Movies – 10 Terrifying Action Movies That Border On Horror
Some action movies, like Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Dredd, dial up the violence and gore to a bone-crunching level, more similar to the horror genre.
Throughout the 2010s, a new subgenre was pioneered in action cinema that’s characterized by gory, over-the-top violence. Not only is the violence not sanitized like it is in typical Hollywood fare; it’s dialed up to an insane level. The characters aren’t invincible like the usual shredded supermen played by Arnold Schwarzenegger; every gunshot and stab wound actually has consequences, and the pain feels real.
These movies occasionally transcend being straight action movies and veer into the horror genre with more blood and guts than A Nightmare on Elm Street. They are so gruesome and unsettling that they border on horror.
10 Upgrade (2018)
Leigh Whannell, one of the creators of the Saw and Insidious franchises, wrote and directed Upgrade, a cyberpunk thriller about a technophobe who gets an experimental computer chip implant that turns him into a well-oiled killing machine.
Cinematographer Stefan Duscio used experimental techniques to lock the camera onto the fight scenes and move with the action.
9 The Raid & The Raid 2 (2011 & 2014)
Gareth Evans’ The Raid is a beautifully self-contained action thriller in which Iko Uwais leads an elite squad of cops into a high-rise controlled by a crime lord. It’s essentially a feature-length action movie as the cops spend the entire runtime killing henchmen armed with machetes. Bodies are flung around and gruesomely mangled as the camera tries to keep up.
The sequel, The Raid 2, blew the scale of the story wide open. It’s an epic, taking audiences through the prison system and the criminal underworld — without losing any of the brutality.
8 RoboCop (1987)
In the opening scene of RoboCop, a police officer named Murphy wanders into a gang hideout and gets blown to pieces by gunfire. Then, the Omni Consumer Products megacorporation resurrects him as a police state killing machine.
Paul Verhoeven’s movie is far from the one-dimensional sci-fi actioner it seems to be; it’s a sharp satire lampooning capitalism, authoritarianism, privatization, and the media.
7 Oldboy (2003)
After a man has been imprisoned for seemingly no reason for years, he’s released with clothes, a cell phone, and some money, and has to find whoever locked him up or his life will get even worse. Oldboy is the second entry in Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy.
The scene in which a guy eats a live octopus is enough to make viewers squeamish, let alone the infamous blood-drenched hallway scene.
6 Kill Bill: Vol 1 & 2 (2003 & 2004)
Over the course of Quentin Tarantino’s two-part martial arts epic Kill Bill, Uma Thurman’s lead protagonist the Bride goes through hell: she’s beaten, shot, stabbed, assaulted, and buried alive.
It would be a horror movie if she didn’t have the ability to get back up and exact vengeance on her attackers. In one scene, she rips her closest rival’s eye out of its socket.
5 Dredd (2012)
Pete Travis is the credited director of Dredd, a dystopian thrill-ride revolving around the iconic 2000 A.D. character, but according to Karl Urban, screenwriter Alex Garland directed so many of the reshoots that he’s basically the movie’s director. Garland wrote 28 Days Later, so it’s hardly surprising that Dredd has a horror sensibility.
Dredd has a merciless fascist protagonist targeting the suppliers of a drug that slows down time. This drug allowed the movie to show bullets passing through people in super slow-motion, exemplifying every horrifying detail. Some characters are given the drug before being thrown from the top of a high-rise to make the fall feel slower.
4 Battle Royale (2010)
At the beginning of Battle Royale, a bunch of schoolchildren are taken to a remote location by their totalitarian overlords and told that they’re being pitted against each other in a fight to the death.
Kinji Fukasaku’s movie is one of the most riveting action thrillers of the century thus far. It hit theaters years before the similarly-themed The Hunger Games and it’s much more violent.
3 The Night Comes For Us (2018)
Some of the same team from The Raid upped the ante when they made Netflix’s The Night Comes for Us, which sees a small band of justice-seekers fending off the entire Indonesian crime world and the corrupt cops on their payroll to protect the life of a little girl who escaped from the Triad’s slaughter of her entire village.
This movie has some of the most spectacularly violent fight scenes ever put on film. It crosses every line that one would expect it to avoid. In one scene, the little girl stabs a guy in the face.
2 Rambo (2008)
The fourth entry in the Rambo franchise, simply titled Rambo, saw a grizzled, aging John Rambo living on the fringes of society in Burma. A group of political activists asks him to escort them deep into the belly of the beast to liberate oppressed locals.
As usual, he’s reluctant at first but soon gets back into killing mode to exact brutal vigilante justice. Rambo once held the record for the highest kill count in movie history. In the final act, Rambo gets at the helm of a giant machine gun and tears the Burmese militia to pieces. This movie is gorier than all the Halloweens combined.
1 Brawl In Cell Block 99 (2017)
Even the most desensitized viewer will struggle to stomach the bone-crunching, skull-scraping carnage of S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99. The Bone Tomahawk director recruited Vince Vaughn to play a violent criminal who is forced to punch his way through the prison system by a gang lord threatening to perform a horrific experimental abortion on his pregnant girlfriend.
The naturalistic cinematography emphasizes the near-cartoonish brutality of the action. The shocking evil of the villains is matched by the gruesomeness of their comeuppance.
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