With its aesthetic roots firmly secured in French Grand Guigol theatre, and early Hammer Film Productions, splatter became its own unique subgenre of cinema with the release of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast in 1963.
Explicit gore was beginning to infiltrate the grindhouses of America, and ensured that employees of the British Board of Film Censors were working hard for their salaries. Strong reactions from the public, fuelled by politicians, tabloids and critics, set in motion outrage that would result in many splatter films being outright banned; especially in the United Kingdom.
This unintentionally resulted in a sub-subgenre to emerge called Splatstick! By introducing slapstick humour to the splatter subgenre, explicit scenes of violence were viewed to be more light-hearted and comical, rather than mean-spirited. The censors were less heavy-handed when it came to splatstick, despite the gallons of fake blood splattering across our screens. Comedy + Horror = No Censorship
The splatter film continued to evolve as censorship became more relaxed, resulting in a combination of the splatter and slasher subgenres to emerge, dubbed ‘torture porn’ by its detractors. Now the splatter film was mean-spirited; perhaps even more so than during its humble beginnings.
Splatter will always be a mainstay of popular horror cinema. So, without further ado, let us familiarise ourselves with, what I consider to be 5 Quintessential Splatter Films.
5. Tokyo Gore Police (Tōkyō Zankoku Keisatsu) 東京残酷警察 (2008)
Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura.
Directed by Japanese SFX maestro Yoshihiro Nishimura, 2008’s Tokyo Gore Police is just as bizarre as its title suggests. Taking place in futuristic Japan, a mad scientist known as ‘Key Man’ (Itsuji Itao) has created a virus that mutates human flesh; leaving behind grotesque creatures, referred to as ‘Engineers’.
To deal with the ‘Engineers’, The Tokyo Police Force created a task force imaginatively known as ‘Engineer Hunters’. This privatised, quasi-military group will use any sadistic means necessary to maintain law and order. Ruka (Eihi Shiina) is one of the Tokyo Police Force’s most skilled ‘Engineer Hunters’, but she has her own demons… She seeks revenge for the murder of her father!
Heavily inspired by Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989), Yoshihiro Nishimura has crafted the quintessential splatter film of the 21st century. Just don’t take it too seriously.
4. Braindead (1992)
Directed by Peter Jackson.
aka Dead Alive
Peter Jackson is far more well known now for his cinematic adaptions of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, than for his DIY splatter. With the debut feature length film Bad Taste (1987), Jackson had given audiences a ‘taste’ of the comedy/splatter style that would dominate his early output. Good taste made Bad Taste. Yet, it was the 1992 release of Braindead (aka Dead Alive) that would give Peter Jackson the distinction of creating one of the goriest movies in existence.
3. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky 力王 (1991)
Directed by Lam Nai-choi.
“The warden of any prison has to be the very best in kung fu.”
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky was the film that introduced me to one of the most underrated martial artists working in Hong Kong cinema: Fan Siu-wong. Hong Kong is not usually known for splatter, but when director Lam Nai-choi made the decision to adapt Masahiko Takajo’s Japanese manga Riki-Oh, the blood flowed!
2. The Wizard of Gore (1970)
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis.
aka House of Torture
Blood Feast (1963) and Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) were both close contenders to be featured in this spot, but of all the Herschell Gordon Lewis directed splatter films, The Wizard of Gore is my own personal favourite.
“What is real? How do you know that at this second you aren’t asleep in your beds, dreaming that you are here in this theater?”
Montag the Magnificent performs ‘illusions’ that depict the mutilation of female volunteers (e.g. cut in half with a chainsaw) in front of a live audience. After the performance, the women reemerge unharmed to the applause of the crowd, but later collapse, dead; mutilated in the same fashion as Montag’s stage tricks…
1. Bride of Re-Animator (1989)
Directed by Brian Yuzna.
aka Re-Animator 2
Stuart Gordon’s 1985 H.P. Lovecraft adaption, Re-Animator was a tough act to follow. But with Brian Yuzna at the helm, Bride of Re-Animator (previously known in the United Kingdom as the imaginatively titled Re-Animator 2) succeeds despite the lack of a cohesive plot, by re-imagining elements of 1935’s Bride of Frankenstien, and combining them with fantastic SFX (including the return of Dr. Hill’s severed head) from the likes of Robert Kurtzman, Howard Berger, Greg Nicotero, Tony Doublin, John Buechler and Screaming Mad George.
“I created what no man’s mind nor woman’s womb could ever hope to achieve.”