"The flesh is weak and the mind is strong, but torture the flesh and you destroy the mind."
— Tagline of The Red Cell
Any work which gives heavy, focused attention to Cold-Blooded Torture
and/or mutilation of someone. This is usually seen in Horror Films
these days, although it can be found in Exploitation Films
, as well as various other works, as long as seeing/reading/etc. people getting tortured is the point of the work.
This isn't to show how wrong it is, as much as to give the audience some visceral thrills. Thus works will give lots of details (whether written, verbal, or visual) of the torture.
Films of this type may inspire one to jump up and shout "The Aristocrats
!" just to break the tension.
Although the term was popularized in the early 2000s
with the rise of films focusing on this, the genre has been around for a lot longer.
Now despite the name not referring to actual pornography, some films have combined both (and have thus become notorious for it).
A Sister Trope
, Mutilation Interrogation
(and often overlaps with both), Cuckold
(the emotional equivalent).
Contrast Too Kinky to Torture
(the victim enjoys it more than anyone else).
Not to be confused with hardcore S&M (since the torture there is more playing around), nor finding torture to be Fetish Fuel
(although some suspect some of these films invoke that).
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Anime and Manga
- Franken Fran: In one episode Fran (unknowingly) takes part in a torture porn movie. When she realizes what she took part in (and that it involved an actor playing her creator), she punishes the director appropriately.
- Elfen Lied has dozen of characters' heads being ripped off by a naked girl for about 10 minutes straight. Guess what? That scene was the the first 10 minutes of the first episode.
- The first issue of Hack/Slash: The Series had Cassie being captured and mutilated by a torture porn-inspired slasher named Doctor Gross.
- Any adaptation of the Sylvia Likens case, which boils down to children raping and torturing another child to death under the guidance of an insane woman. Stephen King called The Girl Next Door (probably the most infamous of the films) one of the most disturbing and heart wrenching things he's ever seen.
- Most Nazisploitation, the probable Trope Maker for that being Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS.
- The Saw films. While the first film is actually fairly light on explicit gore, the sequels (especially from the third one on) most certainly aren't, and the series as a whole is the Trope Codifier for the genre.
- Hostel and its sequels.
- Anything from The Guinea Pig Collection, especially Flower Of Flesh and Blood, which was mistaken for a Snuff Film by Charlie Sheen.
- One of their followers of note is Tumbling Doll of Flesh, which adds unsimulated sex to the proceedings, so we get to see a women be violated through various means as she is taken apart piece by piece.
- Ichi the Killer, when Kakihara or the twins are around.
- The French film Martyrs (which a lot seem to categorize as "too good to be mere torture porn") starts as a bloody revenge flick on a seemingly normal family, devolves into humiliation torture, and ends with the martyr being graphically skinned alive, left to hang that way, and her long-sought otherworldy revelations driving her captor to suicide.
- The Human Centipede and its sequel.
- Mel Gibson got this kind of reputation through his movies The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto, which both featured prolonged and graphic scenes of torture, punishment and human sacrifice. Critics of the former often nicknamed it "The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre" for its extreme violence. Some touch on the "Porn" aspect of "Torture Porn" as well regarding Passion, with David Edelstein calling it tantamount to a snuff film and Stephen King pointing out that its violence is taken to a fetishistic level.
- Certain Giallo films. Most don't feature gore, just minimal specific incidents of violence which could hardly be classified as torture porn, but some of the most extreme ones (on the borderline with the horror genre) such as Fulci's Non si sevizia un paperino (Don't Torture A Duckling) do qualify for this trope.
- Cannibal Holocaust contained scenes that were believable enough, at the time, to result in the arrest of the director, foreshadowing Charlie Sheen's snuff film fears by about twenty years. Includes rape with a foreign object followed by bludgeoning of the victim, dissection, cannibalism (of course), and an incredibly well-designed impalement scene which still is occasionally posted online as a real occurrence. To make it worse, all the animals that died in the movie were actually killed, leading to the "No Animals Were Harmed In the Making of this Film" disclaimer at the end of every movie; and the director made all the cast sign contracts to keep out of public sight and take no new work for a year to help sell the illusion that the film was genuine.
- The director in fact had to bring the actors onto a talk show to prove that he hadn't actually killed them during filming.
- Pink Flamingos, the film to start with if you're interested in the work of John Waters, plays with this trope mockingly. One scene, one very long and uncomfortable scene, features a man having sex with a chicken (resulting in bloody lacerations for the nude gentleman and an onscreen death for the chicken), and another features what can best be described as "a heartwarming torture sequence wherein women are beaten in a basement and raped with a turkey baster, with the resulting babies being sold to lesbians." Thankfully, John Waters is parodying the "True Crime" genre, so it's usually meant to be (disturbingly) funny.
- The Last House on the Left: Most of its drama comes in the form of the torture and rape of two young women.
- I Spit on Your Grave, probably the most infamous Rape and Revenge movie of all time.
- Carver, which is about a hillbilly Snuff Film maker prone to mutilating some of his victims through means that include pliers to the balls, or a nail hammered into a bodypart, then wrenched out and hammered in again.
- The works of Lucifer Valentine, collectively known as "The Vomit Gore Trilogy".
- An Experiment in Torture, the plot of which is just "strippers are captured and tortured to death."
- Hardgore, a 1974 pornographic film, combines huge amounts of gore with literal porn. Orgies and beheadings go on at the same time. A truly insane flick.
- Hardgore is probably the most infamous of the "roughies", a type of feature-length and story-based porn that combines rough sex with violence and bloodshed (sometimes allowing the filmmakers to market their creations as thrillers or horror). Some more vintage ones are Forced Entry, Sex Wish, Wet Wilderness and Water Power, and some contemporary examples are Baise Moi, In the Days of Whore, Manniac and Slaughter Disc.
- Train, which begins with a man being skinned alive.
- Captivity. Chiefly notorious for its incredibly tasteless marketing campaign, which led Joss Whedon and Jill Soloway to campaign for the film to be re-rated. Its critical and commercial failure ended up killing off the genre in mainstream cinema releases, and did lasting damage to the careers of both its star Elisha Cuthbert and director Roland Joffe.
- The Sinful Dwarf
- W Delta Z and it's American counterpart, Scar 3D.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
- The Collector and its sequel.
- Memorial Day at first seems to be a fairly standard slasher film, but then it develops a mean streak when the villain stops outright killing people and begins mutilating and torturing them, forcing one girl to crawl across razor blades while he beats with a hot metal bar.
- Sick Girl, which has what is possibly the most disturbing girl on girl rape scene ever.
- The "fucked up fondue" scene in Wrong Turn 4 Bloody Beginnings, along with a few other instances, like death via electroshock, and dismemberment on a makeshift, barbed wire rack.
- Offspring and its pseudo-sequel, The Woman.
- The Uwe Boll film Seed, infamous for a scene in which a woman is beaten with a hammer for five uninterupted minutes.
- Cannibal, the film adaptation of the strange case of Armin Meiwes, the man who found someone willing to be killed and cannibalized. Apparently mind-shatteringly horrifying, to the point that it could probably be easily mistaken for the actual recording Meiwes made of his crime, which drove the jurors who saw it to psychological counseling.
- That film's maker would later go on to create The Angel's Melancholy, an even more horrifying depraved "art" film that some have called the most repulsive motion picture ever concieved. To quote one review:
"There is no plot or comprehensible meaning to speak of, there is no rationale, philosophy or understandable characters, just very broken people doing disgusting things in an 'artistic
' movie. I would have liked to say that the movie merely depicts very disturbed people, cruelty and vileness, but the movie actually revels in it and seems to think of this as art and emotional pathos".
- Unthinkable: Nuclear bombs are set to go off, and it's up to Samuel L. Jackson to torture their whereabouts out of the man who planted them.
- Many of Lucio Fulci's films, especially The New York Ripper, where a stripper is killed by having a broken bottle ground into her crotch.
- Scrapbook: A sadistic psychopath abducts women, tortures them, and forces them to chronicle their experiences in a book he is deluded enough to think he can get published.
- The Bunny Game. Though there the focus is more on extreme psychological torture and humiliation, that isn't to say there isn't some physical abuse.
- A Serbian Film, which is even more unsettling due to the abuse being sex-related, and involving children. There's a reason why we had to cut the tropes and lock the film's page — there was just no way to describe the film's content without getting out of Family Friendly territory.
- A few attempts at Black Comedy torture pornos include Otis, Neighbor and The Loved Ones.
- A group of people are captured and forced to mutilate themselves in order to produce endorphins in Vile.
- Detention parodies the genre with the Film Within a Film Cinderhella, which can be roughly described as a teen slasher version of Saw, complete with that series' ridiculous traps.
- American Psycho, though not the film based on it.
- Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk - "Guts" is one of the featured short stories.
- There's a reason that Jack Bauer from 24 has a trope named after him. The ways in which he acquires information from his prisoners - and how these ways are both shown and described - fall about as close to this category as one can get on network television.
- The occasional short on 1000 Ways to Die.
- Masters Of Horror, especially the second season.
- The Doctor Who story "Vengeance on Varos", which depending on your view is either a prescient satire on the genre or an early, ugly example. By earlier, milder standards "The Deadly Assassin" had quite a lot of torture scenes.
- Theon's subplot in season 3 of Game of Thrones devolves into this.
- Parodied in Lovebites. In "Coming Attractions", the protagonist couple Max and Katie are watching previews in the theater, when the trailer for a movie called Open Hearts comes up. It looks like a romantic drama at first, but it quickly turns out that the boyfriend in the movie is a depraved Serial Killer who proceeds to graphically torture the woman to death in very prolongued fashion while laughing psychotically. The two are rather disturbed by it.
- The base-breaking Six Feet Under episode "That's My Dog", in which David is kidnapped, sexually-assaulted, tortured and nearly killed by a psychopathic hitch-hiker.
- The music video for the Eminem song "3 a.m." was described as this by New York Magazine.
- Big Finish Doctor Who dives into this trope on occasion. The episodes "Spare Parts", "Jubilee", "Scherzo","The Creed Of The Kromon" and "The Natural History Of Fear" (the last three of which follow each other directly) immediately come to mind.
- The Fifth Doctor is a frequent recipient of torture in Big Finish in general, to the point where it hardly even fazes him anymore. His very first episode had him breaking his leg, being strapped into a torture device and screaming in agony in the background for an entire scene while Seven and Six calmly discussed how to save the day.
- Some of the scenes in Survival of the Fittest can fall into this, particularly in earlier versions. In more recent history, handlers have been attempting to avert this due to both realism and good taste. However, you still get moments where Gorn conspicuously comes up in a manner similar to this trope.
- The Cinema Snob reviews some of these films, and even admits the term was just made up by snobs like him so they could look down on modern horror movies* .