What are “Taboo Busters”? These are the films that dared go where no-one had gone before… Joining the ranks of great cinematic taboo busters is We Are the Flesh – the debut film from director Emiliano Rocha Minter – an extraordinary and unsettling film experience about a young brother and sister roaming an apocalyptic city, who take refuge in the dilapidated lair of a strange hermit, who takes them on a sexually-charged, nightmarish journey into an other-worldy dimension.
The film, out now from Arrow Video, is certainly not for the prudish or faint-hearted, featuring explicit sex and grotesque set pieces, building to a finale of demonically depraved proportions, making We Are the Flesh extreme art cinema at its boldest and most taboo-bustingly bizarre. Here are six more films, also released by Arrow Video, that pushed the boundaries of cinema as never before.
The Beast (1975)
Walerian Borowczyk’s film is that rarest of, erm, beasts – an erotic arthouse, fantasy horror film, and it’s irresistible. The story of a young woman being terrorised by a strange assailant in the French countryside, this dreamy and hypnotic oddity befuddled UK censors, meaning truncated versions abounded, until Arrow stepped up to the plate with their pristine Blu-ray in 2015.
Shock value: The Beast’s most infamous scene features the heroine, half nude and halfway up a tree, pleasuring the titular creature with her feet. That might not sound all that shocking, but trust me, it is. It’s outrageous, extraordinary, and never seen before or since.
No one quite knew what to make of this lavish historical epic, about the depraved Roman emperor, when it first hit cinemas – it featured an all star cast, including Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, Sir John Gielgud and Peter O’Toole, sumptuous costumes, a rousing score, and stunning production values, as well as savage violence and near-hardcore sex sequences. As a result, the X-rated film was scissored by the British Board of Film Censors down to a paltry hour and a half for video. Only recently, on the Arrow Video release, has the film been restored to it’s uncut 156 minute glory.
Shock value: Orgies with Penthouse Pets, heads being cut off for entertainment, incest, animals. This is depravity in a toga!
David Cronenberg’s innovative and prescient sci-fi thriller appears to have predicted the internet, with people able to live out their darkest fantasies through a TV screen in the privacy of their own home. James Woods plays a cable TV programmer who discovers an extreme and perverse new network broadcasting very peculiar stuff indeed. So peculiar that the film’s UK video version was trimmed by nearly 5 minutes. Arrow Video’s 2015 fully restored release thankfully ensures viewers see the lot.
Shock value: There’s the scene where Debbie stubs out a cigarette, and not in an ashtray; or the scene in a weird wet-walled torture dungeon; or the sequence where a man is eaten to pieces by flesh bullets. Long live the new flesh!
How times have changed – Jorg Buttergereit’s infamous German underground horror film, about a crash scene cleaner who takes bodies home to keep his girlfriend company, was once seized by British customs officers and labelled obscene. And yet a few years ago, Arrow issued the film totally uncut in a lavish boxset, with a booklet and soundtrack CD, complete with its long-denied 18 certificate. It was as if the film had suddenly become respectable!
Shock value: Where to begin? A woman falls in love with a deteriorating corpse. They become intimate. The woman doesn’t seem to mind loose teeth and eyeballs falling out. Are you getting the picture?
If you can watch a film like Society without raising an eyebrow, you should get out less. Brian Yuzna’s gruesome horror satire is about a teenage boy living in Beverly Hills who thinks he is either losing his mind, or that family and friends are involved in a bizarre and perverted ‘society’ that indulge in body-contorting orgies. It’s as weird and wild as it sounds.
Shock value: The ‘shunting’ scene during the orgy at the end of the film. It involves turning people inside out. It is literally stomach-turning.
Baise Moi (2000)
Hardcore sex meets bloody revenge film in this genuinely shocking Gallic thriller. It’s Death Wish meets Deep Throat as two young women, Raffaela Anderson and Karen Lancaume, go a man-killing spree. Nothing is off limits here. Pornographic sequences mixed with gory kills meant the film arrived on the UK as the dictionary definition of controversial, and the only fully-uncut version is the 2013 Arrow release.
Shock value: In the film’s stand-out shock-piece, the women invade a sex club and take no prisoners. A gun gets stuck where it shouldn’t. Needless to say there was never a Hollywood remake.
We Are the Flesh is out now Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow Video.