BBC - Mark Kermode's film blog

« Previous | Main | Next »

The Profession of Violence

Post categories:

Mark Kermode | 14:55 UK time, Friday, 5 February 2010

You may think there is no science in the necessity of violence to the entertainment value of an action flick such as Ninja Assassin but drawing on my years of experience knee deep in gore, and modelling from key texts such as Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, Sylvester Stallone's Rambo, Peter Jackson's Brain Dead and, er, Mary Poppins, I shall attempt to make my case.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.


Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Rain (the 'Japanese pop-star' that you referred to) is actually South Korean.

    From a fellow pedant.

  • Comment number 2.

    Needlessly violent? Disney/Pixars The Incredibles which features a lenghty sequence in which the titular family engages in a bonding session- by dispatching the villian's henchmen in increasingly violent ways! One of the most disturbing moments I have seen in ANY film (children's or otherwise) is when Mr and Mrs Incredible bash two hoverpad-things together, and while the burning rumble complete with pilots mangled corpses inside come crashing down, they turn to each, seemingly aroused by what they have done and say, "God I love you!" To my mind, the most needlessly violent scene in a film, with not a drop of blood on screen!

  • Comment number 3.

    The end scene of Inglorious Basterds made me feel sick (the cinema shooting). Don't get me wrong, I love films like Brain Dead, Evil Dead and even Kill Bill but I felt that that violence was pointless (and genuinely morally questionable).

  • Comment number 4.

    Brain Dead uplifted me.

  • Comment number 5.

    The scenes of animal cruelty in Cannibal Holocaust should be labeled as needlessly violent.

  • Comment number 6.

    I agree with bobboxx Cannibal Holocaust would still have worked without the animal cruelty, i've always thought it a great film but it could benefit from losing those scenes, such are the main reason it gained its notoriety in the first place.

  • Comment number 7.

    What comes first to my mind is the uncensored longest version of 'Caligula'(1979). I'm from the Netherlands, which gave me the 'privilege' to see this version of almost 150 minutes of gore, (soft)porn and some historic drama. This version displeased both writer Gore Vidal and director Tinto Brass. The money men added extra sex and violence to amp up the sleaze factor. Which did the film no good at all. I acknowledge it maybe 'a guilty pleasure' for some. True. Still I take the liberty to defend those filmmakers whose vision is corrupted by the studio. The added violent scenes were unnecessary and plain stupid. Although it is far from a boring film, granted!

  • Comment number 8.

    of course there aren't any films with needles gore because gore is f-ing great! i can't believe someone dissed the gore in inglourious basterds because i thought the shot of hitler getting his face all shot up was really funny. the only example i can think of that comes close is the passion of the christ, but that's really because it's all wrapped up in pretention to hide the fact that there's really nothing there except for the gore.

  • Comment number 9.

    Irreversible! Discuss.

    Also, on a different not, just been reading Dr K's new book. Overjoyed to find someone else who cried at the end of Silent Running. Thought it was just me who was traumatised by that film. Still can't bring myself to watch it again after 20 years.

    Look forward to getting it signed in Edinburgh.

  • Comment number 10.

    Remind me Dr K, the fight scene in Mary Poppins… Did I miss something? Is there a Mary Poppins uncut version?

    Movies such as Braindead can be great fun; Braindead is like a Carry On with gore, (the lead actor even looks like Jim Dale). With movies like 300, Re-animator or most zombie movies the fun is in the gore; just as the fun in action movies is how distinctive the action is. Combine the two and voila!

    Think of the Wild Bunch (one of my favourite movies of all time) and most wil think of that final slo-mo ballet of blood-spurts as the Bunch make their last stand.

    Films where I thought there was needless gore?

    I didn’t think the popping eyes and severed arms in Total Recall added anything to the story.

    I enjoyed Saw, but with other contributions to the Torture Porn genre such as Hostel I didn’t feel the graphic violence actually added anything to the story. By Hostel Two the violence had become the sole point of the film. I watched, but got bored and wished I'd rented something else.

    Did Apocalypse Now need a cow to be cut in half by a sword?

    The graphic (for the time) violence of Soldier Blue, a film that’s hardly ever shown now. Soldier Blue compares badly with Little Big Man, made around the same time, which had a much more emotionally powerful, and less bloody, depiction of a massacre of Indians by the US Calvary.

    But does a film made specifically about the theme of violence need gore at all?

    There’s a Russian film called 'Come and See' about the atrocities committed by the Nazis against villagers during the invasion of Russia.
    It’s a tough watch in places, the final massacre is harrowing; but the film shows hardly a drop of blood.

  • Comment number 11.

    I dont know if anyone has seen the Steven Segal film, On Deadly ground, where steven Segal goes off on a enviromental kiling spree, but there was a scene which was cut from the British version involing someone being tortured.
    In the uncut U.S Version we see the torture whole scene, in the U.K version, after we see one blow being dealt to the guy being tortured, the scene cuts away as we hear his scream, and is actually (in my opinion) more effective.
    So oddly enough for once censorship by the BBFC seemed to make a bad film (but a film like for its badness) slightly better.

  • Comment number 12.

    Needlessly violent? Most of Tarantino IMHO. I think Reservoir Dogs is a needlessly violent music video from a guy who's watched too many slasher films in his youth.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think that, more than anything, it's the content of the film surrounding the gore that matters.
    The good doctor made a great point with Saving Private Ryan - a really gory film, but because it was based around something as real and horrifying as war, it was not looked down upon. The story needed to be told, it's a film people deem to be of value and it would have been less honest and a much worse film without the gore. And of course, it's in no way morally corrupting.
    But then look at The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for example - the story and purpose of the film is questionable - there is no need for that film to have ever been made. There really isn't that much gore in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - in fact i'm struggling to recall a scene with a true excess of blood, like Brain Dead for example. In fact, i'm struggling to recall SEEING a murder - the extent of the gore in that film is probably the hanging on the meat hook, and I think that's the only visible murder (please do correct me if i'm wrong). Yet, the film could be deemed morally corrupting - because of its subject. Because it's a story of no value, of no consequence, that's not concerned with saying anything. It's just rampant murder.
    I guess my point is that gore is inconsequential. It's more a matter of if you, the individual viewer, can handle it. You have to strip a movie right down to its core to really judge what was necessary. And Saving Private Ryan has a point. And The Texas Chainsaw Massacre doesn't. It's really as simple as that.

  • Comment number 14.

    "A film in which the Gore served no purpose" ???

    Well that has to be An Inconvenient Truth.

  • Comment number 15.

    Congratulations, Dr K,

    You just proved my point: anything we "watch" in an artistic setting or context - anything that is given the status of an work of art immediately undergoes a certain qualitative change. Whether or not that work is actually any good is an entirely different question. But you can't look at something familiar in an "art" situation and see the same thing as it was before, in a neutral context. The very act of our looking at something (participating) changes it.

    So it could be argued that any kind of violence, when seen on screen is basically virtual to a degree.

  • Comment number 16.

    I guess for the gore to be needless, it has to be unrelated to the purposes of the rest of the film, whether it is in its content or its level of pure enjoyment. Watchmen was needlessly gory, with horrible scenes that (a)dont fit in with the rest of the film's aesthetic and (b) hardly adds anything to the moral questioning of superheroes that the story would explore just as well without it. Pirates 3, with its hanging scene, makes the same error.
    For something to be needless, it has to be misjudged, and tangential to the purposes of the film as a whole.

  • Comment number 17.

    Of course there is something like needlessly gory. In the awful adaptation "Golden compass" (2007) there is no gore at all except one surprising scene where a bear gets his jaw ripped off. It's absolutely needless and inappropriate, because all the rest of the action is kept moderate for the children. This scene simply doesn't fit in. But that's the least of the problems the movie has:)

  • Comment number 18.

    Well on top of my head History of Violence.

    There were a couple of really violent scenes in that film, but didn’t require them as the film in general is fantastic anyway.
    The violent scenes I consider a bonus in that film personally. But sometimes violence in films can be really funny and so over the top you just have to laugh like the Final Destination films for example.

    I think the swearing in Enchanted is too much mind, I burst out laughing in the cinema to this lol (It’s 30 sec’s into the clip, only reason I watched in the cinema)

    The only violence I can think of which went too far was the videogame Modern Warfare 2 with the airport scene.
    That was too far and in bad taste.

  • Comment number 19.

    Rambo 4- Nothing like the first three- knecks breakig, head breaking, child slaughter-
    Th first scene shocked me, as i though to myself 'hang on a tic, is this really rambo?'.
    Then there's the children getting slaughtered, when you realise the film will either become:
    - An non action but serious issue film
    - An issue film that turns into a sick action movie and ruis the film.
    Sadly, its the latter.
    It was demented and sick because if its bad to kill kids then its just as bad to kill soldiers who are hired or foced to join the armies of countries like Burma that are a nightmare to live in.
    If Sly was trying to show what Burma is like, he suceeded in the pre titles scene.
    If he was trying to create a cool war pic- then its the biggest dud of his carreer.

  • Comment number 20.

    Was 'Antichrist' needlessly gory? I haven't seen the film, but to quote the Good Doctor: 'There were moments when I just thought, "Oh come on Lars!"' This certainly seems to imply that those scenes - the particularly violent ones that is - were not really 'necessary' and that they would not have been missed.

  • Comment number 21.

    I thought the end of El Topo was not needless but it just didn't need to be that gory.

    Also Watchmen had needless gore although it was quite intermittent, but it didn't feel true to the graphic novel and most of the film (apart from the end) was.

    Un Chien Andalou? Did they really need to cut someones eye out?

  • Comment number 22.

    I really thought Martyrs was a poor, poor film, after having been recommended it by quite a few people.
    What annoyed me most was the supposition that the victims were entering some kind of transcendent state of grace, beyond themselves, beyond humanity... and that the torture (being a means to an end) was therefore inconsequential - that the violence served a kind of metaphysical purpose.
    This just didn't wash - it was simply a really contrived piece of philosophical hokum, that in some way was supposed to justify the brutality of the film. Awful!
    But I don't agree with the posting about Texas Chainsaw Massacre - for me it's the very absence of meaning that lends the film its purpose. It's subject is lack of meaning, it is about the absence of human values, compassion or morals, and about the tenuousness of these things - this might be a definition of "evil". It is a pure, terrible, disturbing nightmare in which the protagonists are helpless - and it doesn't try to justify itself (like Martyrs) in any way. It is all about tone, atmosphere and ambience and what's more, it is beautifully shot...

  • Comment number 23.

    Braindead is one of the best horror films ever. Whenever great horror comedies come up everyone always mentions evil dead two, which while great is nowhere near as funny, violent or romantic as what still remains Peter Jackson’s best film

    On unnecessary violence I would say that the end sword battle in Princess Bride has more blood and wounds in then I would expect in a children’s film. I would say that that was 'needless violence' as a film like princess bride just doesn’t need it
    (not that children shouldn't be exposed to horror, i grew up on the final part of disney's Fantasia which is wonderfully terrifying)

  • Comment number 24.

    I don't think there's such a thing as needless gore. Only pointless films.

  • Comment number 25.

    Well on top of my head History of Violence.

    Yes, I was just thinking of that as well. That guy laying on the floor with half his face blown off. Then again it's Cronenberg so it's par for the course, I guess.

  • Comment number 26.

    @ any_gum_chum
    Firstly let me say that I think The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a minor masterpiece, that gets better on each viewing, and not once did I say it was a bad film.
    I would also agree that its absence of justification, morals and meaning enhances the actual atmosphere and level of disturbance while watching and I think the sound design and editing is really underrated on that film. It's also very, very funny.
    But I was trying to look subjectively and at the end of the day, like we say, there is no point. It may enhance the experience for us, but it doesn't change the fact that it serves no purpose and offers nothing but unrelenting terror that makes no point about anything. It DOES have the potential to be morally corrupting. And we could all live in a world without it, very easily.
    Like I said in my original post, gore is inconsequential, its the content, the story, the core that matters. And the core of Texas's rotten.

  • Comment number 27.

    An Inconvenient Truth. Baddum Tsch!

  • Comment number 28.

    I think Dr K is is very hard.

    20 minutes after watching the vid and i still have nothing really...

    If it was unessary action that would be completely different kettle of many to choose from.

    On a unrelated matter, it would be pretty gory to put a fish in a least i think so. :D

  • Comment number 29.

    "300", the film was boring and the gore didn't even make it enjoyable... needless gore for a needless film

  • Comment number 30.

    you said as much yourself. no real need for the blood ejaculation and scissoring right?

    also did the throat cutting in 'A Prophet' need to be THAT projecting. I think not.

  • Comment number 31.

    Needless Violence you say Dr. K?

    Look no further than the Bear Jew sequence in Inglorious "Ahem" Basterds.

    They try to set the character up a an extremely violent player (with Quentin's overhyped introduction for his buddy Roth) and then we see a man get pummeled to hell with a baseball bat.

    The violence is needless because everything Eli Roth's character does after this is contrary to being a violent juggernaut who speaks with his bat. In fact he returns to being a nerdy kid stuck in a Zachary Quinto look-a-like's body. Perhaps he should not have been given lines and be used only to kill Nazis.

    This is just one of the many miss-steps in the movie, the violence is put in because Tarantino thought it would be really "cool" and yet unless the violence is an extension of the character (think Joe Pesci in Goodfellas) it has no requirement to be included.

    You are right though, it is much harder than you think!

  • Comment number 32.

    Inappropriate gore is, I suppose, only really inappropriate when it jars with the moral or artistic tone of the rest of the film. In that sense, the scene in True Lies where Arnold attacks bill Paxton in the car (fantasy though it proves to be) seemed far nastier than the rest of the film gave it a right to be; (the same rule applies to Arnold's creepy wife-interrogation/hooker-dance arc) - was Cameron getting divorced when this was made?

  • Comment number 33.

    The only two films I can think of with needless gore are Blade Runner: International Cut and Blade Runner: Final Cut.

    Both these versions have the insert shots of Roy Batty sticking his fingers into Tyrell's eyes and blood spurting out and also the close up Roy putting the nail through his hand and it coming out the other side.

    With both these versions we can compare them to the none gory versions of BR (US cut and Directors Cut) and see that these scenes add absolutely nothing to the film but nor do they take anything away from the film (unlike the major changes in different versions such as the addition/removal of the Unicorn sequence, the happy ending and the narration, all of which change the movie completely).

    In the excellent book Future Noir by Paul M. Sammon the author notes that when the International Cut was released on home video that it came with the hyperbolic Warning/marketing device, "This film contains never before released scenes of graphic violence which were edited out of the theatrical release in an attempt to soften the very adult tone of the picture. See more of the future in the year 2019...if you dare."

    Just thought I'd bring that to the table.

  • Comment number 34.

    Barring perhaps Casualties of War, I have no time for Brian De Palma. Don't understand Tarantino's love for Blow Out, think The Untouchables is an over-egged mess, and loathe Carrie (hand shot stolen from Deliverance thank you)and Scarface. I'd vote for the latter. The Pacino Scarface is severly overrated, has dated horribly and contains the most arbitrary, baroque and absurd violence ever executed. Yet another example of an atrocious remake. I have nothing against Pacino - especially his earlier work - but for me, Paul Muni's turn is far more iconic. Where I do agree with Tarantino is that Howard Hawks was an outstanding filmmaker.

    Looking forward to reading 'It's Only a Movie' - thought you'd be plugging it Doc?!

  • Comment number 35.

    M., enjoyed your lesson very much, though when people start drawing up charts and graphs to demonstrate critical points I always take pause. Obviously I would agree with your premise that there's nothing wrong with extreme violence in films, but I think you got perhaps turned around on the word "needless", which suggests something utilitarian and pragmatic, rather than moral. I.E. is the violence required to make a film come across? Perhaps the critic felt that since the movie was just a popcorn action flick, the gore was to him a distraction from all the flying and kicking (especially if CGI), which made it seem like something more ought to have been at stake. This is not quite the same as your notion of depravity. An e.g. that comes to mind is The Big Lebowski: there's a brawl at the end which is very very violent and jarring because it doesn't go with the breezy farce up to that point.

    "Needless" should have been changed out with "gratuitous", meaning that the bloodiness struck the critic as excessive. Let me make my point from another way round: in the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre many critics felt the film was very splattery, but it wasn't really. To me it was quite tame, since the characters were so annoying I had hoped to see chainsaws going into heads and torsos; we didn't get that at all. The filmmakers might have given it more of all kinds of cannibalistic violence but they settled for dripping, shadows, and gooey crunchy sounds. My point is that graphicness could always be more or less in any given picture. Polanski's version of MacBeth is like a great seventies exploitation picture, while Welles' was an almost undifferentiated snooze, yet both are Shakespeare, both well-received. So, yes, the flayings are really just arbitrary, the argument of "nedlessness" at that level is correct.

    Another thing to consider, when one pours on the gore, as in Peter Jackson's early film Dead Alive--or much of the stuff in the first two Evil Dead movies--it often comes across more absurd than scary (The Evil Dead films were to me beloved camp when I was a teen). So you could also say that a movie is needlessly gory when the literal mindedness of the movie makers diminishes rather than heightens the intended effect. One barely remembers a single killing in Slumber Party Massacre or even the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, while the movie Seven (not a favorite of mine) is considered by so many to be a classic. That movie was all mood and suggestion, often to the detriment of narrative logic. On the other hand, sometimes an inventively gory scene is the only thing to stay in your head. In Alice Sweet Alice the rain-coated, Don't Look Now-esque killer stabs a woman's legs through stair railing; though very creepy the rest of it was merely tawdry and amateurish.

  • Comment number 36.

    I was tempted to suggest Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky, but the gore is half the fun right there, with the other half being the absolutely ridiculous dubbing. Just check out this climactic fight scene: [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    You're right, it IS hard. On the flip-side, I can name you a film with actually not enough violence: Ultraviolet, a movie concerning a vampire-versus-human blood-war with - thanks to studio meddling - virtually no blood spilt in battle (there is one minor instance, but it's exactly that). Mind you, the movie would have still been terrible regardless.

  • Comment number 37.

    Why is everyone forgetting Johnny Depp's death scene in Nightmare on Elm Street?! The only purpose for that amount of blood is because it's hysterically funny; I wouldn't be surprised if Depp is still washing fake blood out of his hair. I generally don't get disturbed by excessive amounts of gore, however, when the drug addict fell into the needles in Saw II, that proved otherwise.

  • Comment number 38.

    A few people above have mentioned Texas Chain Saw massacre. It might be worth comparing originals with the remakes (many contemporary horror movies are also remakes).

    The first TCM was genuinely disturbing. The first act of violence was a door suddenly sliding open, a man behind it disguised with a mask strikes a man on the head with a hammer; he lies twitching on the floor and is dragged behind the door, the door slams shut. It takes around five seconds. When I first saw it in the 70s it did shock me.

    In the TCM remake an old guy in a wheelchair just gets mad with a woman and shouts for his son to 'start it up' or similar. Enter maniac with chainsaw who chases the woman around for an interminable time; dull, dull, dull.
    Many horror remakes also seem consist of interminable chases. (Some modern horrors can be fun, I quite enjoyed Wrong Turn, but it wasn't scary.)

    The scene everyone remembers from the first TCM is the meathook scene. Like much violence we see in the world it seemed completely without motive, sense or fairness. That is what made it truly shocking at the time.

    Where Jackson's Braindead differs from the TCM is that Braindead set out to be a very black comedy. You either get the humour or don't (the BFC obviously didn't). The (zombie) baby in a blender scene was clearly a pub joke put on the screen, as was the lawnmower scene.

    I didn't think Reservoir Dogs a violent as everyone made out at the time, the violence in it fitted the story and characters; it is a good film, and no more bloody than many other films made before or at the time.

    The first Kill Bill however was just an exercise in style over any substance, with QT ripping off every old Kung Fu/Yakuza/spaghetti western movie he'd ever seen. It was unengaging and unconvincing, no matter how much blood he put into it.
    Just as many pop bands only have one or two good albums in them, I think QT only had three good films in him; Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction & Jackie Brown.

    Violence becomes more upsetting the closer it resemble reality. The voyeur in us might watch a documentary showing a massacre, but we wouldn't see it as entertainment.

  • Comment number 39.

    I racked my brains on this and came up with nothing. Something that does get my goat though is a appropriate nudity. Now don't get me wrong I'm all for bare flesh, and I'm not talking about b-movies where the nudity serves the same purpose Dr K attributes to violence in some films, but if anyone can give me a valid reason for Halle Berry to be sat the topless in Swordfish (other to tempt a few more bums on to seats) I'll give you a coconut.

  • Comment number 40.

    Needless gore?

    What about the nightmare scenes from An American Werewolf in London? I can take all the other gory sequences, like where Jack is ripped to shreds on the moors. But that scene where the stormtroopers come in and slash his throat come right out of nowhere and don't add anything to the story. It's the only section of all David's dreams which doesn't hint at him becoming a werewolf, and so it seems pointless as well as needless.

    Still love the film though, it's Landis' best. What are your thoughts on Burke and Hare Doctor K?

  • Comment number 41.

    KIll Bill, the gore became at best to bland to care and at worst irritating.

  • Comment number 42.

    39. Doh!, It's Halley Berry topless. Can I have my coconut?

    Joking apart, I know what you mean. Steve Seagal's Under Siege had a topless girl break out of a party cake, for no good reason than to show a pair of t*ts.

    I feel sad that young actresses still are treated like that; being older than a young teen, seeing a pair isn't that an exceptional event; having had a GF with breast cancer it's also not always erotic.

    Women like Jordan that make huge money from their bodies and image are just playing the system. But it's not true equality, who respects her?

  • Comment number 43.

    Hey Mark 3D is no longer the future, it's already the past.

    The future is now...4D

    "While the world was content to watch Avatar in 3D, in Korea, they’ve taken it to the next level: 4D. Using moving seats, sprinkling water, laser lights, smells of explosives and wind, Korea’s leading multiplex chain, CJ-CGV, uses more than 30 effects during the movie and charges a much higher ticket price for the experience ($15.80 versus $6.90)."

  • Comment number 44.

    Cape Fear, the Scorsese remake. De Niro bites off the cheek of Illeana Douglas and spits it back in her face. Was it gore? Perhaps. Was it gratuitous and pointless? Certainly.

    Robin from Northampron.

  • Comment number 45.

    "Well on top of my head History of Violence.

    Yes, I was just thinking of that as well. That guy laying on the floor with half his face blown off. Then again it's Cronenberg so it's par for the course, I guess."

    Yeah cracking filmmaker, knows how to use violance in a film unlike MCG and Bay.
    They think explosions are the only way to move a story along lol.

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 47.

    Dr K
    Everyone has a different limit with gore. I happen to enjoy most of the gore/horror films I've seen regardless of the violence having any relavence, EXCEPT one film from "director" (yes, intentional quotes) Uwe Boll.

    In his movie Seed, there is a prolonged scene of torture to a woman in a chair. What makes this 'needless violence' to me is not that it is too gruesome but that the scene lasts SOOOOOO long I became bored. I believe when violence, however bad, loses my actual interest then it has crossed over to being needless. People react in positive and negative ways to violence so when you no longer find a scene engaging, then it has become needless.
    Watch Seed and tell me that scene doesnt become boring as sin and therefore utterly pointless!

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    Irreversible. The S&M scene in which a man has his face smashed with a fire extinguisher to be more specific.I don't think that showing the consecutive stages of his "facial disintegration" served any purpose.I think that all viewers would recognize that a person being hit repeatedly in their face with a heavy object with full force for about 40 seconds is dead beyond a reasonable doubt.
    Also - how is it, that the goriest film ever made is lower on the scale than Rambo ?

  • Comment number 50.

    Django! I know, i know, it influenced Tarantino, but!...the ear-cutting scene. I'm not saying the rest of Django isn't violent, it is at times extremly so, but for those thirty seconds it feels "needlessly violent"...but thank god it is! What's wrong with a little needless violence in film people?!

    As the narrator of the opening scene of Friday The 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan so sincerely states: "There is no escape, nor do we want it! We've come to thrive on it...and each other. You can't get the adrenaline pumpin' without the terror good people!"

    We thrive on violence in film, whether we like it or not.

  • Comment number 51.

    The Salvador Dali film Un Chein Andalou is nonsensical and contains a very famous scene were an eyeball is cut open. There is absolutly no need for it to take place, Dali claimed no idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted. Therefore without explanation or intent, there is no meaning. Which allows this scene to be classed as 'needlessly violent'. Most of the films mentioned intentionally use violence to give rise to a reaction, therefore they cant be classed as needless. Only the absence of any intent, purpose or meaning to the violence can be classified as needless.

  • Comment number 52.

    Can I suggest Eden Lake. Not for being a bad film (I think it is really well made) and not necessarily for being needlessly gory but for being generally pointless. As a representation of the 'chav' culture, however accurate or not it is seen as, it does absolutely nothing for the audience except reinforcing negative attitudes they already held - strengthening dislike for the types of people shown or affirming such violent behaviour during the closing scenes. Maybe I'm just being stupid but the film, and by association its violence, felt entirely hollow and needless beyond its ability to offer an emotional experience.

  • Comment number 53.

    I gotta disagree with some of these suggestions:

    History of Violence: Those sudden violent scenes are critical in showing the contrast between the peaceful and ruthless sides of Viggo's character. These scenes are the reason why HOV is so good.

    Tarantino movies: Tarantino does what he does better than anyone. His movies might be adolescent and overly stylish at times but no one else comes close to him when making these types of films. The ear slice, splat on the windshield, eye grab, and hitler scenes are classics. We all seem to agree something like Braindead's lawnmower scene is great fun, but get riled up at QT's Crazy 88 bloodbath, I don't get it...

    Martyrs: The violence in the film was essential to the ending. Regardless of if the end worked or didn't work, the violence served a purpose in the context of the film, however brutal and horrible it was. No violence = no movie

    Sorry, didn't mean to go on a rant there...

    The correct answer was The Inconvenient Truth - give michael_bays_hair an A.

  • Comment number 54.

    One, not me but one could argue that the ambiguous nature of The Shining calls into question, the sequence where a tidal wave of blood unleashes itself down the hallway. Personally I think the inexplicable feeling of dread and oddness serves itself.

  • Comment number 55.

    Personally, there is no such thing as needless gore.
    Only needless movies.

    The thing is...that's just me. You can define something, but it's almost certain the majority will dissagree with you on some level. It depends on greatly on your backround, generation and the like.
    I for one have enormous trouble thinking of a movie with violence that wasn't needed. However...I can list some where the violence WAS essential! 1) The Cook The Thief His Wife And Her Lover (everything Spica does.) 2)Pans Labrynth (bottle and torture scene) 3) Inglorious Basterds (The last scene was triumphant...there where a lot different people above who disagree...but that's because we're different people)

    ps. Dr K. I only skimmed the above comments, but if anyone criticises your writing, and blames it on your hands. I console you with the fact that I have tiny hands and my writing is far far worse. :)

  • Comment number 56.

    A Simpsons reference? And from when it was old and good, no less!
    As for the question, did they really need to kill everyone in that lobby in The Matrix? All just to rescue Charlie Brooker? Yeah, it looked cool, but left a rather nasty taste in my mouth.

  • Comment number 57.

    Violence in movies are tolerable to certain extent only. I don't like movies full of violence only like evil dead, wrong turn etc.

  • Comment number 58.

    "I gotta disagree with some of these suggestions:

    History of Violence: Those sudden violent scenes are critical in showing the contrast between the peaceful and ruthless sides of Viggo's character. These scenes are the reason why HOV is so good."

    Hmmmm good argument back but some weren't required even though I love them in the film and do clearly add to it.
    I think in the hospital mind when Viggo tells his wife everything, you know this guy has a bad past.
    The same with sex scenes thinking about it, they weren't needed.
    They could have made it suggestive like with The Dark Knight and The Texas Chainsaw "mascara" (as I saw no massacre in the film lol).
    Those two films still felt violent even though they showed very little to me.

  • Comment number 59.

    almost half hour after watching the video and nothing comes to mind....

    All the posts mention violent movies,but the homework is not to mention a list of them(a ten year old can do that),but to mention the needless violence..

    no such thing exists...most easy kermodian homework..

    Come on dr K give us a challenge.

  • Comment number 60.


  • Comment number 61.

    mark, see if my copy of your book hasn't arrived by tuesday i'm just bringing my copy of Tommy for your to sign at the GFT in Glasgow, is that ok?
    - Daryn

  • Comment number 62.

    I generally can't think of any picture that is completely unnecessarily gory. I mean, lots of films have a lot of gore maybe, but I can't think of one that's totally ridiculous.

    I suppose the Korean film 'Dumplings' is rather unnecessary. It's not majorly gory but its subject matter is disgusting.
    Good movie though! :)

  • Comment number 63.

    Good Doctor Kermode,

    Your correct in proclaiming your claim that violence in cinema is oftentimes used for a distinct purpose, and I think if a filmmaker is conscious that gore or violence is being used in their film, then therefore there lies an implicit intention in channeling blood across the screen. So, every usage of violence is conscious, unless the filmmakers deny that any thought went into their choice for including violence into their films. Interestingly enough, in real life, violence between others is pepetuated by emotive provocation or primitive blood lust, hence violence, even though its completely useless to inflict upon others, is nonetheless demonstrated purposeful by the corrobative evidence of a certain cause that an individual of mankind creates for himself or herself.

    However, here are my suggestions for films as to what type of gore can be readily entitled as useless.

    1. Ichi the Killer (Seeing that guy who had Heath Ledger Joker - style slash marks along the sides of his face diving off his balcony to his death for personal sadistic satisfaction or Ichi getting pulverized because he was sobbing didn't seem to have any reasonable purpose for being in the film.)

    2. Sleepy Hollow (Those flasbacks of that witch villian decapitating her affiliates seemed, perhaps, too abundant. We got it the first time that she was insane when she summoned the headless horseman to chop off other people's heads, why bother showing her chopping off a servant's head that had barely any connection to anything?)

    3. Cannibal Holocaust (I think we all know why.)

    4. Hostel 2 (I know its mostly for atmospheric and gross out effect, but some of the tortue scenes were just put in there because they just seemed disgusting, which is a purpose, but still, there's no other reason, except serving as a set piece or an idea.)

    5. Hard Boiled (Lots of action to enthrall you, but some action scenes just didn't go well with others; senseless sometimes.)

    6. War of the Worlds (One person getting vaporized is enough to get the point.)

    7. That's all Dr. K.

    Thanks for reading this long, long, long, and really long post.

  • Comment number 64.

    Hmmm Tough How about the Bull being sacrificed in Apocalypse it was for real as well.

  • Comment number 65.

    Dr. K,
    I'd like to draw your attention to a film called 'Men Behind The Sun'.
    I haven't seen this film myself (and don't really wish to) but i've heard so many reports of the film just taking a step too far at every turn and just being generally nasty. It appears to be a film that just piles on the needless. So, have you seen it? And if so, how much truth is there to this? Is this the needlessly violent film we've been searching for?

  • Comment number 66.

    I gotta disagree with some of these suggestions:

    History of Violence: Those sudden violent scenes are critical in showing the contrast between the peaceful and ruthless sides of Viggo's character. These scenes are the reason why HOV is so good."

    Hmmmm good argument back but some weren't required even though I love them in the film and do clearly add to it.
    I think in the hospital mind when Viggo tells his wife everything, you know this guy has a bad past.
    The same with sex scenes thinking about it, they weren't needed.
    They could have made it suggestive like with The Dark Knight and The Texas Chainsaw "mascara" (as I saw no massacre in the film lol).
    Those two films still felt violent even though they showed very little to me.

    I don't think rbevanx and myself are saying that the violence wasn't essential to the story: it was. It's just that some of the scenes could be considered gratuitous. Scenes like the close up of the thug with half his face blown off seem to be there simply to remind you that this is a Cronenberg movie, which I suppose serves a purpose in its self, though they were hardly necessary.

  • Comment number 67.

    I think real animal cruelty is a different thing. In this case we should be discussing fake animal cruelty, if anything.

    About History of Violence, I thought the gore was very important in that film. It got the audience (well at least me) all pumped up with testosterones in those bursts of action. It is all biology. We love the scent of blood. To really show how the beast in us is tamed (as it has to be in order to form a society) was brilliant. I really loved this film, it is Cronenberg's best. Remember that humanity won the beast. It put it on a leash and to good use, most of the time.

    I have to say that Antichrist had needless gore. On the other hand without the gore and shock, everybody would've seen the hollowness of that film. It was huge disappointment to me. So big that I have to re-evaluate my whole opinion about that dane. Prankster, indeed.

    I have only seen the beginning of that Pirates of Caribbean 3 (and not willingly) and it seemed idiotic. Total mistake, considering it is kid's film.

    One director from the past who always overheated his killing scenes is Dario Argento. There was lots of needless gore but it was done so magically against all rules that it worked. Lucio Fulci on the other hand was pure exploitation and shock with his closeups, they almost feel like porn. Dario was true mad genius but Fulci would've even made good film if that would've been as profitable.

  • Comment number 68.

    from michael bay's hair:

    " "A film in which the Gore served no purpose" ???

    Well that has to be An Inconvenient Truth. "


    also to the guy who said about reservoir dogs, since when is that film gory? you don't even see the ear get cut off and that's the most violent bit.

    and ichi the killer!? are you KIDDING ME? the gore is the BEST thing about that film. when that guy gets sliced in half is one of the coolest things i've ever seen in a film. same with hard boiled, when that guy gets the door-window smashed in his face it's really funny!

    without that scene in un chien andelou we wouldn't have the song 'debaser' by pixies and that would be a damn shame, plus that scene is really cool.

    i'm really surprised by how uptight some people in this thread are about gore. gore is really, really great, when you're watching it from the comfort of your living room.

  • Comment number 69.

    incidently, it's funny that people are saying that the gore in films like the texas chainsaw massacre or friday the 13th is unnecessary.






  • Comment number 70.

    @ tommus-jay

    I think you'll find that joke is mine. Comment 27. I know it's petty, but if anyone is going to get credit for what is perhaps the best joke ever made, it should be me...


  • Comment number 71.

    @ tommus-jay thanks for your comment i didnt know that the scene in Un chien andalou inspired the Pixies song Debaser. Thats very interesting and in a roundabout way justifys the scene as an influence on art. So there really is no such thing as needless violence, even the opening to Pirates of the Carribian 3 isnt needless, because it was there to show that they are taking a hardline stance against the pirates, and for the audience to empathise with the pirates, ie the main characters.

  • Comment number 72.

    Gore was superfluous to each Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
    To quote the meister: could not direct traffic.

    Other than that, I can only think of films where there wasn't enough gore, the at times verbose V for Vendetta being a case in point (although it has certainly grown on me). Perhaps James McTeigue just finds it hard to strike a balance between verbiage and violence.

  • Comment number 73.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 74.


    The whole point of Hard Boiled, or at least what i thought, was to have ott action and violence. That's what made it fun.

    Also, you needed more than one person to be vaporized (in War of the Worlds) to know they weren't just targeting one person, and that it probably wouldn't have been as effective scenes if only one person died.

  • Comment number 75.

    I'm on the fence about films like Men Behind the Sun or Rambo. Their purpose is to show wartime atrocities, but there's a certain pulp entertainment zeel the films possess. Who's to complain, though? I didn't watch Men Behind the Sun because I cared about the plight of the millions of people who were butchered at Manchu 731. Who watches any CAT III or ultraviolent war pic thinking "This is a great tool for learning."?

  • Comment number 76.

    I'm not sure if it counts as gory but I remember a few years ago being surprised by how much more violent Lethal Weapon 4 was compared to the previous ones - and that the extra violence did nothing to improve the film, if anything it felt inappropriate sitting alongside some of the cosy humour of the other scenes - the way i remember it (and again it is a few years ago) we were watching mel gibson getting his face pummeled for about half an hour by jet li before he wins the fight ..

    Likewise I remember feeling that Payback, another Mel Gibson one, the reworking of Point Blank, was over the top in it's violence. However, take out the gory scenes and it would have been even more obvious how little thought had been put into developing the characters in this film so maybe it was needed to make it more enjoyable (for some people anyway, i still didn't enjoy it).

    Other than that I can remember the gore in the film 'The Haunting' - the 1999 remake - specifically the scene where (i think it was) owen wilson got his head crushed by the things in the fireplace, actually worked to the detriment of the film - it was already not very good but i remember me and my friend laughing out loud in the cinema when that happened and couldn't take it seriously after that ...does this count as needless? i guess i would remember nothing at all about the film otherwise so maybe not but it did ruin any kind of creepy atmosphere the film was trying to create ...

    oh, and similar to that, the bit in Titanic when the guy falls off the boat and hits the propeller on the way down - making a loud cartoon 'donk' as he does it - surely needless as again made me laugh inappropriately at what was supposed to be a tragedy ...

  • Comment number 77.

    For me, the most affectingly (and needfully) gory film in recent memory was A Prophet. I was genuinely shocked by the moments of violence, and by the sounds of their gasps, most of the audience was too. It takes a lot for violence in a film to affect the largely desensitized cinema-going public, but the director succeeded magnificently. It was the perfect example of how violence can still improve a film hugely without it being its raison d'etre.

  • Comment number 78.

    @rbevanx and burn hollywood burn

    I think we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. I agree that HOV could have been made without some of the graphic scenes of violence and sex but I think a subtler approach would lose the edge and physical presence that a Cronenberg film like HOV has. I'm glad you both enjoyed the film, though, it's one of my favorites.


    Check #14 - somebody beat you to it.

    @Spanking the Chiba

    I haven't seen Men Behind the Sun either but it brings up an interesting debate. True "gore porn" films like Faces of Death, August Underground, and the Guinea Pig series that seem to blur the line between reality and fiction are worrisome to me. I wouldn't say the gore is needless, since that is basically what these films are about, but I would claim that the films themselves are needless. I may be way off base here since I haven't and don't plan to watch these films, but I would be interested to hear someone's opinion who has.

  • Comment number 79.

    I kind of agree with an earlier post about Watchmen as well - was excessive in it's violence to a point where it was distracting ... disagree it didn't fit in with the rest of the film's aesthetic though - thought that throughout the film there were other stylistic decisions that were likewise tactless and clumsy ..

  • Comment number 80.




    Sorry for being a hypocrite.


    Congratulations for a brilliant joke. Damn you...

  • Comment number 81.

    What, you weren't reading The Guarniod for once?

    Shock horror!

  • Comment number 82.

    Ooooh! Did you just call Rain Japanese? He's Korean! In fact there is almost no one Japanese involved in the the film at all.

    Just to put this in perspective for you:
    It would be like the French making a film called "Morris Dancer Warrior".

  • Comment number 83.

    I'd recommend an interesting documentary not about gore specifically but media violence in general called The Mean World Syndrome : Media Violence & the Cultivation of Fear. It's an educational tool but you can watch a full length preview at -

  • Comment number 84.

    Eddy, I'll proofread it if you write the script, somebody else will have to translate it:

    Bob was just an ordinary Cotswold lad who enjoyed the Morris just for social gatherings. Until Jake, the elderly but surprisingly spritely leader of the Dance, saw his potential and apprenticed him to the Dark Morris. Instructed in the vile uses of the Poisoned Handkerchief, Silly Little Stick of Death and the mysterious Final Bell (not original joke, congratulations on efficiency of profanity filter) he becomes England's most deadly lead roof-stripper. Meeting a young lady accidentally on one of their night raids he discovers she is not really taking a midnight stroll in the graveyard. She is the newest member of the radically modern Co. Durham Rappers, who even allow girls to dance!

    Will Bob choose the jingly path of Evil or turn his coat for Molly?

    I only decided to comment because the Doctor appears to have become a time-traveller and there may be copyright implications, Got all your blogs until May done already, Dr?

  • Comment number 85.

    re: about 'that' scene in Hidden (or Caché, however you refer to it)? I know it is only one small set piece of self-mutilation in an otherwise non-violent film, but what purpose did the overly bloody and completely out-of-the-blue nature of the death play?

  • Comment number 86.

    Watchmen, as a few people have said.

    Just unnecessary in a lot of places.

  • Comment number 87.

    I feel Irreversible was needlessly violent in that one particular scene detracted from my sympathy for the protagonist (the 'revenge with fire extinguisher' scene).

    Also, Ichi the Killer sticks out as being needlesly violent due to the fact that Takeshi Miike normally handles guilty pleasure gore with some flair. Many of the scenes in this film simply made me feel sick and uncomfortable.

  • Comment number 88.

    The Happening (Violently awful)
    I don't know, Oldboy?

  • Comment number 89.


    Well Mark, you've clearly stated previously that you found the genital mutation in Antichrist and also the live squid eating in Oldboy to be unnecessary. But in regards your question, would you ever consider a snuff film to be valid? The thing is, subjectively gore is always going to be experientially titillating to somebody and so in that regard is it fair to say it is valid art? It's like asking name a film that has an unnecessary sex scene. Somebody somewhere will have been turned on by it, so therefore is it valid because it has the utility to arouse? Do the ends make the means necessary?

    Needless gore is just a matter of taste but i think perhaps to be more concise about the question- is cinema that appeals primarily to the id less valid than cinema that aims at provoking a more sophisticated cerebral or spiritual response? (a false dichotomy i think) But if it follows that art (film) should reflect the identity of the viewer (real or assumed, future or past) then the only unnecessary scenes should be identified as redundant as a result of ennui on the part of the viewer? eg: the endless stylistic gore of Kill Bill.

    Artificial gore can always titillate somebody but real life suffering should not, ergo the squid eating scene in Oldboy surely stands as a strong example of unnecessary gore.

  • Comment number 90.

    The only film I can think of with unnecessary Gore is Caligula, in two ways: New scenes of rubbish inserted by Guccione and his Penthouse cronies which made no sense at all, and Gore Vidal, credited as a writer but so appalled he actually sued to have his name removed from the credits. So therefore unecessary gore made Gore feel unnecessary.

  • Comment number 91.

    Pointless gore? That's simple: Captivity, which was re-shot to cash-in on the torture porn fad of movies like Hostel at the time. The original, tamer version did manage to get released in Spain. Compare (in particular, the added torture scenes and body in the bathtub):

    Off-topic, I'm really enjoying your book. I'm currently at the end of the third chapter, and I've had plenty of laughs and headshakes.

  • Comment number 92.

    Yeah let's put this A History of Violence thing to bed!

    The coffee shop massacre is NOT gratuitous by any means. And this is why:

    To tell the story properly, the director knew he had to show what a savage killer his protagonist was. You cannot do that with a simple gun shot and the guy dying.

    This would not convince an audience. We had to see the men get slaughtered by this man's hands because he CAN DO IT.

    It's not a Travis Bickle moment where he pulls a gun and exacts his brand of justice.

    This scene was about the situation peeling away the layers of a man who had up until late suppressed a certain side to his personality.

    Those who feel this was not required please do explain how else you show a savage killer WITHOUT showing the effects of his violent capability in horrific graphic detail?????

    The director got exactly the right reaction from the audience. It's not entertaining when you shoot someone in the head and see what a bullet does to the human skull.

    Directors like Tarrantino push violence as entertainment and there is a place for this. Even when you see Kill Bill's violence aftermaths you still feel the artificiality that it is cased in. So it is not disturbing just like computer games such as Tekken and Street Fighter are when people get hit.

    As A History of Violence was made as a critique on violence and so too was Eastern Promises, there deserves to be a threat to the violent acts. Too often we are given violence that we are comfortable with.

    It's nice to actually be shown something horrible for a change - most films that depict violence nowadays are like Tom and Jerry.

  • Comment number 93.

    'and also the live squid eating in Oldboy to be unnecessary.'

    I'm pretty sure it was an octopus. It's incredible what a big deal that scene is in the West. Eating it live would be rather unusual in Korea but raw octopus and squid is eaten all the time, tentacles and all.

    As for HoV, I agree the scenes were necessary to really show us the extremely unpleasant character he was and has tried so hard to suppress. The sex scenes too work towards this goal. I think there was a very tender, playful sex scene at the start which contrasts sharply with the violent, rape-like sex scene on the stairs as his past self begins to resurface.

  • Comment number 94.

    The Good doctor is absolutely right. You can't call the violence in films like Ninja assasin, or Italian exploitation films needless, as the gore is what people see them for and expect from them. Even films like Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky and Takashi Miike's Ichi the killer show that even extreme violence can be quite funny.
    However, there are also films such as the aforementioned Total Recall where maybe one could argue that the violence is neither integral to the plot nor really necessary for that type of film.

  • Comment number 95.

    It's strange, I find it easy to think of films that were either unnecessarily sexually explicit or featured needless animal cruelty, yet I cannot for the life of me name a film which I would define as being "unnecessarily" violent.

    The thing is, I'm certain such a film exists. There is bound to be at least one example out there that could have benefitted from the "less is more" approach. Sadly, I don't know of one.

    Methinks I need to watch more films.

  • Comment number 96.

    I guess the only needless gore is in a film you are already really enjoying for ungory reasons that has a gory moment that jars with the feel of the film. My choice would be the unnecessarily squelchy death of Brendan Gleason at the end of In Bruges - a film and a character I really liked. Yes, it is about hit-men and bloody death, but he was a sweet bloke as far as assassins go, and we did not really need to see him go in so much detail...still, love the film.

  • Comment number 97.

    No such thing as needless violence, only violence that is miss-used or in bad taste. For example; Rambo 4.

    Oh, and Antichrist was naff.

  • Comment number 98.

    Yeah let's put this A History of Violence thing to bed!

    The coffee shop massacre is NOT gratuitous by any means. And this is why:

    To tell the story properly, the director knew he had to show what a savage killer his protagonist was. You cannot do that with a simple gun shot and the guy dying.

    This would not convince an audience. We had to see the men get slaughtered by this man's hands because he CAN DO IT.

    It's not a Travis Bickle moment where he pulls a gun and exacts his brand of justice.

    This scene was about the situation peeling away the layers of a man who had up until late suppressed a certain side to his personality.

    Those who feel this was not required please do explain how else you show a savage killer WITHOUT showing the effects of his violent capability in horrific graphic detail?????

    The director got exactly the right reaction from the audience. It's not entertaining when you shoot someone in the head and see what a bullet does to the human skull.

    Directors like Tarrantino push violence as entertainment and there is a place for this. Even when you see Kill Bill's violence aftermaths you still feel the artificiality that it is cased in. So it is not disturbing just like computer games such as Tekken and Street Fighter are when people get hit.

    As A History of Violence was made as a critique on violence and so too was Eastern Promises, there deserves to be a threat to the violent acts. Too often we are given violence that we are comfortable with.

    It's nice to actually be shown something horrible for a change - most films that depict violence nowadays are like Tom and Jerry.

    In that scene Cronenberg showed me the savagery of Viggo's character by having him shoot the thug almost point blank in the face. That's fine, it's brutal, but it's fine; it perfectly conveys Cronenberg's message. He then decides to go to a close up of the thug with half his face missing and chocking up his own blood. Was it necessary? Well, it's a Croneberg movie, so yes. That's what the shot is there for though. To remind you it's a Cronenberg movie. I would of left it out.

  • Comment number 99.

    Watchmen is the first thing that comes to mind. It goes beyond the levels of gore in the graphic novel and I saw no good reason for it. It seemed to me like the excess gore was there to somehow make it seem like a more 'adult' film, but for me it had the reverse effect of making it seem terribly immature and misjudged. The only moment where the strong violence which - according to the BBFC report - bumped it up to an 18 seemed artistically justified was during Rorscharch's flashback about the child murderer, as the violence showed us something important about the character. The rest just seemed there for flair.

  • Comment number 100.

    Hey Dr.K , would of been nice to have seen some dancing with this graph, I hear Strictly are always looking for dancing celebs.

    I'm gonna stick my neck out here and say Alien Resurrection.
    While you have the action sequences ala the 2nd film, and ofcourse the horific concept created with the 1st, this film is laden with needless Gore-out scenes.

    The ice scene, a man pulling brain from his head, an alien blender escape pod, Alien human hybrid child birth, said birthed child crushing a mans face- just to name a few!

    Not a guilty pleasure, not needed to serve the concept of the film, needless violence and gore.


Page 1 of 2

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.