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Splatter Horror

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Horror based on extreme blood and guts.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
CosmicFerret on Jul 1st 2017 at 5:40:28 PM
Last Edited By:
Arivne on Aug 24th 2017 at 1:46:07 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

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 Exploitation Film.

Tropes associated with Splatter Horror:


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  • 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.
  • 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 below.

  • 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, as Creator 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).
  • 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.

  • 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.

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

Feedback: 15 replies

Jul 4th 2017 at 6:47:15 AM

Hey guys, is anything missing from this trope? I'm open to suggestions.

Jul 4th 2017 at 6:54:08 AM

It looks like there are a lot of Zero Context Examples that could use some explanation. Peter Jackson, especially, since most people know him for the Lord Of The Rings movies, and would be surprised to find out that he started his career making splatter films like Dead Alive and Bad Taste.

Jul 4th 2017 at 8:49:03 AM

Isn't this the same thing as Gorn?

Jul 8th 2017 at 12:14:11 PM

Okay, I've added some context to the various examples, including what influences, if any, they have on the genre.

Edit: Also added some clarification in the associated tropes.

Jul 8th 2017 at 12:31:30 PM

Video Games

Aug 17th 2017 at 10:17:51 AM

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.

Aug 18th 2017 at 3:10:28 AM

Mel Gibson's films display visceral violence with buckets of blood and every injury imaginable to make the sufferings his heroic characters go through in Braveheart, Apocalypto, The Passion Of The Christ, and Hacksaw Ridge horrifying so that their endurance in suffering is all the more admirable.

Aug 23rd 2017 at 11:52:11 AM

Is there anything else this trope needs? I just need two more hats to launch and I'm open to suggestions for further refinement.

Aug 23rd 2017 at 12:52:44 PM

I really can't see this as distinct from gorn, especially the colloquial definition of it. Especially especially since "splatter-fests" are 100% synonymous with gorn.

Aug 23rd 2017 at 3:54:29 PM

  • 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.

Aug 24th 2017 at 2:19:05 AM

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.

Aug 24th 2017 at 6:28:53 AM

^^ And that's exactly my point. Splatterhouse wasn't horror. It was definitely gorn.

Aug 24th 2017 at 12:15:32 PM

It seems that there would be a difference between the trope and the genre that uses it a lot. For example, the Mel Gibson film example above lists a number of gory films that aren't considered horror, though certain scenes are definitely horrific for the sake of drama.

Aug 24th 2017 at 12:19:16 PM

Gorn refers to both a gory scene and a genre.

Aug 24th 2017 at 2:52:59 PM

YMMV (as with comedy), but Splatterhouse was clearly meant to be scary (downright disturbing enemy designs, the fact it's effectivally a Cosmic Horror Story, etc), not simply graphic violence as a source of thrills.