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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".

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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).
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  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: Many films in this subgenre use fake blood measured in gallons.
  • 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:

    open/close all folders 

    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 — Live-Action 
  • 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).
  • Zombi 2 features some of the most viscerally disgusting zombies within the subgenre, showing off Fulci's love of gore through rotting, worm-eaten effects makeup that can make the unprepared viewer's stomach churn even before they get to the impaled eyeball scene.
  • 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:
    • The Evil Dead starts the series with a splash, with its shoestring budget and grocery-store gore effects combining into a bloody mess that earned it the title of most violent film in 1979 and a comfortable spot on the Video Nasties list. From a simple pencil jabbed into the ankle, to the dismemberment of the demonically-possessed Deadites, to a finale featuring claymation demons melting like really gory candle wax, it's no wonder the crew struggled with the MPAA to not get an X rating, even with the multicolored Deadite blood.
    • 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.
    • Evil Dead (2013), which is bloodier by far than the original series and features graphic dismemberments and mutilations (some self-inflicted), including a more brutal version of the original's tree-rape scene.
  • Re-Animator and its sequels are billed as some of the goriest films of all time, packing their run-times with so much blood, guts, transgressive sexuality, and pitch-black humor that Stuart Gordon elected to start his own studio rather than subject his vision to censors and risk it getting edited into oblivion. When an opening scene featuring exploding eyeballs is considered one of the tamer gags, you know you're in for a wild ride, as proven when the climax redefines "giving head".
  • 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.note 
  • The Toxic Avenger, known as the film that built the house of Troma, is a superhero black comedy splatter film that marked the point when Troma transitioned from sex comedies to exclusively horror films. It takes elements from the teen and superhero genres and turns them up to their most gruesome extreme, including high school bullies that deliberately run over a kid on a bicycle so that his head is smashed like a watermelon, toxic waste that just happens to be sitting around turning a 98-pound weakling into a deformed superhero who eventually gets a blind girlfriend, said superhero fighting crime through graphic dismemberment and bloodshed, and generally all of the schlockiest special effects one could possibly stomach. This film went on to spawn a franchise that spanned four movies, a short-lived animated series (!), a musical (!!), and a beat-em-up video game.
  • 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 franchise 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.
  • The Dead Snow films feature Norwegian hikers versus Nazi zombies, both of which seem to be Made of Plasticine. Naturally this results in members of both groups getting torn apart in showers of blood and limbs. In the second film, the undead Nazis even use a length of intestine from one of their victims to siphon fuel from a crippled vehicle to a more viable one.
  • The Belko Experiment starts with the concept of a white-collar take on Battle Royale and runs with it to its bloody end, featuring exploding heads, bloody, over-the-top murders (including one character getting his face obliterated with a fire ax on-screen), and gruesome injuries even among those that aren't instantly killed. The film dances all over the Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror, ultimately averaging out somewhere in the realm of a blood-splattered Black Comedy.
  • The Green Inferno, coming from the unholy union of Eli Roth and the cannibal film, starts off relatively tame, but takes a hard left when the protagonists are captured by the cannibal tribe they were trying to same from deforestation, starting with the gruesome dismemberment of a still-living Jonah (starting with the village elder extracting and eating his eyes and tongue) and continuing from there with increasing physical and psychological brutality. Some of it is played for Black Comedy (as with the death of Lars, when he is swarmed by a tribe of stoned cannibals with the munchies), but most of it is just gleeful gore and violence, as befitting Roth's love letter to the subgenre.
  • Ravenous, being a borderline Black Comedy historical thriller about cannibalism, was not only so bloody that the production ran out of fake blood during the climactic battle, but also presents meat dishes with the same loving attention most films would give an eviscerated murder victim. In fact, one of the main themes is comparing human meat to animal meat, and considering the lead actor, the writer, and the director are all vegetarians, the honest disgust shown towards meat in general enhances horror of the cannibalism scenes nicely.
  • The Cube series of movies center around cubical mazes where some of the rooms contain brutal deathtraps that can take out the unwary in a number of creative ways, ranging from razor wire to flesh-eating bacteria to abstract four-dimensional rearrangements of spacetime. Figuring out the pattern behind the placement of the traps and how best to avoid them and not go splat provides much of the tension.
  • The Italian supernatural revenge film Adam Chaplin centers around the title character's quest for revenge against the mob boss who had his wife murdered via immolation. He enlists the assistance of a demon who sits just behind his shoulder, and who gives him super-speed and super-strength, allowing him to rip off limbs, impale victims, and beat people to a literal pulp with his bare hands, resulting in frequent deluges of blood. Bear in mind, Adam is the protagonist.
  • The Hatchet films are modern throwbacks to the gleefully gory, cheesy slasher films of the 1980s, featuring the monstrously strong and deformed antagonist Victor Crowley (played by slasher veteran Kane Hodder) ripping apart the Made of Plasticine main cast with his hands as much as with hunting tools both powered and unpowered. While a few kills get Gory Discretion Shots, plenty of brutality is shown onscreen, such as a woman getting her skull pulled open like a Pez dispenser, several people getting their heads pounded into chunky salsa with various blunt objects, and a fisherman getting a hole punched into his stomach and his guts pulled out.
  • While the first half of The Fly (1986) is fairly tame, the second half takes a messy hard left as Seth Brundle's fusion with the housefly causes a grotesque transformation into a human/fly hybrid: his teeth and hair fall out, he accidentally pulls out a fingernail and then squirts pus out of the denuded fingertip, his skin becomes lumpy and almost tumorous, and he becomes unable to digest solid food, forcing him to essentially vomit up stomach acid on a potential meal and slurp up the resultant slurry. In the end his human shape falls apart to reveal the hybrid form underneath, showcasing the squishiest of 80's special effects. Why yes, it was a David Cronenberg film, why do you ask?
  • Japanese splatter films tend to be especially crazy even within this subgenre, with their anime-inspired plot elements and special effects that range from schlocky and visceral to horrifyingly realistic (sometimes within the same movie). Some samples:
    • Ichi the Killer is an insane fever-dream of a yakuza film whose title character is capable of sexually-charged berserker rages that tend to leave his enemies as little more than a fresh coat of paint on the walls. Add to this a sadomasochistic dandy with a pierced Glasgow Grin named Kakihara who is willing to hang people up by hooks as a prelude to torturing them, and who is equally eager to cut off the tip of his own tongue in penance (shown in gory technicolor), and it's hard to know who to root for amid the bloodbath... but at least fans of Japanese splatter will have a blast.
    • Splatter: Naked Blood starts with an experimental painkiller that turns pain into pleasure, given to three women during a trial of a new birth control. This leads two of the women to mutilate themselves in a blissful bloodbath: one of them cutting off bits of herself (especially erogenous zones) and eating them, and the other piercing her flesh with anything pointy she can get her hands on until she looks like a Cenobite from a jewelry boutique.
    • The Guinea Pig films are a series of six Japanese horror films from the 1980s and 1990s that gained global notoriety mainly for the first two films (The Devil's Experiment and Flower of Flesh and Blood), which led to the producer needing to prove that nobody was actually hurt or killed during the graphic torture and dismemberment sequences, as well as for the sixth film (Devil Woman Doctor) being found in the possession of Japanese serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki. In particular, Flower of Flesh and Blood scared Charlie Sheen so badly that he called the FBI to report a snuff film.
    • Tokyo Gore Police centers around a world where people called Engineers are able to produce weapons out of any injury. The Engineer Hunters fighting this menace are assisted by Ruka, who has become very good at killing them during her hunt for the assassin that killed her father. However, the plot can easily get lost in the Body Horror, cannibalism, self-harm, High-Pressure Blood that allows people to fly, and state-sanctioned sadism on display. Fortunately, a curious viewer gets an early warning in case he has a weak stomach: the first exploding head occurs a bit over a minute in.
  • Street Trash is a splatstick exploitation film centered around a liquor store owner who starts selling bottles of Tenafly Viper from the 1920s to the homeless for a dollar a pop... with the minor drawback that anyone who drinks the booze soon melts into a puddle of steaming day-glo ooze while screaming in horror. Of course, since the creators state that they wanted to offend as many people as possible, this only provides a loose framework for other gags like implied necrophilia,a cop deliberately vomiting on a mafia boss he just fought, and a game of keep-away involving a character's torn-off manhood.
  • Cabin In The Woods offers a moderate amount of bloodshed in the first half, as befits a Standard Slasher Film, but when Dana hits the "Purge" button and unleashes every single monster archetype into the complex... well, the sequence isn't called "The Carnage" for nothing.

    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. Herbert's many followers in 1980s Britain included Shaun Hutson, Guy N Smith, and Graham Masterton.
  • Even the Doctor Who Expanded Universe got into this with the Past Doctor Adventures novel Rags by Mick Lewis, in which a demonically-possessed undead punk rock group create a Hate Plague near every gig they play, with spectacularly gruesome results. It's one of the darkest works under the Doctor Who banner in any medium.
  • From sci-fi author Asi Hart:

    Theater 
  • Grand Guignol theater is the Ur-Example of splatter horror, offering gory special effects in the portrayal of bleak storylines like Titus Andronicus. It eventually closed in the The '60s from not only competition from the movies and TV, but also with the discovery of Nazi Germany's perpetration The Holocaust; after a horror like that happening for real, the theatre's shows felt terminally upstaged.

    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.
  • The Mortal Kombat series first made its mark on video game history by adding blood and gore to the versus fighting genre, to the point where Moral Guardians immediately decried its potential harm to any children that might stumble across it. From showers of blood knocked off combatants with every punch or kick to over-the-top fatalities frequently send blood, limbs, organs and several skeletons' worth of bones in all directions. It really says something when guest fighters like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger look restrained by comparison.
  • Dead Space drops hapless engineer Isaac Clarke in the middle of the intersection between Event Horizon and Resident Evil, forcing him to face down the dead-ish crew of the Ishimura in the form of Necromorphs that can only be defeated by dismembering them with power tools or stomping on them—a process which is exactly as messy as it sounds.
  • CarnEvil is a light gun rail shooter that has the player menaced by freakish carnival... creations that embody Malevolent Mutilation and Body Horror even before you shoot them into bloody pieces. One can almost smell the gore in certain levels, even through the cartoony graphics.
  • The 1986 arcade shooter Chiller is legendary for being banned virtually everywhere, and distills splatter horror down to its 8-bit core, offering up bound torture victims that the player can shoot at to open bloody wounds or set off traps and torture devices to mutilate them.
  • The God of War games offer this in spades as the Villain Protagonist Kratos plows his way through humans and mythical monsters alike with all the brutality of a wheat thresher with anger management issues. Many of his finishers involve ripping off a Gorgon's head or force-feeding a minotaur one of his chain-blades, and even the gods and godlike beings he faces down are torn to pieces, with the only concession to their higher power level being how long he has to beat on them with how many power-ups. The death of Poseidon in particular is pretty brutal even for the series, as Kratos beats his face in with his bare hands, shown from Poseidon's ever-messier point of view.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • Mr. Pickles offers us the Black Comedy adventures of an adorable border collie who just loves his owner Tommy Goodman... when he isn't using innocent bystanders as fodder for his demonic sadism. People get mutilated and flayed alive in punishment for often relatively minor offenses, but mainly anyone who would threaten or insult Tommy.

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