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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

‘In the Earth’ and 10 of the Most Cringe-Inducing Moments in Horror

Ben Wheatley’s latest offers a mind-bending descent into madness when lead characters Dr. Martin Lowery (Joel Fry) and park scout guide Alma (Ellora Torchia) venture deep into the woods. Their routine trip transforms into a waking nightmare, with the forest coming to life around them. It also stars Hayley Squires and Reece Shearsmith.

Shot during quarantine last year, the  In the Earth marks a return to Wheatley’s gruesome horror roots. More than a twisted voyage into psychedelia, Wheatley’s timely feature boasts moments of grisly cringe-inducing horror not for the squeamish. Violence ensues, things get downright gnarly, and the filmmaker ensures the audience gets a front-row view of the mayhem. In one of the film’s most harrowing, intense sequences, Dr. Martin Lowery gets his toe crudely amputated thanks to a deranged off-grid hippie (Shearsmith). The filmmaker gets up close and personal with the carnage, ensuring viewers will writhe uncomfortably in their seats. It’s vicious, and you can see for yourself here.

In the Earth releases in theaters on April 16. To whet your appetite for the pain it brings, we look back at some of horror’s most horrific moments.

Audition – “Kiri Kiri Kiri”

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, or, in this case, like an Asami (Eihi Shiina) feeling betrayed. A jealous Asami decides to inflict revenge upon lover Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) for failing to love only her, so she drugs him with a paralytic. Aoyama helplessly watches on as Asami tortures him first with acupuncture needles. Then, with a taunting “Kiri Kiri Kiri,” she gleefully saws off his foot with a wire. The maniacal joy of the act, with the slow see-sawing motion, induces chills.

Stir of Echoes – Broken Nails

After being hypnotized at a party to be more open-minded, Tom (Kevin Bacon) sees ghosts. More specifically, he suffers visions of a spirit in his house. In the third act, Tom finds the ghost’s body in the basement, triggering a vision of the woman’s murder. It shows her brutal attack at the hands of Tom’s neighbors, right down to a cringe-inducing nail break as she claws for purchase in her attempts to escape. Nails breaking and exposing a bloody nail bed below also makes for one of the worst points in the body to inflict pain.

Pet Sematary – Achilles Heel Slice

You can count on horror to trigger sympathy pains by exploiting the human body’s most vulnerable points. The Achilles tendon ranks high among them. The third act unleashes hell for its protagonists, and Jud (Fred Gwynne) fares the worst. The kindly older neighbor gets stalked in his home by an undead toddler with a sharp scalpel. First, the little monster incapacitates Jud by slicing his heels from under the bed. Then, his mouth. Jud finally succumbs when his jugular gets ripped open by little undead teeth. What a brutal way to go.

Final Destination 5 – Lasik Nightmare

The Final Destination series built its reputation for the elaborate death scenes made more uncomfortable by the stretched-out suspense leading up to them. Over five films packed full of tension-fueled kills, it can take a lot to achieve memorable status. Enter the excruciating Lasik surgery scene. The moment Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) gets strapped into the table and eye propped open, the knots begin forming in the pit of your stomach. Cue the strange series of mishaps falling like dominos, compounding until finally that laser goes haywire across her fragile little eyeball. The misdirect is that this isn’t what kills Olivia, but who cares? We’re too busy covering our eyes at this point.

Evil Dead – Bathroom Beatdown

Fede Alvarez’s remake doles out terrible punishment for every single ill-fated character that dared to step foot in that cabin. None more than poor Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), who bears the brunt of the body damage. He is, after all, the person responsible for calling upon the demons in the first place. Eric’s pain begins in the bathroom, where he goes to check in on a friend only to find her mutilating her face with a shard of glass. He then slips on a chunk of her flesh, lands awkwardly on the toilet, then gets stabbed repeatedly by a syringe. Luckily, his glasses protect him from losing an eye. Unluckily, the needle breaks off just below it. Alvarez captures Eric pulling it out of his skin with an extreme close-up, giving special attention to the stretch of skin resisting the needle’s removal.

The Fly – Corrosive Vomit

Stathis Borans (John Getz) starts the film as the overbearing jerk editor and ex of protagonist Ronnie Quaife (Geena Davis). Despite his short fuse, however, he’s there for Ronnie when it counts, and then some. Stathis drops everything to help Ronnie in the middle of the night, and it’s Stathis that shows up at Seth’s apartment to rescue her. He doesn’t realize just how far gone Seth is, though; Seth promptly disarms Stathis and dissolves his hand and leg with corrosive acid. It’s one of the more repulsive ways to lose limbs in horror, best viewed on an empty stomach.

The Ruins – Get It Out

The Ruins

As rations run low and things get dire for the fivesome stuck atop the ruins of a Mayan temple, everyone believes Stacy (Laura Ramsey) has lost her mind the more she insists vines have wormed their way inside her. They attempt to protect her from herself but fail when she sneaks a knife while they’re asleep. They wake to Stacy mutilating herself, flaps of flesh dangling open all over her body. The determination as she continues to saw open more skin might test your gag reflex.

Misery – Hobbling

Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) loves her favorite author so much that she’s willing to hold him captive and inflict psychological and physical harm. She rescues Paul Sheldon (James Caan) from an accident, nurses him back to health, yet keeps him captive so he can rewrite his latest novel to her liking. When she discovers he’s left his room while she’s away, Annie decides to ensure he can never do it again by placing a block of wood between his ankles and smashing them both with a sledgehammer. The sound, followed by Paul’s piercing screams, makes this moment one of horror’s most unforgettable.

Suspiria – Twisted Dance

A good rule of thumb when you suspect your teachers of witchcraft; don’t accuse them on their turf. Olga (Elena Fokina) learns this the hard way. Shortly after lobbing an accusation that the dance academy alumni kidnapped her friend, Olga finds herself locked in a room with no apparent way out. In the main studio, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) dances. The harder she dances, the more Olga’s body contorts in grotesque ways. She screams in anguish and loses bodily control as bones break and limbs stretch beyond their means. Olga reduces to a pretzel-like lump on the floor by the end of the dance, yet still alive in torment.

Antichrist – Grindstone to the Leg

A grieving couple hopes to mend their broken hearts and their marriage with a retreat to a wooded cabin. Instead, chaos reigns. She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) smashes her husband’s (Willem Dafoe) groin with a large block, the pain of which renders him unconscious. That’d be enough to earn a spot on any cringe list, but then she drills a hole through his leg and bolts a grindstone through it. She then tosses away the tools, leaving him to crawl around with the heavy stone in an open wound. It’s as extreme as it sounds.

Find out what horrors await when In the Earth arrives in theaters on April 16, 2021.


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