To disturb or intrigue?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



Viewed – 09 April 2009  DVD

Now I have a pretty broad minded taste when it comes to films, and have seen some rather extreme pieces of cinema in my time … but let me say this now … this is one of the most uncomfortable films I have ever sat through, and while it’s made with a degree of skill, the dark, foreboding style and subject matter left me with a rather bad taste in my mouth.

This is a strange film to review as it plays out very unusually, starting with the end credits, then events transpire in reverse, as we follow a murder at a gay club, then a man searching for someone, then a very very nasty rape scene, and finally a happy opening near the end.  French actor Vincent Cassel plays a man desperately searching for the person who attacked his girlfriend (Monica Bellucci) but nothing is really that straight forward.  This is less a film about answers and more about how lives can be shattered and the passage of time can ruin everything.  Cheery stuff indeed.  To put it short, if you can’t handle images of sadistic violence, graphic sex or narratives that are all over the place, then move along – this is not for you.  On the other hand, if you like to be challenged and pushed to your limits when watching something … give this a look.  But I warn you now – once seen is not easily forgotten.

Verdict:  3 /5

Shoot ’em up

Viewed – 10 January 2008  DVD

Well what can I say about this?  Its fast, frantic, very silly but above all else heaps of fun, as long as you allow yourself to experience some of the craziest, but imaginative action sequences you’re ever likely to see.  Clive Owen retreads old ground reprising his mean ass bad-boy-with-a-gun from Sin City, all smoldering and gruff voiced, who is somehow involved in a plot to kill a new born baby after witnessing an attempted murder by a bunch of hit men lead by a grimacing, scenery-chewing Paul Giamatti.  Cue stylish scatter-shot camera work, slow motion diving through the air gun play, ridiculous (see: impossible) stunts, and more dead bad guys than you can shake a stick at (or a gun, held in both hands, with a never-ending supply of bullets).  Yes this is John Woo on speed, which I know has become a cliché all of its own, especially when imitators these days can deliver the goods in a way the once revered master of action can only dream of. 

So this breathlessly paced, heavy-metal themed actioner does have a plot of sorts, too convoluted for me to really care about (or have time to care about between noisy gun fights / car chases etc), but all this doesn’t matter when a) it looks brilliant throughout, b) you get to swoon over the delicious Monica Bellucci and c) – oh, who cares about C?  Here comes another gun fight!!

It all reminded me of Desperado, another stylish gun-wielding actioner of the mid nineties that had a simple story and a hard as nails lead guy – and some of the one liners, although corny made me laugh – and really, there’s a pace and enthusiasm to the whole thing, that unless you’re in a coma or something, it can’t help but leave you grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

Verdict:  3 /5