We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
At TSR, our writers are all deeply disturbed and we have way too much time on our hands … or maybe that’s just me. No, it’s Bayer, too. And Nick. Jacob’s a bit, you know…strange. Okay, who am I kidding? We’re all completely bat sh*t. And with Repo Men hitting the theaters March 19, 2010 we thought it might be fun to put together a Top 7 list for surprise operations in movies, a la, amputations, organs getting torn out, etc. ad infinitum. So we put our twisted little minds together and after some consideration, a few hits of absinthe, and the obligatory sacrifice or two, we got ideas. Most of the ideas were rabid and had to be put down, but we managed to wrangle the last seven into maximum security.
7. Saw (2004)
Recap: Two men come to consciousness and realize they’ve been chained together in a dank basement with a dead body and a dull, rusty hacksaw. The saw isn’t sharp enough to make a dent in their chains, but it’ll work just fine on human flesh.
Reason: The very first Saw was an icy new take on slasher movies. Your typical slasher is evil and villainous and knows it. Jigsaw was the first psychopath who actually expected gratitude from the slashee, because he was teaching them to appreciate the life they had–you know, like Buddha or Jesus…except with some serious frontal lobe damage and a knack for warped electronics. And we get to sit there with Jigsaw’s main prisoners, Lawrence (Cary Elwes) and Adam (Leigh Whannell) until all civility is stripped away in the interest of self-preservation and the two men are willing to go to any and all barbaric lengths to make it out alive, if not in one piece. Ideally, the cavalry would come riding in before anything really horrible went down, but there is no cavalry–we get a bird’s eye view as Dr. Lawrence saws off his own leg to escape the shackles.
6. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Recap: A landmark of horror/humor commercial success, Shaun of the Dead follows Shaun (Simon Pegg) who is very busy with both a distressing breakup from his girlfriend and the zombie apocalypse.
Reason: Shaun of the Dead wasn’t predictable, because it was willing to kill off or infect any character, no matter how significant. With serious zombie movies, anyone’s fair game and you know it; with Shaun of the Dead, it was anyone’s guess who was going to bite the big one (or be bitten by the big one) from the first scene to the last. Did you EXPECT Shaun’s adorable little mum to turn into the slathering undead and need to be shot point-blank in the face? But the sloppy surgery that makes the list is when one of Shaun’s friends–who had been providing some comic relief up until that point–is seized by a horde of zombies and pulled backwards through a broken window. The zombies rip his stomach open and yank out rope upon bloody rope of his intestines before he disappears into the sea of snarling more-brainers without so much as a trace.
5. Hannibal (2001)
Recap: The sequel to the mind-blowing, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal (Anthony Hopkins) leaves a (relatively) quiet life-in-hiding in Italy and returns to the States in order to contact Agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore). One of Dr. Lecter’s surviving victims is trying to draw him out of hiding, by using Starling as the bait.
Reason: As far as I know, Hannibal was one of our very first dapper, discerning cannibals. Typically, cannibals have been discriminated against as wild-eyed, screaming savages, until Dr. Lecter came along to teach us all not to judge a book by its epidermal cover. If you prick them, do they not bleed?…and then start feeding on each other over a nice glass of Romanee Conti? And everyone agreed: it had to be the scene where Hannibal removes Paul Krendler’s scalp (Ray Liotta) and then feasts on his brain while Krendler (still alive) sits there passively and wonders what smells so darned good.
4. Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)
Recap: The Bride (Uma Thurman) is part of an elite squad of ninja-like assassins. When she tries to leave the group for a normal life, the big boss-man, Bill (David Carradine), orders her execution. The Bride is comatose for several years and when she comes to consciousness, she sets out to slay everyone involved in the attempt on her life.
Reason: You can’t have this sort of list without Tarantino. It’s like throwing a party without lampshade guy–where’s the fun in that? Except, body parts are always getting lopped off in Tarantino movies, so I had to pick just one. With Tarantino, the emphasis is on the action sequence, leading up to a climactic moment of gut-wrenching violence and he carries it off like a conductor at a symphony; he’s not focused on the amputation, or the scalping, or the body parts being sliced off, because it’s all part of the meticulous choreography. Which brings us to the epic battle between The Bride (Thurman) and the cyclopean Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah). You have two very agile, lightning fast assassins confined in a mobile trailer; they are equally matched in ability and ferocity and they both have wicked swords. The fight lasts and lasts until Elle confesses to The Bride that she murdered Pai Mei, The Bride’s martial arts master–and The Bride tears out Elle’s remaining eye with one hand.
3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Recap: The second time around, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), the dashing, roguish archeologist, finds himself in India. He has to reclaim a mystical stone with connections to the Hindu Goddess Kali, in order to rescue children stolen from a village. Indie is pitted against the Thuggee–worshippers of Kali–in the devilish Temple of Doom.
Reason: Kali MAAAAA! Ah, the movie that inspired PG 13–too violent for kids, but not quite gory enough to justify the R-rating, and voila! A murky compromise was born. And Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom pushed the envelope right up to that line with a cornucopia of disturbing and demented: pregnant boa constrictor for dinner (the babies still alive, yum); secret hallways swarming with hundreds of thousands of bugs; cavernous hellholes; torture chambers; molten pits of fire; chanting, scary ethnic people (hey, it was the 80s, what can you do?). And it all culminates to the horrifying scene where Mola Ram (Amrish Puri), high priest wacko to Kali, actually tears some poor sacrifice’s heart out and then holds it up in triumph to the cheers of the brainwashed throngs. Yikes.
Recap: Mel Gibson breathes life into the story behind Scotland’s mythic hero, William Wallace. William Wallace’s (Gibson) life is chronicled from his early childhood, through the events of the First War of Scottish Independence, up until his brutal death at the behest of King Edward the First of England–also affectionately known as “Longshanks” (Patrick McGoohan).
Reason: You didn’t watch Braveheart, you experienced it. You plunked yourself down in the theater, interested in something mildly historical, popcorn and red vines in hand and then you were forcefully plugged into that story. It felt like a cinematic combination of the tragedy of the Hindenberg and Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech”–you were appalled, you were horrified, you were uplifted, you were inspired–you wanted to crawl into a hole and die, but you also wanted to high-five someone. Movies kill off people all the time and we shrug it off, but when Wallace is disemboweled, it was visceral for the whole audience. For those of us who’d invested the last three hours of our lives hoping Wallace would beat the odds, it was like Gibson had personally ripped all our guts out.
1. Hard Candy (2005)
Recap: A 14-year old girl named Hayley (Ellen Page) uses herself as bait in order to draw out any pedophiles in hiding. She attracts the attention of a photographer named Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson), accompanies him back to his house, and torments the hell out of him in an effort to get him to confess to killing another missing girl.
Reason: Uh-oh! It’s a chick controlling this list and you know what that means, fellas? That means the winner goes to our sweet-faced little Juno surgically removing a child rapist’s balls while he watches, incapacitated. Because I dare anyone to watch that incredibly drawn out scene, while Page calmly chats her victim up and then skillfully neuters him with a kitchen knife…try watching the whole scene without either covering your eyes or getting a little nauseated. It’s painful, it’s brutal, and it’s unapologetic; but what makes it so overwhelmingly grisly is how casual it all is. This isn’t Hayley’s first castration and it probably won’t be her last.