Splatter Horror

Splatter Horror, the precursor to modern Torture Porn, is a type of horror that depends on violence and gore to accentuate the vulnerability of the human body and the art of its graphic dismemberment. Drawing on the aesthetic themes of Grand Guignol theatre, splatter horror as a genre movement has its roots in horror movies from the 1950s and 1960s, but the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis codified many of the tropes and imagery associated with what was then a new subgenre. Splatter horror grew in popularity in the 1970s, leading Moral Guardians to try to censor or ban such gory films, a move which led to the creation of the Video Nasties list. As movie special effects have improved, splatter horror has experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 2000s, in the form of Torture Porn and the works of Eli Roth. Incidentally, not all gore is played for drama or horror in these works; films where the violence and bloodshed is so over-the-top that it's played for laughs are known as "splatstick".

Splatter horror is not just a film genre: certain authors of extreme horror novels have adopted the term splatterpunk to describe works that include gory depictions of violence.

Subgenre of Horror and Sister Trope to Slasher Film and Exploitation Film.

Tropes associated with Splatter Horror:

  • Bloody Hilarious: In splatstick, the blood and guts are played for laughs.
  • Bloody Horror
  • Body Horror
  • Crosses the Line Twice
  • Gorn: One of the main elements of this genre, though while gorn is used to excite the viewer, splatter horror uses similar themes to upset or horrify the viewer.
  • Gory Deadly Overkill Title of Fatal Death: Many of the early splatter horror titles were gratuitously over-the-top, offering would-be viewers a good idea of what they were in for.
  • Kensington Gore: An initial component of splatter horror, due to censorship limitations and special effects limitations. As movie effects have improved, so has the realism of the gore (for better or worse).
  • Slasher Film: The genre most associated with splatter back in the 80s, which featured graphic violence in a Ten Little Murder Victims setup.
  • Torture Porn: In the 2000s, splatter was revived as this.


Examples:

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    Directors 
  • Herschell Gordon Lewis is considered the father of splatter films, using so much stage blood in his movies that they were labeled "two gallon" or "three gallon" pictures based on how much he ordered from his distributor.
  • Lucio Fulci shares Lewis' title as the "Godfather of Gore", as his giallo and horror films seldom pass up the opportunity for over-the-top gore, to either horrifying or unintentionally hilarious effect.
  • Peter Jackson is best known for his sweeping epic fantasies today, but when his career was first getting started he was responsible for splatstick films like Braindead (described in more detail below).
  • Eli Roth has stated that he wants to get back to the roots of horror from the 1970s and 1980s, especially the gore. As such, he was one of the forerunners of splatter horror's resurgence in the 2000s See Hostel and Cabin Fever below.

    Comic Books 
  • EC Comics is a pre-Comics Code horror publisher that used the visual medium to its fullest in gory, often horrifying ways to punctuate its stories, which included themes like cannibalism, live burial, body horror, and gruesome deaths (or gruesome survivals). Ultimately this led to a backlash from the Moral Guardians in the 1950s, which sought to tone down a lot of the gore and ultimately led to the closure of the publisher.

    Films 
  • Blood Feast, directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis, is considered the first splatter film, notable for its depictions of onscreen gore. As such, it is the oldest film to be included on the Video Nasty list.
  • The first splatter film to popularize the genre was Night of the Living Dead (1968), as George A. Romero attempted to replicate the gore and atmosphere of EC Comics on the big screen. Romero would later coin the term "splatter cinema" to describe his later film, Dawn of the Dead (1978).
  • Cannibal Holocaust is one of the more infamous examples of this trope in cannibal films, featuring on-screen violence and deaths so realistic at the time that the director was accused of making a snuff film. In addition, the film has drawn fire for featuring six genuine animal deaths on-screen, and even though the snuff accusations were disproven, the film has been heavily censored or banned outright in several countries.
  • Evil Dead 2, in line with the increasingly comedic tone of the series, featured gallons of stage blood of various colors and visual gags involving zombie parts as it essentially parodied its own (more straightfaced) prequel.
  • Braindead is one of the more infamous "splatstick" films, with grotesque special effects mainly surrounding the slow decomposition of Lionel's mother Vera and her victims, culminating in a climax that involves a chest-mounted lawnmower, a basement full of zombies, and the most stage blood that had ever been used in any film at that time.
  • Hostel was the first film in the Torture Porn resurgence of splatter horror in the 2000s, featuring a pair of college students who fall afoul of an organization of sadists while backpacking across Europe.
  • Saw and its sequels emphasize the psychological aspect of splatter horror, as Jigsaw forces his victims to survive gruesome deathtraps or mutilate themselves or others in order to escape, though as the series progressed, the focus became less on psychological horror and more on the gory setpieces.
  • The Cabin Fever movies feature a fast-moving flesh-eating virus working its way through the leads, leading to plenty of bloodshed and Body Horror as they literally disintegrate over the course of the movie.
  • The Final Destination centers around the laws of physics apparently Balancing Death's Books through deadly freak accidents. The first two movies were (relatively) realistic in the death scenes, while the third and fourth started to get rather cartoonish and over-the-top. The fifth movie dialed back the gore quite a bit after negative reactions to 4.

    Literature 
  • Apeshit, as a love letter to the slasher genre, features over-the-top descriptions of gore and dismemberment—made even more shocking and stomach-churning by the fact that the characters survive the brutality. Its sequel, Clusterfuck, cheerfully continues this trend.
  • James Herbert's The Rats was notorious at the time for bringing new levels of graphic descriptions of painful death and physical injury to horror novels.

    Theatre 
  • Grand Guignol theater is the Ur-Example of splatter horror, offering gory special effects in the portrayal of bleak storylines like Titus Andronicus.

    Video Games 
  • Until Dawn is a homage to classic Splatter Horror, featuring all of the classic tropes and cliches and a variety of very bloody and sometimes quite creative ways in which its main characters can meet their end. Interestingly, most deaths can be averted (only one death is hard-coded after the prologue), though doing so is very unlikely in the first playthrough.
  • Splatterhouse, as the name suggests, was essentially this aesthetic as a sidescrolling Beat 'em Up, with enemies being dismembered in showers of gore and Body Horror aplenty. While the original games are quite tame by modern standards, the original arcade game was still gory enough to draw the ire of Moral Guardians at the time.
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