Top 11 Cinematic Experiments Gone Wrong

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The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Truer words were never spoken. So when someone decides to construct a body from cadaver parts and reanimate it with a lightning bolt, or surgically connect three people with one gastroenterological tract, they always hope for the best. Unfortunately, that’s not usually the result.

Which leads us to our latest list of the best and the brightest. In honor of the DVD/Blu-ray release of The Apparition on November 27th, we bring out our list of Top 11 films featuring Experiments Gone Wrong.

As always, we’ve got to give a shout out to a few honorable mentions. Who would think that things would go wrong with keeping a cryogenically frozen Jason Voorhees, as in Jason X? Surprisingly, things went bad there. The splicing of DNA from different animals sounds like a brilliant idea, no? Splice proved that was a wonky idea as well. And certainly the Umbrella Corporation is responsible for making some really poor managerial decisions that resulted in the release of the T-Virus in Resident Evil.

And now, the Top 11 Experiments Gone Wrong.

Frankenstein (1931)

We might as well start this list with the most obvious entry. Frankenstein is the granddaddy of the experiment gone wrong tale. James Whale’s legendary adaptation of Mary Shelley’s vision is obviously the blueprint for stories of science gone awry. You would think that sewing a bunch of body parts together and then running a lightning bolt through the creature would generate happy times, but alas, this was not the case. Frankenstein is the original and quintessential example of experiments gone wrong. Boris Karloff delivers what can only be described as a monumental performance in a film that is as impactful today as it was when it was released over 80 years ago..

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Re-Animator (1985)

The insanity of this film cannot be overstated. From the naked reanimated corpse raging though the laboratory to the most memorable oral sex scene ever captured on film (I defy you to find its equal), Re-Animator is the epitome of over-the-top 80’s horror. With buckets of gore and the blackest humor you can imagine, Re-Animator has entertained horror fans for decades and all because Dr. Herbert West decided to bring his professor, Dr. Hans Gruber (name sound familiar fans of “American Horror Story”? Die Hard?), back to life. That unforgettable syringe with the glowing green liquid has meant nothing but trouble since its first injection and it continued to wreak havoc for two equally outrageous sequels.

The Human Centipede (2010)

Just the thought of Dieter Laser playing the diabolical Dr. Josef Heiter brings a smile to the face of most horror fans. As does the plan behind this film’s experiment, that being the attempt to surgically create a Siamese triplet that shares one digestive system. And there’s only one way we can do that, right kiddies? Oh yes…ass-to-mouth. And although Dr. Heiter spent his professional life separating conjoined twins, he has become more interested in putting things back together during his retirement. Maybe he should have tried golf. Initially, Heiter succeeds in creating the three-person ‘pede, however it eventually proves to be a failure, and a deadly one at that. Although he did have some fun training his human pet (which was certainly not as cooperative as Heiter’s previously constructed three-dog) the final result was certainly not what the good doctor intended.

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The Stand (1994)

Everyone remembers Stephen King’s epic tale, The Stand. The huge book, which was turned into a memorable mini-series, revolved around a post-apocalyptic Earth left nearly lifeless by a disease nicknamed Captain Tripps that proved to be fatal to 99.4% of people who came in contact with it. However, it’s easy for the casual viewer to forget the fact that Captain Tripps was originally called Project Blue and it was created on a U.S. military base in an experimental laboratory. And it was just one lone soldier, Charles Campion, who escaped the base with his family as the site went into emergency lock down, that spread the superflu, wiping out the majority of Earth’s population and bringing the story of The Stand to life. Whether the entire escapade was orchestrated by Randall Flagg or if he was just happy to take advantage of the situation is up each individual reader, but the result is the same…the downfall of humanity. And it all started with one dangerous experiment gone wrong.

The Fly (1958, 1986)

Whether you prefer the original version, or the modernized one starring Jeff Goldblum, the message from The Fly is very simple: Do not try to beam yourself from one location to another. However, if you simply must attempt to beam yourself from one location to another be sure, above all else, that there is nothing, and we mean absolutely nothing, in your transportation pod with you. Because if something is in there with you, you’re going to genetically fuse together, and you know only bad, bad things can happen after that. Sure, being the Brundlefly seemed cool at first, but it’s not long before you go from a Spiderman-like stud to a drippy gross mess of a beast…or in the case of the original film, a freaky-looking, human-headed bug that ends up being a spider’s lunch.

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Piranha (1977)

Once again the government sticks it up our butts with an experiment gone wrong. Most people remember the original Piranha for the bikinis and psycho kill scenes, but, here again, we have to remember that the entire clusterfuck started with a failed government project. The piranha were spawned from a clandestine government experiment entitled Operation: Razorteeth. Now, I’m no expert in nicknaming clandestine government experiments, but anything with Razorteeth in the name sounds like a precarious venture right from the get-go. But what fun we as viewers had watching the unsuspecting water park goers as they suddenly realized that the tickle they felt against their legs wasn’t the gentle touch another bathing beauty, but one of the mutated offspring of Operation: Razorteeth (once you get saying it, it’s hard to stop…Razorteeth!) about to start biting! Just when you thought it was safe…fresh water version!

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

There have been several theatrical versions of this tale, but the 1941 envisioning had some incredibly powerful names attached to it. The film starred two multiple Academy Award winners in Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman and was directed by Victor Fleming who had previously helmed Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz two years earlier. The story is classic, Dr. Jekyll believes in the duality of mankind and is sure there is a good and evil side to everyone and he intends to prove it. By drinking a mysterious concoction, the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll turns into the monstrous Hyde. Ironically, Doctor Gash has tried this same experiment to release his evil side with a mysterious concoction known as tequila. Yowza!

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The Invisible Man (1933)

Frankenstein director James Whale makes his second appearance on this list as he was also the director for The Invisible Man. In this classic Universal Studios film based on the H.G. Wells novel, scientist Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) discovers the secret to invisibility through a drug called monocane. Unfortunately, a there is a very minor side-effect to the drug, that being it drives the user utterly batshit crazy. And, true to form, the monocane does just that to Dr. Griffin, sending him on a murderous rampage in pursuit of world domination. Needless to say world domination never arrives, and like many of the good intentioned scientists on this list, Griffin ends up dead. The film is wildly creative in its special F/X work, portraying the actions of Griffin using several different techniques to animate the title character including puppeteering with wires and a rudimentary green screen.

The Island of Doctor Moreau (1977)

“He who breaks the law shall be punished…Back to the House of Pain!” Believe us when we tell you, you don’t want any part of that House of Pain. Crikey! This is another story that was adapted in several films, however the 1977 version seems to be the one that sticks closest to the original story. As we know, Dr. Moreau has turned himself into a god-like figure on his island in the middle of nowhere, being deified by the man-beasts he has created. As you would expect with its inclusion on this list, things don’t go so smoothly for Moreau and the inhabitants of the island. His mutated creatures created through vivisection become impossible to control, blood is spilled and carefully laid plans go to crap.

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A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Once again, another example of government intervention gone wrong. Go figure. Adapted from the novel by Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange details the ultra-violent adventures of young thug Alex and his band of co-offenders he calls his droogies. After being convicted of murder and sentenced to 14 years in the stony lonesome, Alex serves two before being volunteered to participate in an aversion therapy experiment. Although the tests on young, malevolent, murderous Alex brought us some iconic cinematic scenes, they didn’t do much in the long run to actually quell his ultra-violent personality. Sure, in the short term he got a little sick at the sight of violence and sounds of Beethoven, but when all was said and done, the experiment failed, Alex landed a government job and enjoyed a tasty plate of eggiwegs as the film closed. Way to go, government.

Jurassic Park (1993)

One of the most profitable and visually stunning examples of a science experiment gone awry, Jurassic Park was a monumental success in filmmaking. John Hammond’s idea of cloning dinosaurs was an ill-conceived nightmare, but the adventure it spawned was one of the greatest ever. Absolutely iconic in every sense of the word, this film would go on to earn over $900 million worldwide and win three Oscars. So perhaps this was one example of an experiment gone horribly wrong that couldn’t have gone more right.

Be sure to check out The Apparition, available on DVD and Blu-ray on November 27.

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Scott Hallam


  1. I thought this was going to be about the other kind of cinematic experiments gone wrong, the kind usually involving someone like Uwe Boll.

  2. Wicked list! I like HUMAN CENTIPEDE in there…definitely a very important this-generation dangers of extreme science movie. I would only add GOJIRA }:)

  3. Take out Human Centipede and you have a wonderful list there. You could replace it with Colossus the Forbin Project, or Godzilla, or Deep Blue Sea, hell, even Night of the Living Dead. Great list though!

    • Thanks Terminal! I tried to mix it up a little bit. Of course there were some entries that were must-haves, but I think we snuck a couple fresh ones in there. And I’m a sucker for the ‘pede!

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