already set to pop music.
It’s the repetition that does it - the gliding movement of naked blade on skin, which becomes tormenting after the first, untended nick.
Red flows into the white cream and splatters the washbowl, faster and faster, until the shaver swipes a thick line of deep gushing red from jaw to jaw. It's all about the Vietnam War, apparently...
"You can't go anywhere without feet..."
Keen to show that humans can be as horrifying as any monster, director Miike Takashi conceived this: the shocking comeuppance of a widower who searches for a new wife by setting up a fake television audition.
The resulting romance leads to an agonisingly prolonged and merciless torture scene.
First there are acupuncture needles, driven into the camera-as-eye with twisting intimacy and a slow, wet piercing noise, and then... ankle amputation by piano wire. So calm and sustained it’ll leave you delirious.
Watch it here .
Nine Minutes In Hell
Gaspar Noé’s time-shifting take on love, revenge and destruction reaches an almost unwatchable nadir with the nine-minute rape and beating of Monica Belluci’s terrified Alex.
Justifying the scene's unflinching, single-camera relentlessness, Noe says, “I hate it when a director pans away and we hear a gunshot. Violence is real. It's part of life, part of all animal species. I wanted to force the audience to empathise with the victim.”
Angel Loses His Face
When a drug deal goes wrong, wannabe Cuban gangster Tony Montana (Al Pacino) is forced to watch while his friend Angel is tied to a shower rail and shredded alive with a chainsaw.
Oliver Stone apparently based the scene on a real murder in which the remains of the victims were stuffed into steel drums.
Putting the furious Tony Montana into the scene is like tossing a grenade into a fireworks factory – it just goes off, and even with Brian De Palma’s slide away from the actual cutting, the blood geyser and screaming are more than enough to leave us reeling.
Watch it here .