Recently I understood how many weird, off-the-rails and nightmarish films I have seen. Hence, I decided to sum it up a bit and I came up with this list – my personal favorites among the disturbing and disquieting in the last ten years. Some gained Oscars, some became indie cult classics and some are just straight-out trippy. And beware those, who wish to watch them all – some of these flicks really mess with your brain.
- Red State
Kevin Smith’s filmmaking career is the best example of a sinusoid – a proof, that there’s no such thing as a perfectionist, because everyone make better and worse things. Once he directed his cult classic Clerks, Smith lost it somewhere on the way, but among some of the miserable failures, he directed Red State – something unforgettably and brilliantly disturbing.
The plot focuses on an ardent group of religious fanatics, who also happen to be quite edgy about their sacred faith. Once they see an opportunity for a peculiar cleansing of a group of teenagers, they strive to serve the Lord, following the words of a devilish Reverend.
Red State is bonkers in its vast criticism regarding religion, but Smith, known to be quite a hater, doesn’t limit himself only to that. The peppery humor is mixed with obnoxious violence, which all leads to a truly bleak finale.
Apart from that, one should note the role of Michael Parks, whose appearance as the Reverend Cooper is what a frightening spiritual guru should be – mesmerizing confidence and predatory instinct are the two most visible traits. As a consequence, he was the one to keep me “entertained” throughout the film and was the main reason why Red State played out so well.
Anthony DiBlasi is not a name every cinephile is familiar with and what a pity this is! As a proof, comes his indie thriller from 2009 called Dread. The story revolves around a group of film school students, who wish to capture the sole nature of human fear on tape.
Dread is certainly a recommendation for the fans of mid-budget films and it deserves more recognition than it has received. It’s a psychologically disturbing film, challenging in terms of its approach towards ambition and a Machiavellian road to success.
Apart from that, Dread is quite nicely delivered when it comes to acting and visual execution. Non-saturated filters give it a sort-of dry feeling, perfectly matching the progressive paranoia of the three protagonists. DiBlasi’s film might seem as one of the mildest here, but trust me – the twisted ending is a nasty piece and a hard one to forget.
- Funny Games
Michael Haneke’s remake of his own German-language house invasion movie is a beautiful example of how solid acting elevates the movie experience to a whole new level.
The story of two young men in white, golf uniforms, who attack a couple in their luxurious mansion, wouldn’t be such a blood-curdling experience if not for Michael Pitt’s and Naomi Watts’ efforts. Each one dives into the psychological complexity of the film, convincingly depicting the dependence of the victim against its torturer.
Although it gets brutal, Funny Games is not a typically violent movie, bursting with harsh graphics and sadism. Instead, it’s like cold, sustained for two hours, without a second of warm. Plus, from the beginning, even though you know the end of the story – trust me, for some strange reason, you will want to see every bit of this tiring and spine-chilling experience.
My review of Funny Games – click here.
- Child of God
Indie flicks are often way more disturbing and bold, due to the relatively small and precisely targeted audiences. Yet, James Franco’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel could hardly find its niche – it was one of the most creeping-out and gross films I have seen.
A mentally-ill man becomes an outcast in rural America. He hides in the forest and slowly turns into an animal, with some truly uneasy deviations, that he nurtures in his desolation.
Franco’s film is a disturbingly directed observation of humanity dying in an individual, forcing out thoughts regarding the line dividing us from animals. It’s disgusting in many ways, vivdly painted, but all within the frames of Franco’s poetry in filmmaking.
The titular child of God is marvelously portrayed by Scott Haze, whose method acting takes the breath away, whilst bringing goosebumps all over the skin. And for that sole reason, Child of God film won’t be a waste of time.
My review of Child of God – click here.
Not many movies are bursting with so much obnoxious violence as the French horror Martyrs. Called as an existential torture porn piece, the film directed by Pascal Laugier takes you places, but these aren’t the places you would like to go.
The premise of the horror in Martyrs is built upon a secret organization whose paramount aim is to extract the human fear, understand it and live on it. And two young women, former victims of child abuse, become the perfect experimental means.
I cannot say that I recommend Martyrs – some of the gore and sadism was way over-the-top, with scenes like skinning someone that looked too vivid. Yet, the overall outcome is one of the most disgusting and terrifying films in the recent horror genre history. And a funny note, that not everyone know, is that Xavier Dolan was involved in the production of Martyrs. Wouldn’t guess it after seeing the films he’s directed, right?
P.S. This is real hardcore, so think twice before watching this flick.
- Big Bad Wolves
The Israeli thriller was named the best film of the year 2013 by Quentin Tarantino. If that’s not a recommendation for a pure pathology worth further notice, then I truly don’t know what would be…
Three man find themselves in a cabin, where they were led due to a series of peculiar events, all of which are connected by the same, disgustful crime.
I could really tell why Tarantino found Big Bad Wolves enjoyable. Its dark, twisted humor meets rather drastic imagery and deeply disturbing plot, mixing it all with a drop of an oriental vibe in filmmaking.
As a consequence, the narration is dynamic, bouncing from scary and truly savage motives to kind-of inappropriate, Holocaust-driven jokes about Jews. On top of that comes a witty plot with an unexpected twist – can you expect anything more?
- Animal Kingdom
David Michod’s Animal Kingdom is a film that stayed with me long after the end credits emerged on the screen. And it is not so violent as some of the previous entries on this list. Yet, it’s impact on one’s mind is much, much heavier.
The story regards a criminal family and centers on its new member – an introvert, who after his mother overdosed heroine, is taken under the wings of the Cody family.
Michod’s gangster tale is far from what could be expected from such a film. The unease is guaranteed by phenomenal acting, mainly Ben Mendelsohn, whose sociopathic Pope is a devil in human skin and Jackie Weaver – the feminine head of the family and the brains behind its cruelty.
Animal Kingdom is a beautiful piece of work when it comes to the visuals too. The artsy spirit of the cinematography, packed with long takes and cherished details, is truly inspiring. On top of that comes the soundtrack by Antony Partos, which blends with the ominous atmosphere of Michod’s film. The bleak, coming-undone film is a dreadful experience, which leaves one with the sad picture of humanity as a wolves’ hunt, where only the strongest and most ruthless survive.
- No Country For Old Men
The Coen brothers are essential parts of the modern artistic cinema – their films are one of a kind, watermarked with their exquisite direction style and intelligent humor. No Country For Old Men gathers these traits, pointing out a peak in their careers.
The film’s plot centers on a man, who accidentally finds money in the desert. He’s then hunted by a maniac mercenary and the police. As cliché as it sounds, there is hardly anything you’ve seen before. Beginning from the perfectly gritty, dark atmosphere, through the fantastic soundtrack and ending with some noticeable performances, No Country For Old Men landed as one of the creepiest and finest pieces of cinema in the last decade.
The story of a nowadays-iconic Javier Bardem as the oily-haired, ghostly walking menace with a fire extinguisher, following the trail of a panicked man holding onto huge money, gave the Coens four Oscars. Let that be a final conclusion to whether give this film a chance or not.
- Black Swan
This Oscar-winning piece by Darren Aronofsky is a piece of beautifully crafted art, but it also constitutes a fascinating, inner look into self-devouring madness.
The plot revolves around a young ballet dancer, whose ready for any kind of sacrifice to get the main role in the Swan Lake. Once she gets there, she plunges down into her own craziness and self-obsession.
There’s hardly any film that matched the visual quality of Black Swan so uniquely, whilst at the same time playing multiple strings – from hard-boiled horror to full-blown psychological drama. It’s a visual feast and also a breathtaking acting performance as a whole – Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis – all delivered top-notch roles.
Although it’s not the drastic imagery that does the trick, Black Swan was one hell of a weird experience. It’s trippy, oneiric and somehow immensely tempting – a film you cannot forget.
The pulsing narration of Justin Kurzel’s violent tale aims at providing a rather uneasy experience. The story revolves around factual events that took place in Australia’s city of Adelaide, where a series of numbing crimes was committed. Kurzel shows it from a perspective of a boy – Jamie – whose mother became acquainted with the aforementioned killer.
Snowtown never lets one free of the haunting grasp, inch by inch plunging deeper into the miserable life of Jamie, filled with fear evoked by the devilish partner of his mother. The film has also one of the best soundtracks in the recent years, composed by Jed Kurzel – ominous, frightening in its own way, matching the dry-out cinematography and dark atmosphere.
Snowtown is a hard-to-watch experience, but one that is worth the struggle all the way. It’s ubearably disturbing, uncomfortable to watch, yet at the same time hypnotizing. All in all, it’s undoubtedly among the best indies of the last decade and a must-see for fans of artsy cinema.
My review of Snowtown – click here.
What are your nightmares? Films that you won’t forget so easily? Let me know in the comment section 🙂