The 16 Most Disturbing Movie Moments Of 2017

Those following my work here on /Film know that I watch a lot of horror movies, from psychological puzzlers to bone-snapping slashers. It's not all gore, guts and viscera, but one can guesstimate the ceaseless quantity of "disturbing" moments these eyes witness year after year. It could be a scene that triggers an immediate gag reflex, or recharges my nightmare fuel, or hits upon existential devastation with unearthly intent. I wasn't always prone to stomaching such content – as I once opened up about while discussing my personal connection to the Child's Play franchise – but now? Well, I'm choosing to relive the year's most vile challenges on my own accord. Doesn't that say enough?

What you're about to read is a list of on-screen sequences that could break a number of viewers. My picks don't necessarily have to be genre specific, although horror does end up harvesting the largest, freshest crop to choose from year after year. These are the clips that had me clenching down tightly on theater armrests or blocking my eyes with folded hands, as if directors were competing to see who could push me past the brink of no return. Looks like they'll have to try harder in 2018 (please for the love of sanity, don't).

Note: as the title of this article implies, we're going to delve into some dark and often violent territory. Your discretion is advised. And spoilers are on the table.

Justine’s Hair Regurgitation (Raw)

Julia Ducournau's cannibalistic coming-of-age shocker Raw is an unsettling worldly bloom for one hungry ex-vegetarian. Promises of flesh chomping are fulfilled – in addition to morbid veterinary imagery – but the film's queasiest scene doesn't involve either. I can handle Garance Marillier gnawing through a meaty hookup's thigh or devouring raw chicken (probably too easily). What I can't shake is a grueling, drawn out sequence of Marillier pulling the longest strand of spooled hair from her mouth, hunched over a toilet gagging. Absolutely nauseating and forcibly affronting. Those with weaker constitutions should keep a barf-bucket handy throughout Raw, mainly just for this grossness.

Okja’s Mistreatment (Okja)

Bong Joon-ho's Okja is a brilliant cross between pitch-black humanitarianism takes and bubbly fantasy escapism; cruel consumerism undertones hidden by Okja's larger-than-life shadow. Ahn Seo-hyun stars as junior radical Mija, Jake Gyllenhaal as a batty celebrity "animal lover" – it's all sunshine and cartoonish satire until one dirty-lensed, grossly tortuous piggy treatment scene. The Animal Liberation Front use Okja to sneak a hidden camera inside Mirando's secretive operation, but can only watch as a drunk Gyllenhaal introduces Okja to her new "boyfriend" Alfonso (a male superpig). She's cornered and mounted while the ALF look on, unable to answer her piercing squeals for help that blast through their fuzzy surveillance monitor.

On a happier note, above is a video of Gyllenhaal getting what's coming to him.

A Cause For Dental Paranoia (A Cure For Wellness)

A Cure For Wellness is far from a perfect asylum thriller. It's divisive and demented in ways that only Gore Verbinski can produce, never better (or more devastating) than one stretch of Dane DeHaan's mistreatment that will forever shake my core. Not the eels, not the drowning, not the gutted, rancid cow inerts that spill over an unkempt villager's floor – we're talking dental damage of the highest decibel. DeHaan strapped to a chair, no anesthesia, as a "professional" drills into the enamel of his front tooth and through the calcified masher. DeHaan's eyes bulging to represent pain, the whirring metallic bit spitting off smoke as it pushes cleanly through. Hate the dentist? Prepare to hate them way, way more.

DJ Dan Gets Castrated (Prevenge)

Prevenge is not only one of my favorite films of the year, but it also contains one of the year's most squeamishly savage slasher attacks. Ignore the fact that Alice Lowe's pregnant pulverizer is receiving (and acting on) telepathic life advice from her unborn child – this entry is all about DJ Dan. The disco-slinging womanizer who's slit at the sack, exposing a disconnected testicle that splats onto the ground much to Dan's horror. Well done on the practical goop and nastiness, Ms. Lowe. Oh, and having Dan's senile mother walk out afterwards is the final blow that brings everything together with such malicious absurdity.

Everything (We Are The Flesh)

Once or twice a year, some filmmaker like Emiliano Rocha Minter redefines what it means to "push boundaries." Oh, you thought Darren Aronofsky's mother! earned that title? We Are The Flesh is mother! without a leash. Imagine smashing the styles of Michel Gondry and Lars von Trier together in a NFSW (not safe for anywhere, really) apocalyptic orgy. Maybe it's a dangerous religious portrayal of the second coming of Christ? Maybe it's simply about a crazy homeless guy, forced incest, brainwashing and sex addiction? In any case, you'll feel like you need a lava soap shower once all the madness is said and done. Seek it out, mother! lovers. If you dare...

A Mother’s Worst Nightmare (mother!)

While we're on the topic of mother!, how can this list not include a ritualistic baby sacrifice? Jennifer Lawrence's brutal on-camera beating is undeniably repugnant, but the ripping-and-tearing apart of a newborn child for consumption purposes takes the honor of being Darren Aronofsky's leading atrocity this year. There's nothing else that needs explaining. Javier Bardem serves his offspring to a bloodthirsty congregation on a silver platter and they savor every last bite of the wee lil' morsel. Congratulations mother! – you've earned your provocateur's status.

A Haunted House That Goes Too Far (Haunters: The Art Of The Scare)

Scares come in all shapes and sizes, tailored to preference and experience, but documentarian Jon Schnitzer uncovers one haunted house with a universal "terror" policy. Run by Russ McKamey, McKamey Manor has no safe word. Mr. McKamey intends, without restraint, to horrifically traumatize and deconstruct the psyche of those "courageous" enough to sign his waiver. Whatever your phobia is, he'll exploit it. Yet the one image forever seared into my nightmares is McKamey force-feeding vomit back into the mouth of a restrained patron who's regurgitated whatever it was McKamey's thugs first massaged down the poor bastard's throat. All while Russ directs from behind a video camera, recording and laughing like he's getting off on his hostage's visible discomfort.

Frankly, I'm surprised one of McKamey's infamous YouTube "walkthroughs" haven't been classified as snuff film evidence after an unfortunate accident by now.

The S.S. Georgie’s Final Voyage (It)

"Ugh, didn't you hear that It isn't a horror movie?" I did, laughed, expressed my disagreement in written form (here at /Film) and then once again recalled my gasp when Bill Skarsgård's Pennywise lunged out and tore Georgie's arm off. The screaming child left crawling from Pennywise's sewer opening, blood draining back toward the outreaching hand now inching closer to finish the job. That movie – that moment – is what horror is all about. A natural predator caring not about the small, vulnerable child whose life is about to be cut tragically short (shark imagery and all). Full-on fear engagement.

The Superest, Darkest Times (Super Dark Times)

Kevin Phillips' Super Dark Times is the unsuspecting gut-punch of 2017. A testosterone riddled '90s coming-of-age story, a criminal cover-up and a serial killer starter kit all rolled into one crushing afterschool special. The soundtrack is aces and the tone so brutally perfect, which makes the death of "outcast" teen Daryl (played by Max Talisman) such a devastating backyard accident. It's a cautionary tale that dares to depict the worst possible outcome of kids being kids – but Daryl's death is a fabrication of fantasy there's no coming back from. No other movie this year left me emotionless and dead like Super Dark Times accomplished (which, oddly, is a compliment).

Hunters On The Prowl (Hounds Of Love)

Ben Young's Hounds Of Love is one of the fiercest debut features I've ever taken in, made possible by lead actors Emma Booth and Stephen Curry. A serial killer and his love-struck accomplice; one manipulated by romance while the other preys on underage girls who fulfill his dominant fantasies. Their interactions make for some of the year's best trainwreck chemistry, especially when Ashleigh Cummings' victim finds herself tied to the couple's guest bed. Curry's abusive, debasing enjoyment, Cummings' pleading and begging, Booth's hypnotized devotion – all coming together in a hurricane of gutted hopes and illicit dreams. Also, without question, one of the year's most harrowing designs by way of romantic trauma and destructive moral breakdowns.

Eight Legged Freaks (Rupture/Most Beautiful Island)

Two movies had my anxiety skyrocketing thanks to roaming arachnids: Steven Shainberg's Rupture and Ana Asensio's Most Beautiful Island. Both films subject their female leads to eight-legged torments in the form of either a "game" or "experiment" of sorts. Both actresses (or stand-in doubles) forced to lay motionless while the creepy-crawlers navigate the landscape of their bodies, any sudden movements ensuring the spike of poison fangs.

Nope. NOPE. FLY ME TO ANOTHER PLANET FAR AWAY FROM THESE IMAGES. I can take all the decapitations and spilled intestines and ripped fingernails horror has to offer – but spiderplay is where my hard line is drawn. Full stop.

This Little Piggy Is A Sick Freak (Pig)

Let me start by saying that not many of you will ever see the film I'm about to discuss: Adam Mason's Pig. Producers wanted this 2010 schlock peddler double-tapped and buried forever, but 2017's SXSW lineup included a surprise. Pig, in all its perverse glory, was allowed to show for an extremely limited run before being torched forever. "How torturous could it be," I wondered. "REALLY 'EFFING BAD," director Adam Mason and writer/star Andrew Howard answered through their creative vision. A 70-ish-minute single take about one killer's unspeakably infuriating vacation that includes (but is not limited to): "Rape time!" singing, female mutilation, cannibalistic themes, a pregnant captive, bloodlust, etc. A hopeless torture-bomb without rhyme, reason or validation. I guess you wouldn't want to erase your own film from history without a good damn reason...

Yeah, That’s More Than A Flesh Wound (Gerald’s Game)

With so many Stephen King adaptations rising from the dead in 2017, a double-dose of disturbed King creations doesn't seem too unlikely. Andy Muschietti tore a raincoated child's arm off in It, but Mike Flanagan's ambitions were not to be out-gored.

In Gerald's Game, Carla Gugino must free herself from handcuffs that connect her to a majestic wooden headboard after a frisky bedroom disaster. Time passes, Gugino struggles, then desperation grabs hold – hence this year's famous "degloving" scene. The flesh of Gugino's hand peeling back as she slides her hand through the steel loop, already partially flayed by a shard of glass for ease of removal. It is...horrendously unnerving and abusively entertaining. Quite possibly this year's most savagely sanguine slice of minced-flesh-pie worth your attempted aversion tactics and ultimate mental forfeit.

Necrophilia (Leatherface)

What's a "Most Disturbing" list without a little necrophilia? The movie: Leatherface. The reason: to convey the deviant, malicious mindsets of two escaped asylum teens (translation: absolutely zero reason). It all starts innocently enough with your standard genre lovemaking interlude, until we realize the bed's deceased, rotted corpse of an owner has joined Clarice and Ike. Maybe just as a background prop, one may hope? Try as an "active" participant, complete with squishy noises and intimate connections.

It's certainly a distressing highlight among 2017's horror offerings, but also one of the most unnecessary. Wedged in for no other reason than a cheap and easy alternative to scripted character depth. Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury can – and have – executed far better youthful horror stories (Among The Living). Guess it's back to the drawing board for Texas' Chainsaw franchise.

Remember, None Of This Actually Matters (A Ghost Story)

David Lowery's A Ghost Story might be described by some as full-on "disturbing" from start to finish, but I disagree (and that's the beautiful thing about cinematic interpretation). Never has there been a more accepting, comforting assessment of our place in this inexplicable cycle we call "life." Equal parts soulful obliteration and freeing perspective adjustment. Every scene made me feel so insignificant yet so fulfilled, largely due to Lowery's ability to channel his own chattering fears into a haunting exploration into mankind's greatest never-to-be-answered questions.

All that said, A Ghost Story still lands on my list for a specific sequence – the pioneer girl. Casey Affleck, as a white sheeted ghost, is forced to witness a frontier family get slaughtered just after plotting their future home. Transported generations back to watch a little girl get murdered – and then sit there as her corpse decomposes as time speeds forward. Life, death and legacy in its purest form, forced-fed to viewers who may never want to acknowledge the reality of our organic decomposition – or worse yet, that we'll be forgotten. No matter how cynical, unbelieving or uncaring you may be, this is 2017's bleakest height.

Christian Grey’s Home Gym Faux Pas (Fifty Shades Darker)

Forget the personal pommel horse. Forget that Christian Grey's "pump-up" music is The Police. Forget the whole "put these metal balls up your hoo-ha and let's go to party" thing. ANYONE WHO HAS AN AREA RUG IN AN ACTIVE PART OF THEIR HOME GYM IS A SOCIOPATH. When I work out, I sweat hard. Like Dom Deluise at an all you can eat buffet. When I see that rug laying under Christian's equipment, all I can imagine is his liquid funk seeping into furry flooring and the musty stench that'd soon follow. Maybe he throws his carpet away after every workout – it'd be on-brand – but goddamn if I didn't scream internally when I laid eyes upon that fungal disaster waiting to happen.