You can have your Hocus Pocus, your Addams Family Values, your Rocky Horror Picture Show — if you want to watch a legitimately terrifying movie this Halloween, you could do much worse than any of the eight films listed below. They were all banned in multiple countries for being too violent or too offensive or, in the case of The Human Centipede 2, too everything. Some of the movies are better than others (please don’t actually watch The Human Centipede 2), but they’re all more horrifying than your average episode of Sleepy Hollow.
1. The Last House on the Left (1972)
The late Wes Craven is probably best known these days for the Scream series. Half of those movies are excellent, but they pale in comparison to the first film he ever wrote and directed, The Last House on the Left. Don’t bother with the remake — stick with the original, which follows two young women as they’re abducted and tortured. Though an important horror milestone, the film’s hard to watch, sometimes literally; Last House was banned by the British Board of Film Classification, with BBFC Secretary Stephen Murphy writing, “We are not really saying that we object to particular passages in the film; we are saying that we find the whole feel of the film wrong, and that our judgement is taken over the film as a whole.” The ban has since been lifted, and then unlifted, multiple times.
2. I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
Speaking of terrible remakes, someone decided it was a good idea to update I Spit on Your Grave, probably because they wanted to put a butt on the poster. The 1978 original speaks for itself, and what it’s saying is: “This Woman Has Just Cut, Chopped, Broken, and Burned Five Men Beyond Recognition.” That’s the official tagline, which leaves out the part where the main character is raped for 45 minutes and then gets her revenge on the aforementioned five men by brutally murdering them, including one who gets his aroused penis cut off with a knife in the bathtub. Is Spit — which was banned in Ireland, Norway, Iceland, and Canada, among other countries — a misunderstood feminist masterpiece? Perhaps (its original title was Day of the Woman), but that critical reappraisal doesn’t make watching it an enjoyable experience.
3. A Serbian Film (2010)
A porn star named Milos agrees to appear in an “art” movie. That’s the premise of A Serbian Film, the “nastiest film ever made.” There are a lot of places you can go from there — director and writer Srdjan Spasojevic went with “the rape of the new-born baby [and] the scene in which the star decapitates a woman and continues to have sex with her headless torso.” Milos is also forced to punch a woman and ejaculate on her face and have sex with his own son. To escape his personal hell, he stabs a woman in the eye with his penis. Despite its unassuming title, A Serbian Film has been banned in Spain, Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore, and Netflix removed it from streaming.
4. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
How far was director Ruggero Deodato willing to go in Cannibal Holocaust, The Godfather of cannibal movies? The answer: Far. Made in a time before The Blair Witch Project and Jimmy Kimmel pranks, moviegoers thought the shaky found-footage in this Italian horror movie was real. (Only the needless animal cruelty was.) Deodato was even arrested and charged with obscenity; he received a four-month suspended sentence and had to prove what he filmed didn’t actually happen. Cannibal Holocaust has reportedly been banned at one time or another in 40 counties, including New Zealand, where it’s still a no-go.
5. The Evil Dead (1981)
People can’t appreciate the good things in life. For proof, look no further than the banning of The Evil Dead, Sam Raimi’s essential 1981 horror film that spawned two hilarious sequels, a remake, and an upcoming TV show. The acting successfully straddles the line between campy and genuine, the set pieces are inspired, and that chainsaw. Evil Dead was an immediate sleeper hit, and the surrounding controversy (it was banned in several European countries, mostly because of the tree-rape scene) only added to its must-see appeal.
6. Faces of Death (1978)
President Obama getting elected. Michael Jackson dying. The first time you saw Faces of Death. You’ll never forget where you were for any of them. There’s not much to the movie — it’s essentially a montage of death scenes — but in a pre-Internet world, if you wanted to understand the sick, twisted thrill that came with seeing the aftermath of car accidents, you put on Faces to Death. It became a lightning rod for controversy. Only about 60 percent of the on-screen death is real, but the film was allegedly “banned in 40+ countries,” although the actual number is likely far fewer. And even if the monkey scene was staged, it’ll stay with you forever.
7. The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) (2011)
The most recent film on this list, The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) is… well, you probably already know. And if you don’t, that would ruin the “fun,” assuming there was any “fun” to be found. Instead, viewers get mutilation, poop-mouths, babies getting smashed by cars, and a man wrapping his penis in barbed wire to rape a woman. The BBFC straight-up said no thanks, deeming the film “undoubtedly tasteless and disgusting.” They’re not wrong! Human Centipede 2 was, however, eventually released in the UK, although with nearly three minutes of cuts.
8. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Many of the films above aren’t very good. That’s not true of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, however, which is a stone-cold gruesome horror masterpiece that inspired a host of mostly terrible sequels and “reimaginings” and one great Ramones song. Director Tobe Hooper struggled to find a distributor, but his persistence paid off; Texas Chainsaw has earned more than $30 million to date on a $300,000 budget, making it one of the highest-grossing movies of 1974. That’s even more impressive when you consider how many countries it’s been banned in at some point, including the UK, Brazil, Australia, West Germany, Chile, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Singapore, and Sweden.