The Most Cringe-Worthy Movie Moments

by Elizabeth Stammitti

Part 1: Bodyparts

The Achilles’ Tendon

This might be just me, but every time something happens to somebody’s Achilles’ Tendon in a movie, my whole body almost goes into shock. I know I’m probably missing many movies, but the ones with extremely powerful scenes regarding this barely noticed part of the anatomy are Pet Sematary and Hostel.

Pet Sematary

In Pet Sematary, we see little Gage, recently brought back from the grave, cutting Jud Crandall’s Achilles’ Tendon (amongst other parts of his body) with a scalpel. This scene is more efficient because of the two characters involved: we care for them, we have watched Louis Creed grieving for his dead baby and Crandall comforting him and becoming a father figure.
Crandall knows the possible catastrophic consequences of bringing back from the dead a human being, so when he is confronted with the kid, you can see first his determination to put an end to that atrocity and then pure terror at the sight of the boy holding the scalpel. Also, he’s an old man, so it’s an encounter between the two extremes of physical vulnerability, being the child the one who ultimately stays alive.

Hostel

Now, in Hostel, we have these bunch of regular Joes (with a lot of money) exploring and giving free reign to their most depraved fantasies, which include (almost exclusively) torturing and killing other human beings.
As it happened in Pet Sematary, there’s an older man in the scene, but this time he is the murderer and he chooses a young, lively but shy tourist, as his victim. One of the tortures he inflicts on the guy is cutting his Achilles’ Tendon, so he can’t escape even without being tied or handcuffed. The scene is made more pathetic and gruesome by showing the attempts of the young man to leave that place, when he is clearly doomed to die there.
Ankles
So, from the Achilles’ Tendon, we go to the ankles. Feet are one of the most vulnerable parts of our bodies because we really don’t pay attention to them, even though they take us everywhere. And that’s precisely why the lady in this next movie needs to break his victim’s ankles: she doesn’t want him to leave.
The movie is, of course, Misery.

Kathy Bates plays the part of an obsessed fan of famous author Paul Sheldon (James Caan). He has a car accident and Bates is kind enough to get him in her home and take care of him until he recovers… But recovering doesn’t mean leaving her house.
In this scene, Caan is lying on the bed, not really fit to go yet. Bates enters the room and starts talking about how she knows he has left his room a couple of times. She talks and talks while she puts a piece of wood between his ankles, but all you can do is wonder in terror what she’s going to do (even though you know the answer), and then, if you had any doubts of her conviction to keep him there, you see the sledgehammer she’s holding hitting his feet against the wood, breaking his ankles. That’s it, he might as well be dead.
Tongue
Midnight Meat Train

This horror flick is an adaptation of the eponymous short story written by Clive Barker. The plot revolves around a young photographer (Bradley Cooper) who finds out a man is killing people on the midnight train.
The movie isn’t overall too hard to watch, because the especial effects are mostly done with CGI and, sadly, they don’t look real enough (which is the low point of an otherwise good horror film), but the scene I’m going to pick is really well done: somebody’s tongue is grabbed and pulled until it comes out with a gush of blood… and then it’s eaten.

Part 2: Sex & Violence

Rape scenes

This type of scenes are probably the most uncomfortable to watch for everyone, regardless of your gender, and The Girl In The Dragon Tattoo (both versions) and Irreversible make matters worse because they prolong the scene as much as they can.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

In both versions, the sexual abuse theme escalates as the story progresses, reaching that shocking moment when Lisbeth Salander’s guardian ties her to his bed and rapes her.
As we meet both characters, Lisbeth’s new guardian comes across immediately as a disgusting man. In the case of Lisbeth herself, she’s presented as a tough, street savvy and highly intelligent girl, which makes it even more horrifying to watch her go through that hell, being –morally– stripped of any control she could’ve had previously (remember we see her defending herself in the subway, she knows how to survive on her own). But, later, she regains that control and gets her sweet, sweet revenge. I recall everyone applauding at the theatre when she does that.

Irreversible

In the case of Irreversible, Monica Bellucci plays the part of the victimized woman. She leaves a party late at night, alone, and walks through an almost deserted alley. She doesn’t know her molester; it is an unknown man, like any other, who destroys her life.
I’ve just seen this movie once, about six years ago, and I still remember one phrase the Man tells her as he rapes her. I’m not going to repeat it, though, but it makes it all the most difficult to watch. He is not only content with sexually abusing her, he also beats her badly enough to leave her unconscious.
Since this movie is narrated backwards (chronologically speaking), no matter how much you want to forget about the rape scene, the final revelation makes everything even more horrible than already is (but I won’t say what’s revealed).
Besides that scene, there’s another cringe-worthy moment in the movie, when a man’s skull is crushed like a fruit with a fire extinguisher. And the camera doesn’t shy away from the victim’s face, so you see everything.

Part 3: Knives and Razorblades

Hellraiser II

Every Hellraiser movie has torture scenes, they’re part of the plot (demons that torture you forever in Hell), but this one particularly shocked me the first time I saw it. Bear in mind, this was done in the eighties and it actually has better special effects than most modern horror movies, which overuse CGI and forget about practical effects.
In this scene, we have a psychiatrist who brings one of his patients in his office. This poor guy thinks insects are always all over his body, so the good doctor gives him a razorblade to get rid of the insects.
You can guess what comes next: a bloody mess, the patient cuts and cuts every inch of his body, desperate to get rid of those nasty things. As he does this and the blood flow increases, a human body (without skin) comes from the mattress he’s lying in and embraces him, only to eat him.

Pink Floyd The Wall

The Wall is about a man’s descent into madness, which becomes clear with this scene, where he shaves all his hair. Sounds simple, but I find it difficult to watch because of the way it’s filmed and the whole meaning behind it: this guy has finally lost his mind.
We see him in front of a mirror, watching himself as he shaves and coming to some sort of realization. That’s when he takes the blade out of the razor, he clumsily breaks it in two, and the first thought that comes to mind as you watch is: “he is going to kill himself”.
But he doesn’t. When he has he blade as he wants it, he keeps shaving, but it’s horrific because he cuts himself as he shaves, he’s not being careful, he doesn’t care. The camera, almost playfully, focuses on the drops of blood falling into the water, so your imagination goes wild as to what he’s actually shaving and what he’s cutting.

Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek is an aussie survival horror film that really surpassed my expectations when I saw it years ago. There’s one scene that I still remember after all this time, and that is the Head on a Stick scene.
What happens is, the psychopath gives a little speech to one of our lady protagonists, explaining what that term means, though it’s hard to listen to him with all the screaming she’s making, since he just cut a few of her fingers off.
He then proceeds to show her the technique by stabbing her on her lower back and doing a precise movement to leave her paralyzed from the waist down. When he finishes, he throws her on the ground, like a piece of garbage. She’s a Head on a stick.

Eden Lake

Another survival horror movie, this time from the UK, about a young couple that travels to a lake for the weekend, expecting to have a peaceful time, only to be confronted by a group of violent teenagers.
There are a couple of scenes to choose from, since this movie is quite violent. The one that I thought was the most difficult to watch was the torture of the male protagonist. He’s barb-wired, he looks badly bruised, and the kids challenge themselves to cut and stab him, as if he were a puppet or a doll.
To make things worse, her girlfriend has to witness all of it while hidden behind a bush nearby, so it’s not only painful to watch, it is frustrating.

Part 4: 90 minutes or more of madness.

There are movies that constantly show scenes that are impossible to watch without covering your eyes or looking away for a few seconds. Even more, there are some that, besides their graphic nature, have a plot which is disturbing enough to make it psychologically difficult to digest them as well.

Oldboy

This film falls into that double category, because the entirety of the movie, including the plot, will mess you up. That’s what’s so wonderful about it, it doesn’t rely on visual violence alone to affect the audience, it has an equally upsetting plot. There’s no escape from this one.
Having said that, I am going to pick one scene: the tooth torture scene. Most people are afraid of dentists (and if you’re indifferent to them, all I’ll say is, have you seen a dentist pulling a tooth out?); dreaming about falling teeth is one of the most terrifying nightmares one can have; breaking a tooth is the easiest thing in the world: you just need to trip, you can even fracture them by having a strong grip when you sleep. You need your teeth to eat, the most necessary activity for survival, and a smile is most of the time your presentation card in the world. So, when our protagonist is pulling out a guy’s teeth (not just one, mind you, but at least a dozen) using a claw hammer, it is, needless to say, excruciating to watch.

Martyrs

Martyrs is another movie that’s hard to watch from beginning to end. To put it simply, it’s about people torturing people, but it has an elaborate, deep reason behind it, so it’s not a French Hostel.
But, again, I’m going to choose one scene, where one of the protagonists finds a tortured girl in one of the torture chambers of a house. This girl has been on the dark for so long, her skin has deteriorated; she’s extremely thin, she’s shackled and has some sort of metallic device nailed to her skull that also covers her eyes. She not only looks monstrous, but she’s naturally out of her mind: she imagines insects crawling on her.
This scene is both sad and terrifying, we see the protagonist trying to save this girl, getting her out of those torture devices, bathing her, but the girl’s far beyond salvation.

Dead Alive

This movie is a gore-fest, probably one of the goriest films I’ve seen, but it doesn’t take itself seriously, so it’s all in good fun. Nevertheless, it would take a long time of convincing to get me to sit through it again, because it has some of the most disgusting, hard to watch scenes ever. That being said, even if the whole movie is cringe-worthy, the good thing is that it won’t scar you emotionally, like say, Irreversible; it’s all about the special effects.
The scene I would choose as the most difficult to watch is the one where the protagonist’s mother, who has been bitten by a monkey in a zoo, is eating soup, minding her own business, and parts of her face start falling off… and into her meal.
And, she eats it.
But this is only the beginning; the craziness escalates all the way to the ending. Fantastic film.

Cannibal Holocaust

This Italian film has created a lot of controversy since its release in 1980. It’s overall painful to watch, since it looks so realistic: it uses the found footage plot device, so we basically watch a fake documentary, which gave a lot of trouble to director Ruggero Deodato, because people believed it was a snuff film and that the actors had actually died on set.
Even if the murder scenes were staged, there were other scenes that featured real killings: those regarding the animals. They kill on camera several animals, being the giant turtle kill one of the most disturbing: the actors cut its head and you can see the animal twitching again and again, still after it’s been decapitated; they even play with it a little as they tear it apart. Now, I’m not going into a moral debate, I’ll just take it for what it is: a horrible scene to watch.

Antichrist

This movie takes the prize for most excruciating film experience. There is no relief with this one, you are either in shock, disgusted, appalled, confused or sad as you’re watching it. The plot is tragic and pathetic, the characters are well played, though they’re not likeable and it’s difficult to care for what happens to them. That ultimately doesn’t matter, though, as the events in the last thirty minutes or so are dreadful and it hurts to watch.
The female protagonist inflicts nasty injuries both to his husband and herself, mostly on their genitals, which is symbolically apt as a result of the first events of the film, but there’s nothing implied about the way these scenes are shot, they are as illustrative as they could possibly be. Director Lars Von Trier wants you to suffer, so you can feel a little of the pain the characters are going through.

Oddly enough, I find that when a movie leaves the horrible bits to the imagination, it’s much worse than when they show it, but these scenes were the exception. Definitely cringe-worthy.

I know I’ve missed tons of movies, so let us know your most cringe-worthy, disgusting and shocking, scene you’ve ever watched!

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