Top 5 Filthiest Films

At first glance you may assume that this list is an accumulation of 5 of the most obscene films ever made. And while these 5 films are in fact all rather obscene, here I am using the other definition of the word: Covered or smeared with filth; disgustingly dirty. The 5 films presented below are covered with dirt, grime, grease, blood, and sweat to the extent that the audience may feel the need to shower after viewing. The actors (or puppets) and environments are so blanketed with foulness that spectators can almost smell and taste the decay.  In some cases, the appearance of filth is due to a low budget and high production temperatures, leading to a sweaty cast and set. Other times this effect was created by make up artists and set designers painstakingly recreating the unsanitary conditions of a garbage dump or a rundown diner. Most often, it was a combination of both. Either way, the creators of the following films went out of their way to beget a world of filth in order to bombard their audiences in ways that very few films have been able (or would want) to. I am dubbing this the “John Waters Memorial List”, because otherwise his films from the 60’s and 70’s would make up the entire thing.

5. The Funhouse (1981) – Tobe Hooper

If I thought about it long enough I am sure I could come up with a whole other list of “sweaty horror” movies. This one and the 3rd movie on this list would be at the top. Made in between the successes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist, director Tobe Hooper attempted to depict the seedier side of the amusement circuit. A group of teenagers dare each other to spend the night in the funhouse of a traveling carnival that is town. After wandering the grounds and experiencing all that they had to offer, (including a redneck peep show, making fun of Madame Zena the fortune teller and a sideshow with genuine two headed and cleft palliated cows) the kids get high on dope and break into the soon-to-be-not-so-funhouse. They sit tight until after the “ride” closes and witness the ride operator paying Zena (not the warrior princess) to “pleasure him”. It seems our friend in the Frankenstein mask (did I mention that he is wearing a Frankenstein mask?) has some performance issues and gets angry when the fortune teller refuses to give him back his hard earned $100. Apparently, a profession in ride operating can really get to a person, because he loses control and kills Zena. The carnival barker (who is also the ride operator’s father) discovers what has happened and precedes to beat “Frankenstein”. During the scuffle the mask is torn off and a pale-fanged-red-eyed-cleft-headed (remember the cow?) monster is revealed. The unhappy couple realizes that they are not alone– And basically the rest of the movie is the deformed creature chasing the helpless youth around the funhouse, using various objects one might find in said house of fun to off them one by one. Right off the bat this film has a filthy tone to it. Traveling carnivals are disgusting places in the present day. One can only imagine the levels of grime that existed 30 years ago, before the country became was united by hypochondria. Mix that with the fact that it was filmed in the middle of summer in Miami and you have yourself a dirty/sweaty good time. A couple fun facts: apparently a handful of extras were accidentally left on a fully automated ride for over 20 minutes while a scene was being shot. Also, Dean Koontz wrote a novelization of the movie. Definitely not going to read that.

4. Meet the Feebles (1989) – Peter Jackson

It is every film geek’s favorite thing to point out to the average movie goer the fact that the Academy Award winning director of Heavenly CreaturesKing Kong and the wholly Lord of the Rings trilogy, got his start sculpting some of the most violent and disgusting images ever put on a screen. This is going to be a decidedly (and purposely) short review for no other reason than I honestly can’t even think to where to begin in properly describing this film. If you’ve never seen or heard of it, then you are either extremely lucky or extremely deprived depending on your taste. The movie is about a group of puppets that make up a vaudeville type performance troupe. Each character has their very own repulsive habit or secret. Whether it be date-rape, snuff films, nasal sex (yes, nasal sex), russian roulette, coprophagia or just a deadly case of syphilis, every member of The Feebles Variety Hour has something to hide. Unfortunately (or fortunately, again, depending on your taste) they are all spelled out in the most soiled ways possible. Unlike your average Muppet movie, where the puppets are spotlessly clean, these models are caked in the filth that surrounds them. Though, I can’t help to think that Jim Henson would be proud.

3. Graveyard Shift (1990) – Ralph S. Singleton

Very few animals are viewed by our society as filthy as rats, and they are on display in great numbers in this 1990 film. A drifter comes to a small industrial town in Maine. He soon finds work at a textile mill that seems to have a seemingly never-ending supply of job openings. His position consists of running possibly the most unsafe piece of manufacturing machinery ever created and picking off rats with his trusty slingshot and Pepsi cans (maybe my favorite example of product placement). After defending the honor of a fellow female worker at the hands of the comically evil Northeastern foreman, he involuntarily volunteers himself to a clean up crew. The crew’s job is to clean up what appears to be the worst basement in the world. Teaming with a toxic mixture of wooden furniture, stacks of paper, rats and standing water, it resembles what you would get if you combined every home from the TV series “Hoarders” into one disorganized and unearthly wasteland. The crew begin to find trap doors and stairwells that lead to new and more disgusting subterranean levels to this apparently ancient mill. I’ll stop here in the play by play as to not ruin any more of the odious surprises that this film has in store. All you need to know is that every square inch of this film is smeared in moistest filth imaginable. Plus you also have the always brilliant creepy Brad Dourif at his greasiest as a tobacco spitting exterminator who at one point recalls how he witnessed rats being used as tortured devices in Vietnam. The film was shot at the oldest yarn mill in America, so most of that antique dankness you see is genuine. It is based on a short story by Stephen King, and is a prime example of a rule that I stand by, short stories make for better films than novels do.

2. Street Trash (1987) – James Muro

Street Trash has the advantage in this category of having the majority of the movie taking place in an actual garbage dump. The movie is set in modern day (1987) lower Manhattan. A local liquor store owner uncovers a crate of bottles labeled “Viper” in his storage and decides to sell it to the neighborhood hobos for a buck a bottle. The only problem is that this beverage seems to turn its consumers into a frothy, bubbly blue mess. Well, I suppose the other problem is that a half pint of liquor is being sold for a dollar, so naturally all of the transients in the greater Manhattan area soon come flocking. Before too long there are dissolving puddles of bums with an adjacent bottle strangely appearing around the immediate vicinity of said liquor store. This is a fact that takes a local police officer the better part of the movie to figure out. Like Meet the Feebles, this movie is full of sexism, racism, rape, homophobia and all other types of features that make us humans what we are. But the amount of grim that is caked on every single surface area of this film is truly something to behold. Again, it helps that almost all of the main and secondary characters are homeless alcoholics that live in a junkyard (and like to play keep away with each other’s genitalia). The director, James Muro, is an accomplished camera operator who has worked on Academy awarding winning films such as Titanic and Dances with Wolves, so the film itself is surprisingly well made for such a low budget horror film. This factor means that the filth is just that much clearly captured. A great double feature with this film is 1985’s The Stuff. Another well made horror satire on the dangers of consumer consumption.

1. The Dark Backward (1991) – Adam Rifkin

The great John Waters aside, no film in the history of cinema has effectively been as filthy as The Dark Backward. Judd Nelson (Bender from the Breakfast Club) plays Marty Malt, a mousey garbageman that moonlights as the worst stand-up comedian of all time. His best friend is fellow garbageman, Gus (as played by Bill Paxton, who brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “unforgettable performance”). Gus is an accordion toting manic lunatic who has an affliction for morbidly obese (and sometimes dead) women and will consume literally anything. One day a small bump appears on his back, before he knows it that bump turns into a third arm complete with hand. The new appendage is both a blessing and a curse. His waitress girlfriend (Twin Peak‘s Lara Flynn Boyle) is freaked out and leaves him, but talent agent Jackie Chrome (Wayne Newton) is now suddenly interested in representing him and his new popular extremity. Unlike the previous four films on this list, this film’s disgusting look lies completely in the hands of it production designers. While the others embraced their grungy guise caused by the circumstances of low budgets (not that The Dark Backward had a budget of Spielbergion size), the creators of this movie purposely created these deplorable environments. Every floor, every wall, every object is covered with so much muck and plasma that you could make an imprint on any given surface. Whether it is a dinner, a comedy club, a talent agent’s office, a doctor’s office or a junk yard, without exception, each new setting has the same constancy of foulness. It successfully combines the griminess of New York and the greasiness of Los Angeles.


The Cleanest Film of All Time!

Without a doubt the movie that is almost completely void of any filth is George Lucas’ masterpiece THX 1138.

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