9 Halloween films that were so scary they got banned
It's coming up to Halloween; the time of year where we all get dressed up and find ways to scare the living hell out of one another. It's the one holiday in which we're encouraged to indulge in cosplay; where we're allowed to fully embrace our fear factor and publicly exhibit a love for the gruesome, the morbid, and the macabre. If you really enjoy getting your adrenaline pumping, then the best way of freaking yourself out is by watching some Halloween films. When it comes to scary movies, I consider myself something of an expert, but for seasoned horror junkies like me, it isn't enough to just sit in front of any old spookathon. Nah, for us it has to be the absolute crème de la crème of terror; the movies that were so pants-wettingly scary, so morbidly horrible, that they were actually outright banned.
Yes, in a more innocent age, the suppression, censorship and seizure of certain films, dubbed "video nasties" by moral guardian Mary Whitehouse, was fairly commonplace, and one could expect many of these movies to have been made unavailable. Now however, when the internet is so ubiquitous and leaks and torrents are fairly commonplace, it's a lot easier to obtain the offensive footage. So if you're in the mood for something a bit more intense than the norm, check out some of the most famous banned Halloween films. Be warned: the following trailers contain scenes that some may find upsetting. Viewer discretion is advised.
1. The Evil Dead - Sam Raimi
Although the later movies were a lot more tongue-in-cheek, and were more concerned with making Bruce Campbell's character of Ash Williams into the world's biggest action hero badass, people forget that the very first Evil Dead movie was an out-and-out horror flick, in which a group of hapless college students accidentally bring the dead back to life by reading from a cursed book known as the Necronomicon. In the UK the film was one of the first films deemed to be a video nasty, and was banned until 1990.
2. Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Tobe Hooper
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the film that turned a gardening tool into the ultimate movie monster weapon, and yet despite the bloodthirsty title, Tobe Hooper's low-budget indie hit is surprisingly subdued. It's all about underplaying and implying violence, building tension and dread with little details and meticulous sound design. After its initial theatrical release, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was banned in the United Kingdom until the year 1999. That means it spent an amazing 25 years in limbo. Pretty crazy that anyone could ever outlaw Leatherface and his murderous family.
3. I Spit on Your Grave - Meir Zarchi
I Spit on Your Grave was a movie I can quite confidently say would never get made today. Some people see it as a bold and merciless revenge flick, others see it as offensive and tasteless shlock. The grindhouse exploitation flick portrays murder, rape and torture, and as such was banned in Ireland, Norway, Iceland, and West Germany upon release. It struggled to find a distributor, and even when it was released in the US, Australia, the UK and Canada, it was heavily censored and edited.
4. Straw Dogs - Sam Peckinpah
Much like Deliverance, Straw Dogs was the movie that made people afraid of the countryside. This controversial movie by Sam Peckinpah centres around milquetoast math teacher David Sumner (played by Dustin Hoffman) who moves to the English village where his wife was born. Shortly thereafter, a gang of local thugs repeatedly mock and intimidate David, which culminates in a graphic sequence in which they break into his house and sexually assault his wife. Because of the intense and graphic depiction of rape, this movie, much like I Spit On Your Grave, was deemed a video nasty in the UK 1984 and banned until 2002. It might not feature gruesome monsters or crazed serial killers, but there's no doubt about it: this movie is scary, and very few people can stomach it without being deeply affected.
5. Friday the 13th - Sean Cunningham
A lot of people dismiss Friday the 13th as nothing more than a cult cheesefest, but it helped to codify most of the well-known tropes of the slasher movie genre. Released in 1980 in an attempt to capitalise on the success of John Carpenter's horror debut Halloween, Friday the 13th made quite a stir among censors. In the United States, it's almost impossible for the certification board to outright ban a movie, due to the First Amendment's stringent free speech rules. But the MPAA was able to give Friday the 13th an X rating, which was tantamount to a ban. This meant that very few theatres wanted to show it, since X rated films were usually stigmatised as porn films.
6. Mikey - Dennis Dimster
This 1992 horror movie was mostly panned by critics upon release, but it remains banned in the UK even today due to its similarities with real-life. Starring Brian Bonsall as the eponymous problem child, the plot concerns a nine-year-old psychopath who murders his foster family in a fit of rage. Unfortunately, felonies perpetrated by children became an uncomfortable subject in Britain in the 1990s, after two ten years old boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, tortured and murdered toddler Jamie Bulger. The case provoked outrage in Britain, and even today it remains an uncomfortable talking point.
7. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer - John McNaughton
This chilling flick follows the exploits of the eponymous serial killer, based on real-life murderer Henry Lee Lucas, and its violent content meant that it struggled to find a distributor upon release and the MPAA also gave it an X-rating. It was banned outright in New Zealand and also in Australia until 2010 and 2005 respectively.
8. The Exorcist - William Friedkin
Few horror movies out there are as iconic as The Exorcist, which managed to shock and repulse moviegoers in equal measure. The Exorcist was deemed to be another video nasty in 1988, when VHS copies were removed from Blockbusters. It remained prohibited for 11 years, although the movie film occasionally played in small cinemas. The BBFC lifted the ban in 1999, stating "while still a powerful and compelling work, no longer had the same impact as it did 25 years ago."
9. Cannibal Holocaust - Ruggero Deodato
Cannibal Holocaust has been referred to as one of the most shocking and gory films ever made, not to mention the numerous incidences of real life animal cruelty involved in the filming. The film, which purports to be a real-life documentary in which a film crew is brutally killed by a tribe of cannibals in a far-flung rainforest, was banned in the UK, Australia, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, and several other countries in 1984 due to its graphic and sexual violence.
Be wary of watching some of these films if you're unprepared for outrageous or triggering content. You'll need to be brave as hell to make it through all nine examples above. If you're looking for something else to help terrify you this October, then check out these über-creepy artistic reinterpretations of pop culture characters.