While there’s plenty to be said and appreciated about cozy, comforting horror that offers catharsis, the genre’s ultimate aim is to terrify, shock, and even repulse. Of course, there is no shortage of ways that filmmakers accomplish this, frequently through gore, violence, and potent scare tactics, but transgressive horror is in a league of its own.
More than just gore, transgressive horror films revel in the taboo. Transgressive horror shatters cultural norms and seeks to explore beyond the boundaries of taste and social sensibilities, challenging viewers with shocking and sacrilegious imagery and themes. And yet, it’s not solely for shock value; transgressive horror has more on its mind than simply gore and depictions of depravity. There’s a purpose behind the pain. This week’s streaming picks are for the seekers of extreme cinema, unafraid to test their limits.
Here’s where you can stream them this week.
Alucarda – Cultpix
Directed and co-written by Juan López Moctezuma, this English-language Mexican horror film stars Tina Romero as Alucarda. Since infancy, the orphaned Alucarda was raised by nuns at a repressive Catholic convent. Now a teen, Alucarda finally has a friend her age with the arrival of a newly orphaned Justine (Susana Kamini). They become inseparable, perhaps even more so when they stumble upon a crypt and release a Satanic force that seduces the best friends and uses them as a conduit to destroy everything in their path. It’s arthouse meets exploitation grindhouse. Moctezuma weaves a sacrilegious coming-of-age story with striking, blood-soaked imagery that slowly developed a cult following over time. Alucarda exists in the same realm of boundary-pushing religious horror, even sharing similar themes with Ken Russell’s The Devils.
Baskin – AMC+, Shudder
Baskin made huge waves upon release in 2016 with its arthouse meets Lucio Fulci and Hellraiser-inspired descent into Hell. Based on Can Evrenol’s 2013 short film of the same name, Baskin follows a police squad contending with a night of pain, suffering, and the perverse horror of a depraved Black Mass from Hell when they enter an abandoned building. Turkish superstition, extreme imagery, and a deliberately paced journey for the unsuspecting antiheroes make Baskin a unique entry in extreme horror. Evrenol embeds a lot of minutiae and symbolism in his surrealistic nightmare, saturated in a sort of Fulci-inspired dream logic. It’s wrapped up in one gnarly package of perversion and gore.
The Golden Glove – Kanopy, Tubi
The Golden Glove presents one stomach-churning watch based on notorious German serial killer Fritz Honka, impressive in its unwavering goal to force viewers to confront the darkest corners of humanity. Nestled in the red light district of Hamburg, set during the ‘70s, Honka (Jonas Dassler) is a socially awkward loner who spends most of his evenings getting drunk at the Golden Glove. This local watering hole serves as a second home to all sorts of strange, quirky characters. Aside from using the bar as a means to feed his alcoholism, he frequently scours the bar for vulnerable patrons to take home and abuse. Or worse. It’s often much, much worse. This subject matter is of the heaviest variety, and its central character is not one you’re supposed to like. But it is a story with immense artistic merit and a fascinating study of how someone so vile slipped through society’s cracks.
Ichi the Killer – Hi-Yah, Peacock, Plex, Roku, Tubi
Perhaps one the most controversial of all his films, and there’s quite a lot, Ichi the Killer cemented Takashi Miike’s reputation for torture and carnage. Based on a manga, Ichi the Killer has two main characters, Ichi (Nao Omori) and Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano). Ichi is a cowering, weak-willed character progressively manipulated into becoming a reflexive, effective killer. Kakihara is a yakuza enforcer looking for his missing boss. He also happens to be a sadomasochist, and when Ichi’s gnarly body count starts piling up, Kakihara swoons over the potential pain Ichi could give him. While nothing about the premise screams “horror,” the extreme and graphic violence that ensues and occasionally tests your gag reflex makes it count. Miike is making a point about how we consume violence in media. In other words, this gorefest has more depth than meets the eye. It just might be hard to see it past the torrent of blood, viscera, and depraved mayhem.
Martyrs – Plex, Pluto TV, Tubi, Vudu
No list of transgressive horror is complete without the New French Extremity horror offering whose reputation precedes it. Its visceral examination of pain elicits such a strong physical response it’s still one of the more extreme entries in the genre. Writer/Director Pascal Laugier’s extreme horror film follows Lucie (Mylene Jampanoi), a young woman shattered by childhood abuse, as she drags childhood friend Anna (Morjana Alaoui) along on her violent quest for retribution. Of course, there’s no predicting how this journey will wind up, but it’s guaranteed to induce maximum discomfort and leave jaws on the floor. It’s a downer of the highest order.