Horror movies aren’t always solely meant to enlighten or even entertain. Sometimes, they’re depraved. They scare us, get us to tense up, or even make us nauseous. While not every film on this list qualifies as a gore extravaganza or even horror, they are definitely depraved to a significant degree. Let’s dig in, shall we?
1. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Based on the Anthony Burgess novel, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is actually funny to those with a sick sense of humor. That being so, it’s easy to forget that Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his “Droogs” are some really sick puppies. If you can inflict “a little of the old ultraviolence” on strangers while dancing and crooning, “Singin’ in the Rain,” you qualify as depraved. It’s always a no-no, folks! Depths of Depravity scale: 6.3/10
2. The Last House on the Left (1972)
Interestingly, Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left offers a precursor to Freddy Krueger who is even named Krug (David A. Hess). Sure, he doesn’t have quite the flashy wardrobe as Fred, and none of the supernatural powers… however, Krug has a hell of an entourage. Along with Fred – Fred! – (Fred Lincoln) and Sadie (Jeramie Rain), Krug pushes the boundaries of acceptable criminality, treating his captives (Sandra Peabody and Lucy Grantham) as mere playthings to be humiliated, tortured and even gutted. This is contrasted with the normal, outdoorsy setting where they unleash their carnage. This film was a warning to America that every street and county road can become a wrong turn, depending on who happens to be there. In fact, this film is still a bit shocking, no doubt about it. Depths of Depravity scale: 8/10 for the realistic-looking violence.
3. Pink Flamingos (1972)
It’s not a horror film exactly, but you know what? Pink Flamingos belongs on a list like this! How should I put this? John Waters’ Pink Flamingos is one of the best movies that shouldn’t exist. It stars Divine as Divine/Babs Johnson, who wants to be regarded as “the filthiest person alive.” What else do you need to know? Well, Divine eats some genuine dog poop at one point, making this a definite family classic. Seriously, though, don’t watch this one if you’re easily grossed out/offended. On that note, it is not geared for modern audiences as some people will go out and re-enact everything they see on screen. Depths of Depravity scale: 8.2/10, because of the genuine dog poop eating, and because chickens were probably harmed in the making of the film (and God knows what else happened).
4. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
This movie makes a lot of Most Shocking lists out there, mostly due to some realistic-looking death scenes and the depiction of actual violence against animals. In fact, Director Ruggero Deodato had to prove no one was actually murdered in Cannibal Holocaust! However, the grossest scene is the killing of a large tortoise. That being said, the shock of Cannibal Holocaust may be surprisingly easy to shake off, as it’s simply not that memorable of a film aside from these shocking scenes. Frankly, it’s also not as shocking if you’ve ever been on a hunting or fishing trip and seen slain animals being gutted (sorry vegetarians, but the shock isn’t equally there for everyone). By the way, the film also features Carl Gabriel Yorke, who went on to act in soap opera All My Children from 1980-1982. Talk about range! Depths of Depravity scale: 9.3/10, because of the genuine animal cruelty stuff.
5. Angst (1983)
Gerald Kargl’s Angst is a rather straightforward film, but worth seeing for how intense Erwin Leder is as K., The Psychopath. Basically, the story’s about a maniac freed from incarceration. Rather than piece his life back together, he predictably goes on a rampage against an unknown family (Silvia Ryder as Daughter, Edith Rosset as Mother and Rudolf Götz as Son). The nutcase drinks blood and is by no means a criminal mastermind. He even “escapes” in the slain family’s vehicle with their bodies in the trunk! Even Homer Simpson would say, “D’oh!”
This movie is shocking, thanks largely to his frenetic mood. The character seems genuinely compelled to act out his violent fantasies, and at no point does it seem like he’s interested in doing anything else. This isn’t the standard serial killer leading a double life or some genius with a grand vision. He is impulsive to a fault. Depths of Depravity scale: 8.5/10, due to the scene where he drinks blood, vomits it up and passes out on the victim. If that’s not gross enough for you, horror fiends, then you’re trying too hard to show your edginess (or should we say angstiness, in this case?).
6. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Before he showcased a maniacal, murdering Santa Claus, Charles Sellier was involved in TV’s The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams and a slew of family-oriented and faith-based programming. So why the hell did Silent Night, Deadly Night happen? That’s perhaps best left a mystery. What we do know is that Billy Chapman (Robert Brian Wilson) saw a deranged Santa Claus (Charles Dierkop) shoot his father (Geoff Hansen) and slit his mother’s (Tara Buckman) throat (but not before undoing her top, of course). Memories of that maniacal Santa later encourage Billy to become a nutcase, too, as is the natural order of things.
As one can imagine, few are spared as Billy goes around attacking bad boys and girls, always shouting, “Punish!” before meting out their fates. Among the trail of dead is Linnea Quigley’s character, Denise, who probably never looked at a rack of antler’s the same way again! Silent Night, Deadly Night also has an amazing, crazed speech from Grandpa Chapman (Will Hare) about how Santa Claus will punish any child who even slightly misbehaves. Punish! Depths of Depravity scale: 6/10. This movie is ho-ho-horrific, but certainly not as scary as Sellier’s other, more wholesome works.
7. In a Glass Cage (1986)
Agustí Villaronga’s In a Glass Cage is about a former Nazi, child molester and murderer named Klaus (Günter Meisner), who continued murdering children secretly until confined to an iron lung. It gets more complicated, though. One of his former victims, Angelo (David Sust), returns as a caretaker of Klaus, though not only for revenge. Angelo wants to pick up where Klaus left off by murdering children himself! If that’s not freaky enough for you, what is? Perhaps A Serbian Film is more shocking, but these characters are definitely still on the unsettling, depraved side. It’s also a shockingly watchable movie. Depths of Depravity scale: 8.7/10. You’ll likely feel gross after watching it.
8. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
John McNaughton’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is Michael Rooker at his scariest ?— and believe me, that dude can do scary. Henry (Rooker) and his dim-witted accomplice, Otis (Tom Towles), like to go around murdering people. While Henry lacks empathy and has a cold, rigid demeanor, Otis is a sadistic party animal, threatening to outshine his buddy as the more depraved of the two. In fact, Henry seems to like Otis’s sister, Becky (Tracy Arnold), who seems to bring out his better nature. At the same time, a maniac struggles to be normal, so we know his murderous impulses can easily creep out at any time.
Despite the existence of many gloriously unhinged films, Henry’s character carries a tension that few onscreen performances can match. You feel him seethe with hatred, and sense his need for an outlet. In fact, one can almost understand his sense of release when he attacks people, which is one of the scariest aspects of the film (especially the intense home invasion killing spree sequence, which Henry and Otis videotape to watch later). Depths of Depravity scale: 8.5/10.
9. The People Under the Stairs (1991)
The second Wes Craven film on this list, The People Under the Stairs is actually a horror-comedy and a pretty unique one at that. Due to the slapstick elements, one can easily forget that the two villains ?— Mommy (Wendy Robie) and Daddy (Everett McGill) Robeson ?— are really twisted. As they face off against Fool (Brandon Adams), Roach (Sean Whalen), Alice (A. J. Langer) and others, we come to see just how messed up these two are. For example, the “people under the stairs” are actually kids they kidnapped and locked in the basement when they misbehaved. If a child speaks ill, they cut out his tongue. If they see too much, they’ll be blinded. Those who hear too much are deafened. And, it goes on. Frankly, this idea alone could have inspired a number of potentially valid sequels. In fact, before his death, Craven was planning to have a TV series based on the film for the SyFy Channel. Depths of Depravity scale: 7.5/10.
10. 8MM (1999)
Boasting a minuscule 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Joel Schumacher’s 8MM is nevertheless an intense, dark, brooding thriller about a wealthy man who apparently made a snuff film. His widow, Mrs. Christian (Myra Carter), hires private investigator Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage) to investigate its authenticity. It turns out that yes, it’s the real deal. The question is, how will Mr. Welles deal with it? Will he just drop the matter or avenge the death of the girl (Jenny Powell) killed in the video? 8MM also features Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stormare and Catherine Keener. There are special appearances by Norman Reedus as the murdered girl’s lowlife ex, and an underrated performance by Chris Bauer as George Anthony Higgins/Machine, the kinky, masked masochist character who murders the girl on film but seems normal enough otherwise. Long story short, this is yet another movie that proves some critics dead wrong. Depths of Depravity scale: 7.6/10.
Are these films depraved enough for your blood? They’d better be, you sicko! Either way, let us know in the comments!