The producers of Saw 3D (R) call it the final chapter in the most successful horror movie franchise ever, with a worldwide box office take of $730 million. How did they do it? Volume. Saw 3D is the seventh entry in the series, making it a rare sequel with an out-of-order number in the title. (Saw VII: 3D sounds like a vitamin supplement.) Other than that, it appears to be gory business as usual for Jigsaw and his murderous disciples, doling out excruciating justice to jerks. I've never been a Saw fan because it seems so mean-spirited, seldom serving up graphic violence with a wink and smile the way I like it. Piranha 3D had the right idea, as do these grisly, guilty pleasures — seven, in honor of Saw 3D — proving the adage: Tragedy is when something bad happens to you; comedy is when something bad happens to someone else and it's messy.
Blood Feast (1963)
We'll begin with the one that started it all, filmed in Miami by slaughterhouse director Herschell Gordon Lewis. Blood Feast pushed the sadism trend in exploitation movies to new heights, with a crazed caterer serving human body parts under the guise of "an Egyptian feast." The viscera are mainly cherry gelatin and animal organs, but audiences lined up for miles at drive-ins to witness another taboo broken.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
This is the original Blair Witch Project-style bogus documentary, although unspeakably graphic. A filmmaking team making a documentary on Amazon cannibals gets too close to the subject, in an Italian shocker that many sincerely believed was a snuff film. No humans were harmed during production, but several animals were mutilated (in the years before PETA had clout to complain).
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1982)
Mixing extraordinary gore with Three Stooges slapstick, director Sam Raimi secured Bruce Campbell as a horror movie icon. He plays Ash, whose brush with the Book of the Dead leads to decapitating his girlfriend, whose severed head mocks him while her body blindly attacks with a chainsaw. And that's just the first reel.
Day of the Dead (1985)
Tom Savini is the god of gore, a makeup and special effects master of making things go squish in the night. The third movie in George A. Romero's seminal undead series ranks as his most convincing work, including a zombie without a lower jaw, only a tongue, and several impressively disturbing dismemberments. Savini was a combat photographer in Vietnam, a grisly job still informing his movie career.
Dead Alive (1992)
Before turning respectable with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson specialized in goofy gross-outs like this yarn about a mama's boy whose mama transforms into a zombie. He doesn't mind collecting flesh to feed her, but when her undead friends start hanging around, he starts swinging a lawn mower, with body parts flying everywhere. According to legend, more than 300 liters of fake blood were used in that scene alone. Talk about overkill.
Jeffrey Combs plays the ultimate mad scientist, bringing dead tissue back to life with a new serum, including intestines that can strangle like a boa constrictor and a cat that used up its nine lives. I can't describe the signature sick moment in Stuart Gordon's cult classic. Let's just say it involves a nude woman and a decapitated, reanimated head.
Cabin Fever (2002)
Eli Roth's fans may prefer the Hostel flicks, but his feature debut is one of the most enjoyably disgusting movies I've seen. College students on a camping vacation contract a flesh- eating virus graphically earning that description. One memorable gross-out: A woman shaving her legs slowly realizes she's undergoing the most nauseating skin peel ever.