There is no shortage of bizarre, creepy, scary, horrific, or disturbing stories when it comes to the cinematic world. There is no end to what the imagination can conjure if you’re aim is to scare the bejesus out of the audience.
However, when it comes to the horror genres, your ability to differentiate fiction from reality can get twisted. You could end up mixing both or mistaking one for the other.
These types of horror movies leave a lasting impression even after the credits roll. But despite their greatness, they too can have dire consequences not only for the moviegoers but those involved with the production. They either end up getting lauded or banned. Here we take a look at those films that were too scary, horrific, or disturbing that certain countries banned their release.
The Exorcist (1973)
Linda Blair set the stage for what a young girl possessed with an evil spirit should look and act like. Her performance in this horror classic spawned generations of copycats decades later. But nothing could have prepared moviegoers when they first saw this in theatres.
It was so sacrilegious in its treatment of the crucifix and the agent of God, here portrayed by the late Max von Sydow. It was too disturbing and heartbreaking to see an innocent 12-year old go through the painful experience of possession. Adding to the horror was the notion that the movie was cursed. Several cast members either died after filming or got injured on the set.
The 360-degree head twisting, wall climbing, and other acrobatic maneuvers from the possessed may look funny now. But back then it was fresh in the eyes and deeply frightening on a deep level. It was enough to cause fainting, vomiting, and hysteria from the audience.
Thus, the Catholic Church condemned “The Exorcist” because of its vile depiction of the devil and the use of the crucifix to mutilate the girl. Critics reviled it and gave it an X-certificate (forbidden to show to anyone below 18 years old).
Likewise, it was eventually banned in the U.K. from home video release. Even the original trailer was also banned for being too disturbing for the viewers. It was only in 1999 that it officially came out on home video with an uncut version. It also aired on British TV for the first time in 2001.
Director: William Friedkin – Screenplay: William Peter Blatty – Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow – Run Time: 2h 2m
The Evil Dead (1981)
Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead,” both the original and the remake, were so campy and over-the-top. It’s a wonder why critics deemed it necessary to ban it. Initially screened for the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) in 1982, the film split decision on officials. There were those who thought it cannot be taken seriously while some found it nauseating.
The board determined it needed 49 seconds’ worth of cuts before they allowed its release. It was eventually also banned in Singapore, Finland, and Ukraine for graphic violence, gore, and sex. It wasn’t until 2001 that its uncut version became available in the U.K.
“The Evil Dead” was remarkably creepy and downright terrifying back then. But now it falls under comedic horror.
Director: Sam Raimi – Screenplay: Sam Raimi – Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Richard DeManincor– Run Time: 1h 25m
“Possession” falls under the label of “video nasty” because it is extremely unsettling. The film centers on a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. The wife starts to display disturbing behavior after she asked to divorce her husband. What starts as suspicions of infidelity soon quickly devolves into something more terrifying and of the supernatural. This is one marital horror no one wants.
The U.K. banned the film following a limited theatrical run. It didn’t release on home video until 1999. Even the U.S. release had 40 minutes of the film scrapped. This ultimately turned the movie into a psychologically bewildering and challenging piece impossible to understand.
Director: Andrzej Zulawski– Screenplay: Andrzej Zulawski – Cast: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Margit Carstensen, Heinz Bennent – Run Time: 2h 4m
I Spit On Your Grave (1972)
“I Spit On Your Grave” hardly falls under the horror genre to this day and even in the 1970s. It doesn’t involve possessions or the supernatural. Instead, it delves into one woman’s thirst for revenge on the thugs who raped her and left her for dead. The great lengths she went to exact her revenge is what makes the film horrific: she cut, chopped, burned bodies, and more.
Originally released as “Day of the Woman,” this movie has become a feminist cult classic that spawned several sequels and iterations decades later. As always, nothing beats the classics, and this one even received a lot of negative response that it had to be banned. Norway, Iceland, West Germany, and Ireland banned it because of its graphic depiction of sexual abuse and brutal violence.
Moreover, it drew criticism for seemingly glorifying violence against women. It especially sparked violent reactions for its 30-minute gang rape scene. The movie was prohibited from release because of its controversial yet eye-opening look into the dark and real traumas women endure especially in a male-dominated society.
Director: Meir Zarchi– Screenplay: Meir Zarchi – Cast: Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace, – Run Time: 1h 41m
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Nothing speaks more horror than gore and everything that involves blood, graphic acts of murder, or brutal violence. Like “I Spit On Your Grace,” this one also turned into a cult classic that gave birth to several slasher flicks and the iconic Leatherface. But here you don’t find a vengeful character but a saw-wielding maniac who craves human blood and flesh.
The story follows five friends who head to rural Texas to visit a relative’s graveyard. On the way home, they stumble upon what they thought was a deserted house, only to discover that it is inhabited by a family of cannibals. The story turns into a game of cat and mouse, hunter vs. prey, as the friends fight to survive.
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was so disturbing that several countries banned it including Chile, France, Norway, Iceland, Ireland, West Germany, Brazil, Singapore, and Ukraine. The U.K. also banned it and eventually released it without cuts in 2001. Even Australia forbade the release of its 1986 sequel for two decades.
Director: Tobe Hooper– Screenplay: Tobe Hooper, Kim Henkel – Cast: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger, Gunnar Hansen – Run Time: 1h 23m
Faces of Death (1978)
This film’s VHS packaging labeled it “banned in 46 countries” only it may have only been banned in a few. The BBFC though found it as a “video nasty” for its disturbing level of gore and perceived promotion of violence. Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Finland, and the U.K. banned its release.
The movie is basically a collection of death scenes that involve both humans and animals. It has no shortage of grotesque images including bodies being sliced open during an autopsy, electrocution, and sheep dying in pain while hanging from meathooks. It also has images of beheading, cannibalism, and more.
One awful scene in a restaurant involves a group of people beating the head of a monkey with a hammer until it died. They then cut the top of its head and ate its brains. It was so revolting and so shocking even for a non-animal lover.
Possibly what made it horrific and upsetting was the documentary approach, which led people to believe the scenes were real. The movie even spurred a murder in 1986 when a 14-year old lured a classmate into the woods and beat him to death with a baseball bat after he watched “Faces of Death.”
Director: John Alan Schwartz– Screenplay: John Alan Schwartz – Cast: Michael Carr, Samuel Berkowitz, Mary Ellen Brighton, John Alan Schwartz – Run Time: 1h 45m
The BBFC refused to give this Japanese film any rating and considered its distribution or selling as illegal. They considered it too dangerous for anyone to watch and thus prohibited its release.
As its name entails, this movie is so grotesquely disturbing. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart as it involves scenes of amputation, eye-gouging, sexual sadism, and more. The story follows the brutal torture of a couple in the hands of a psychotic doctor who takes sexual pleasure in their pain and suffering. The U.K banned it for being too sadistic for its own sake.
Director: Kōji Shiraishi– Screenplay: Kōji Shiraishi – Cast: Tsugumi Nagasawa, Shigeo Osako, Hiroaki Kawatsure, Kotoha Hiroyama – Run Time: 1h 13m
Salò/120 Days of Solomon (1975)
Set in the Republic of Salò under Benito Mussolini, the film follows a group of depraved elites who kidnap nine adolescent boys and girls. They then subject them to extreme physical, mental, and sexual torture for 120 days.
This movie is something you’d want to watch just once because of its explicit scenes of rape, nudity, murder, and dehumanization. As such, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand banned it for decades after its release for being highly disturbing.
Director: Pier Paolo Pasoliniōji – Screenplay: Pier Paolo Pasoliniōji, Sergio Citti– Cast: Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi, Uberto Paolo Quintavalle – Run Time: 1h 57m
The Human Centipede 2 (2011)
A disturbed man fulfills his dream of creating a 12-person human centipede in this sequel that went over the top with its quest to generate revulsion. It was brutal, disturbing, and horrific in its gross-for-the-sake-of-gross storyline. So much so, that the U.K initially banned it, and only released it with 2 and a half minutes of cuts.
Meanwhile, Australia called for 30 seconds of edits. But to this day it is still prohibited from release or distribution in New Zealand. Director Tom Six expressed his disbelief at the lack of appreciation as he said in a statement, ” Apparently I made a horrific horror film, but shouldn’t a good horror film be horrific?”
Director: Tom Six – Screenplay: Tom Six– Cast: Laurence R. Harvey, Ashlynn Yennie, Maddi Black, Kandace Caine – Run Time: 1h 31m
Hostel (2005) Hostel 2 (2011)
The idea of backpacking has never been more tainted than in “Hostel” and “Hostel 2.” The film follows three backpackers as they head to Slovak city with a promise to meet their hedonistic expectations. But what they don’t expect is the hell that awaits them.
Europeans thought the films destroyed the continent’s reputation and painted it as a death trap for tourists. Ukraine banned both movies for their sick depiction of its neighborhood. Meanwhile, New Zealand and Germany banned the uncut version of the sequel. This slasher flick needed to have a sufficient amount of cuts especially those that showed extreme scenes of torture, death, and violence.
Director: Eli Roth – Screenplay: Eli Roth– Cast: Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson, Lauren German, Heather Matarazzo, Bijou Phillips– Run Time: 1h 34m
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
This found-footage horror film was considered so notorious that it remains banned to this day. The movie is presented as a mockumentary, which tells the story of a missing film crew who ventured into the Amazon. During a rescue mission, a professor stumbles upon a film shot by the crew.
This film garnered controversy because of its depictions of violence and death. But what really pushed it to the edge was the actual killings of animals, even a tortoise. The animal killings made the deaths of the characters on screen believable. Director Ruggero Deodato even had the actors sign a contract that they would disappear for a year to make their “deaths” real.
This agreement led to the director’s near imprisonment after his arrest at the film’s premiere in Milan in 1980. He had to bring out the actors from their hiding and show the behind-the-scenes behind their fake deaths to prove his innocence.
Still, Italy banned the “Cannibal Holocaust” and other countries including New Zealand, Australia, Finland, and Norway shared the same sentiment. The U.K. only allowed its release in censored form.
Director: Ruggero Deodato – Screenplay: Gianfranco Clerici– Cast: Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen – Run Time: 1h 35m
A Serbian Film (2010)
It’s not surprising that several countries banned this film because of its utter revolting orgy of carnal violence. The movie centers on an aging pornstar who’s called to make what he thinks is an art film. But it turned out to be his worst nightmare.
The movie is horrifying in its seeming glorification of child pornography. It features a scene of the rape and murder of an infant, sex with corpses, and the protagonist being tricked to sexually abuse his own child. Germany, Norway, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Spain, and Singapore banned it. Other countries required that it be censored prior to release.
Director: Srdjan Spasojevic – Screenplay: Srdjan Spasojevi, Aleksandar Radijojevic– Cast: Srdjan ‘Zika’ Todorovic, Sergej Trifunovic, Jelena Gavrilovic – Run Time: 1h 35m