The True ABCs of Death: D is for Disembowel



Suggested Audio Candy


[1] John Carpenter & Alan Howarth “The Thing”

[2] John Harrison “Day of The Dead”



One of the less humane manners in which to meet your maker is disembowelment, or a darned good gutting as many refer to it, and has featured many times in horror past and present. Kind of like cesarean section without the bundle of joy at the end, it involves the painful insertion of whatever tool is at hand at somewhere around the navel. From there a hefty gash is fashioned, either vertically or horizontally dependent on the angle of impact, fashioning a gaping wound substantial enough to spill forth all manner of internal organs, more often than not, the intestines.


Contrary to what we were taught as children, the intestines cannot reach the moon when unwound fully although arteries, veins, and capillaries combined would definitely give it the old college try. It’s far less gracious than a simple beheading and, more often than not, death procrastinates while the recipient frantically attempts to put the jack back in its box as it were. Ordinarily a bleed-out occurs; gifting the victim ample time to crawl a few feet before realizing the wound travels with them.


You simply cannot make mention of the phrase disembowel without bringing up Joe D’Amato’s renowned 1980 video nasty Anthropophagus: The Beast, a film with as many different guises as there are letters in its title. This poor recluse was so weary of drinking the juice from coconut shells that he resorted to chowing down on his very own intestines. At least Tom Hanks had Wilson to while away the hours; the beast of the title here had only his own company to keep him insane. Consequently, it didn’t work as social skills were never his forte. The devolved deviant cannot really be held accountable for nourishing himself with the odd intestine or two, after all, a man needs to eat, even a frenzied half-breed such as he. If you are what you eat, then Anthropophagus sure was gutsy.


Lucio Fulci courted much controversy throughout his wide-spanning career but The New York Ripper was perhaps his most reviled work, due to its misogynistic treatment of the fairer sex. In one of its numerous murky scenes a female was disemboweled with a broken liquor bottle, from pussy to her abdomen and, to this day, many haven’t been exposed to the full extent of the gory sadism as it still hasn’t been fully reinstated. It’s a deeply distasteful piece of cinema but very much worth tracking down if you have a gut of wrought iron.


John Carpenter’s The Thing featured an altogether different type of gory disembowelment as the stomach in question separated of its own free will during a hideous failed attempt at resuscitation. The hapless Dr. Copper must’ve wished he had called it as his defibrillator paddles found a temporary sanctuary inside Vance’s chest, which had transformed into The Pit of Carkoon and commenced its clampdown. Two bloody elbow stumps later and all hell literally broke loose. The rest is cinematic history of the finest order.

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A year later, Douglas McKeown brought us The Deadly Spawn and these cantankerous critters weren’t fussy about which body part they chowed down on. I love me a good old-fashioned eighties monster movie and this glorious film was easily one of the most memorable. As well as providing an ideal commercial for the perils of acid reflux, it also supplied grue by the vat load as those gnashing jaws began their close encounter. Time has been remarkably kind to The Deadly Spawn and it still holds up astonishingly well over thirty years later but I would recommend keeping expectations realistic. One look at the cover art should tell you precisely what you need to know.


Evisceration by haunted window provides my next example of rose-tinted reminiscence. James W. Roberson’s Superstition saw two bone-headed trespassers becoming the primary quarry of one particularly narked necromancer and, after locating his buddy’s bonce in a nearby microwave, douche number two hysterically made his hasty retreat to the nearest available exit. Unbeknownst to him, the witch had designs on his ruin and sent the windowpane plummeting down as he clambered through, shearing his mid torso into two. His convulsing legs remained inside the forsaken house while the top half, spewing entrails, plopped into the prairie outside. It was a grand opening to a sadly mislaid B-grade classic.

unholy horror

Back when a new issue of Fangoria was an event to be savored, one image stood out like Vincent Schiavelli in an identity parade. It was a horrific still of a cadaver pinned to an inverted crucifix bearing a gaping aperture large enough to stow away an immigrant. This poor chap’s giblets were on parade for all to witness, behind a cathedral altar. The film in question was Camilo Vila’s little known 1988 satanic verse The Unholy, and the disembowelment in question was truly abominable. Split from appetite to gullet and with innards which had become outards, the stark imagery stayed with me like airport luggage for a considerable time afterwards, long after the film had been discarded.


E. Elias Merhige’s surreal 1990 masterpiece, Begotten, was the kind of nightmarish movie which sleepless nights were invented for and achieved maximum effect without any need for dialogue whatsoever, choosing instead to punish us audibly with ominous background score and optically through stark imagery which remained long after the film unspooled. One of the most sickening scenes involved none other than God disemboweling himself and, any piece of art willing to travel to such depths of depravity in order to make its point, is more than worthy of a little notoriety. After this vile act, nomads raped and killed him, for that final gut punch. My subconscious was invaded in no uncertain terms by Begotten and I implore you to seek it out at your own emotional peril.


Zombies love a good old rummage through your insides and I could have mentioned an assortment of different examples of gut-munching but have decided to settle on George A. Romero’s magnificent Day of the Dead. There is no finer instance than when Captain Rhodes finally discovers the true meaning of karma. After unfeelingly putting lead into Bub’s surrogate father, he just had to suffer, and the vegetarian zombie finally seized his chance as his brethren ran amok in the underground facility. He fired a couple of wayward shots into his nemesis, before mortally wounding him and, as the bastard of the piece opened the doors to put some expanse between them, he was acquainted to a sea of snatching hands.


It was reminiscent of the opening day of the sales at Bloomingdale’s; they grasped the captain like they were about to give him the birthday bumps but instead pulled him taut, causing a grisly separation at the waist, and exposing his innards for the ravenous posse to banquet upon. Rhodes then watched in horror as they commenced their all you can eat banquet. This provided a fitting conclusion for one of the most reviled characters in movie history and extra kudos for Bub’s glorious salute as he headed off to search for a salad. This followed another superb moment when a zombie on the mortuary slab leaned across, imprudently discounting the fact that his flapping midriff was struggling to contain his last meal and the full contents of his packed lunch.


My second flesh zombie apocalypse comes courtesy of Yann Demange’s 2008 reality TV zombie mini-series Dead Set and, once more, there could be no more justifiable an organ donor. Mean-spirited TV executive Patrick endured a comparable downfall to Joe Pilato but, as opposed to watching on in horror, he simply egged his aggressors on. “Oi! Ya cunts, ya missed a juicy bit of liver there you festering fucks” or words to that effect were his dying dialogue and suddenly he was exonerated of all his heinous transgressions. Patrick expired with head held high as the zombies gnawed the mutton off his windpipe.


Steven Spielberg turned heads in 1998 with Saving Private Ryan as he introduced us to the horrors of war with an opening scene depicting the atrocities of the Normandy landings during the second world war. The sands of Omaha Beach ran red with the blood of many a misled man-at-arms as the second ranger battalion were led like lambs to their slaughter. You can imagine their fretting families’ bemusement when receiving their postcards from the edge and Spielberg pulled every solitary last stop to ensure we heard every last ricochet and witnessed the sickness first-hand. War is such a needless and single-minded pursuit and this stunning authentic set-piece provided all the encouragement I needed to dodge the officer’s bullet and remain a gentleman.


In Neil Marshall’s 2002 werewolf movie Dog Soldiers, man’s man Sean Pertwee was man enough to soldier on, despite the fact that he had a pretty severe abdominal laceration to contend with. The cavity and incoming lycanthropes were the last of his concerns however, as a mischievous mutt decided to make off with his “sausages” after confusing his entrance wound as a butcher’s window.


A little-known obscurity from 2006 from Simon Boyes and Adam Mason called Broken commenced with a bewildered belle tied to a tree, her only means of escape being provided razor blade. No sweat I hear you retort and indeed it wouldn’t be had it not been for the fact that said blade was located somewhere in her stomach lining. Thus she had to fish around inside the weeping fissure whilst juggling her over-spilling organs. Not entirely congenial then, but not a patch on what would befall her later.


A significant hurrah must go to Ngai Choi Lam’s frankly insane gruefest, Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky, which reveled in presenting disembowelment followed swiftly by attempted strangulation using the hapless recipient’s own large intestine. Cruel cruel irony! Like Anthropophagus before him, full credit goes to the victim in question as he did, at least, attempt to think out of the box although it all proved too much and, one death punch to his airborne carcass later, he was sent packing for his early bath.


The next film featured will no doubt bamboozle many of you as it couldn’t be farther from horror. Picha & Boris Szulzinger’s crudely animated sex comedy Jungle Burger is not the first location one would expect to find disembowelment but miraculously it made an appearance. It may not have been be worthy of the late great Fangoria cover art (yes, I’m aware they’re still in print) but it does show the diverse range of movies to take a stab at this gross-out method of dispatch. Our over-sexed hero Shame held aloft a tribesman’s limp upper torso, which spewed out a gory mass of chopped cartoon liver. Now that’s something you never got with Tom & Jerry. Meanwhile Shame’s faithful and downright lovable pet scamp Flicka spanked his own little monkey like a madman excitedly.


The above are just a light smattering of busted guts to sink your incisors into but, as always, should there be exclusions let me know and I shall endeavor to find them a new dwelling in my closing gallery. The disembowelment presents infinite possibility to any aspiring FX artist and some of the finest practical splatter has involved chopped pig liver and red dyed dog food. If there is a lesson to be learned here then it would undoubtedly be to wear those tummy girdles as food looks a lot more appetizing on insertion than it does spewing from your stomach lining.





Click here to read D is for Deviancy



Guts & Glory




I fancy a rummage if you’d be so kind
Can go in from the front or else plump for behind
Once inside your bread basket I’ll have a good forage
As I wish to chow down some abdominal porridge


I apologize greatly if I make you howl
If my callus strewn thumbs relocate your bowel
Don’t mean to be churlish or act like a putz
But there’s so much darned fun to be had with those guts


I can tie them in knots fashion quite the balloon
And promise that it will be over with soon
Once I’ve had my fill your intestines will spill
Then I’ll call in the pigs as they love them some swill


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  1. Oh masters of the grue that is this page… You have no idea how much you have touched me, helping me to meet and get to know death before I finally take his hand and follow him into the warm darkness that is the unknown next life! Thank you so much for all you’ve done to reintroduce the world to true literary genius that once only belonged to the likes of HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and Bram Stoker…. The world will learn from you and eventually understand that death is not the end but only the begining, and that without darkness the world would never understand light!!

  2. While I enjoyed the bloodshed and torment of these victims of horror I was pleased at day of the dead when he got ripped to shreds by the undead… muahhahah….. the display of brutality was impecable and wet my appetite for more… you always do a top notch job Mr.Quill..

    1. Thank you for all your messages, they’re very much appreciated. I’m slow on the reply here, apologies: busy as hell but it’s nice to read such positive comments. Glad it’s striking a chord. Are you on Twitter Sir?

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