To disturb or intrigue?


henry-portrait-of-a-serial-killer

Over the years, running this blog and beforehand, I have stumbled across, sometimes sort out and watched some pretty messed up examples of modern cinema.  The world as we know it can be pretty freaky and strange, and the movie industry is a place where some directors like to explore the darker realms of story-telling.  Below are just a few of the most powerfully disturbing movies I have seen, some of which have had a lingering affect on me as a movie fan.  So take a trip with me into the heart of darkness and into some movies that are certainly not for everyone … simply put, approach these with a great amount of caution.

Audition

Takeshi Miik’s simple story (on the surface) of a world weary film maker in search of his ideal bride; jaded from the usual dating scene he chooses to hold a series of auditions for a role that does not exist.  Suffice to say the seemingly gentile woman he finds hides a much more sadistic side to her personality.

Most disturbing moment:  the man in the cloth sack.

The Untold Story

Based apparently on a true story of a restaurant owner who murders his family then serves them up as ingredients in his pork buns – is one of the most notorious Category III movies in Hong Kong.  Anthony Wong, no stranger to powerful roles plays the main character and is in some of the most graphically violent scenes I’ve ever seen.  Most shocking is the slightly comical tone, which makes events all the more difficult to tolerate.

Most disturbing moment:  a family gets massacred.

Irreversible

Clever in structure it may be, as it is told in reverse, starting with the end credits before proceeding to a nightclub murder and leading up to (or flashing back to…) a brutally drawn out rape scene.  Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci headline the cast in this stylish but utterly harrowing story of revenge.

Most disturbing moment:  death by fire extinguisher.

Scum

Alan Clark’s unflinching take on British boys borstal life made a name out of a teenage Ray Winston, but it’s no holds barred tone and graphic violence makes it notorious.  In some ways it can be seen as a cool hard-core brit flick, but has a horrible warning message for young offenders everywhere.

Most disturbing moment:  rape in a greenhouse.

Eden Lake

A British horror in an unconventional sense has a young couple visiting their favourite secret getaway by a secluded lake – until a group of delinquent youths choose to crash the party.  Harrowing because from a British point of view, these type of youths exist on housing estates, in run down districts etc … and it’s a scary thought that if coming into their territory you may just be fighting for survival.  Violent and shockingly believable.

Most disturbing moment:  setting the boy on fire.

Martyrs

I have spoken about this notorious French horror before, but it remains one of the most difficult to sit through movies of all time.  Two girls seeking revenge stumble upon a cult hell bent on discovering evidence of the after life, by pushing their victims to near death through prolonged torture and martyrdom.

Most disturbing moment:  discovering the tortured woman.

Sleeping Beauty

A woman (Emily Browning) struggling to pay her way through college takes a job as a hostess at an exclusive gentleman’s club.  However when she is there she is told she will be drugged and go to sleep in a bed, and when she wakes the morning after, she will be paid … but isn’t aloud to ask what happens in between.  Weird, freaky and utterly unpleasant.

Most disturbing moment:  the old man shouting obscenities to an unconscious, naked girl.

Sympathy for Mr Vengeance

The first part of Park Chan-wook’s acclaimed vengeance trilogy, this tells the story of a deaf and dumb guy trying to raise money for his sister’s kidney operation.  However his terrorist girlfriend talks him into kidnapping a wealthy business man’s daughter in order to get a ransom.  Things go from bad to worse and well, vengeance is seeked not just from the business man but also the deaf guy in a movie of powerful acting and even more powerful violence.

Most disturbing moment:  torture by electricity.

Funny Games

A family’s idyllic holiday is interrupted by two seemingly nice guys who stop by to borrow a cup of sugar – then  subject the family to a series of humiliating and cruel ‘games’ at gunpoint.  Director Michael Haneke’s powerful movie was remade under the same name in America and starred Naomi Watts.

Most disturbing moment:  breaking the fourth wall.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Made a name for it’s star Michael Rooker and is a powerful interpretation of the real life crimes of killer Henry Lee Lucas.  Along with his friend Otis, Henry goes on a series of murders, until after a while their fun is interrupted by the arrival of Otis’ trailer-trash sister.  Suffice to say this serial killing duo don’t take too kind to company.  Brutal, very realistic and all the more disturbing for it.

Most disturbing moment:  home invasion on VHS.

So there you have it.  Movies that span the gamut of shocking, violent and powerful.  Some are classic examples of extreme cinema at it’s best (Martyrs, Sympathy…) and some are just plain horrible (Sleeping Beauty).  I would say if you are at all squeamish or some movies can play on your mind, then avoid the list above … but if like me you like to test yourself, see what is out there, then, still with a degree of caution … the movies above leave their mark regardless of your bravery.  You have been warned.

AUDITION FOR THE TICKET 24 JULY 2009 TOP FIVE HORROR FILMS

The Tall Man


Viewed – 06 April 2013  Blu-ray

Two things to get straight right away.  This has nothing to do with the villain of cult favorite series Phantasm, and secondly this isn’t the kind of deeply disturbing, torture endurance test that was Martyrs; Director Pascal Laugier’s previous effort.  Starring a dowdy Jessica Biel (sigh…) as a Nurse in a small town that has been rocked to it’s core by a series of child kidnappings, this is a slow burning, creepy and effecting thriller.

tall man

I think anyone going into this with memory of Martyr’s might be cautious.  Without going into detail, that movie remains one of the most disturbing, get-under-your-skin horror movies ever made, and I still haven’t had the guts to sit down and watch it again.  So I understand why this may not have had the press coverage or advertising it deserves.  Laugier’s name has become infamous, and it’s a shame because on this evidence he’s a very capable and intelligent film maker.  I liked how on the surface it was a mystery surrounding a ghostly boogeyman, but with a real-world relevance that should hit a cord with almost everyone aware of child abduction cases.  However this takes a well-trodden subject and shakes it up, with surprising and thought-provoking results.   Add to this some thrilling moments (Biel chasing after the kidnapper for example), unnerving editing / camera work, and solid acting with Biel proving more than her usual eye-candy, and also a quality turn from from Jodelle Ferland (Tideland) … I was suitably gripped.

Laugier’s movie likes to play with your expectations, and although I felt the clever narrative occasionally detracted from the overall impact, I still wish to salute the Director for not taking the predictable route with this.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Cinema-du-shock


In the past five or so years, there has been a resurgence in horror movies from foreign climates, most notably France. Where our American cousins may be stuck in remake hell, the French seem to be doing something all together more gutsy and raw. I have always had a fondness with world cinema as a whole, and consider France to be one of the best countries for both drama and action with acclaimed names like Luc Besson and Vincent Cassell among their exports. Yet I only really became aware of French horror with the slasher movie Switchblade Romance (Haute Tension), a quality throwback to the video nasty era of the early eighties, and a movie that left me both impressed with its quality and stunned by its unflinching violence. Yes, American & UK movies have stepped it up as far as on screen violence goes with the likes of the Saw franchise and Eden Lake or The Descent… but something about ‘Switchblade struck a cord with me… and made me thirsty to hunt out more French horrors.

Little did I realise that Switchblade was only the tip of the iceberg, and other horrors were to push my endurance and comfort levels further than ever before. Although ‘Switchblade remains conventional in the slasher flick rule book (apart from a seriously dodgy twist climax), what else I have seen has made me somewhat cautious when sitting down to watch another. Martyrs should probably go down in history as the most disturbing torture / revenge movie ever made – it takes no prisoners, and the on screen suffering is quite tough to watch… but again, it’s done with a great deal of skill, that although I may have been disgusted, I couldn’t help but admire it’s audacity at the same time. Similar in bold attitude is Inside (À l’intérieur), another difficult to watch experience, soaked in blood and featuring a very nasty and unpleasant ending. I also don’t recommend it if you are pregnant or just given birth. Yet I couldn’t help but be impressed. The talent available in France seems to be very different and with less restraints than say Eli Roth or Rob Zombie. These guys do enter the territory explored in French horror, but come away formulaic and not quite as brave (or should that be crazy) as the French, and for me these movies would never get the green light in Hollywood. Also add to the argument that these are in unfamiliar surroundings with foreign speaking cast, and the comfort of a glossed over American or British movie is lost, and all bets are off. This is one reason why Japanese chillers like Ring work so well – it’s the discomfort in the unfamiliar that is completely lost when such movies are remade by American studios.

So if you are into horror, not just casually, but have grown up on Friday the 13th and Halloween, yet yearn for those days when a horror movie was the forbidden fruit and not the audience grabbing new kid of the mainstream it is now, then check out French horror – but I warn you now, it will leave its mark on you, for better or worse.

I still feel a newcomer though to French horror, but plan to review more titles on this blog in the coming months, not just from France but also other countries.  For now here are my reviews as posted on this blog.

Martyrs  (France)

Inside  (France)

Frontier(s)  (France)

Let The Right One In  (Norway)

Rec  (Spain)

Martyrs


Viewed – 26 May 2009  DVD

Oh my god.  I have seen some f**** up stuff in my time, and have a pretty high tolerance for violent movies, but something about this latest French export got under my skin.  This hard hitting horror movie takes its lead from torture porn extravaganzas such as Hostel and Saw then cranks it up to eleven, whilst hammering home a disturbingly believable premise that, I’m not ashamed to admit, made me feel guilty for watching.

Lucie is a damaged, disturbed young woman who when she was a child was kidnapped and physically abused, only to escape in the film’s opening minutes as we witness her run, battered, bruised and crying, semi-naked down a dusty road.  Soon the film cuts to fifteen years later and Lucie turns up on the doorstep of a seemingly innocent family, sporting a double-barrel shotgun, and proceeds to exact her revenge in a bloody, unrelenting killing spree.  Then the movie gets really nasty.  This is certainly not an experience (and it is an experience) for anyone easily shocked, as there are scenes here of physical violence, drawn out and unflinching, mixed with horrific hallucinations, all leading to an ending that once seen, will surely lay imprinted on your subconscious for days.  I kid you not.

Pascal Laugier’s film is obviously an experiment in endurance, but also has a powerful, real world message of the evil that lurks among the seemingly innocent.  This kind of stuff happens, we as a species are capable of horrendous acts of cruelty and violence, and this showcases exactly how far someone might take such extremes.  I’m going to recommend this though, as even though as a piece of entertainment its not really suitable for anyone – but as an example of just how far movies can go to shock and disturb – this one is there … with a bullet.

A special mention must go to the fascinating 85 minute documentary included on this UK Optimum release, that although sheds no light on the reasoning behind the films disturbing themes, gives a detailed look into the film-making process with a wealth of rehearsal and make-up effects footage that created for me an increased admiration for the film makers and their obvious talents.

Verdict:  4 /5