2020 has been pretty #messedup – and eventful – in the 3 months it’s been alive. There were the Australian bushfires, the swarms of locusts, the leaked conversation between Kanye and Taylor Swift, talks of WW3, that huge asteroid that was seemingly on a warpath towards earth (I don’t trust NASA, not one bit) and… the covid-19 outbreak. While the year is barely even an infant, it got real scary, real messy, real quick.
With most of us now in lockdown, we’re feeling a bit unlike ourselves. Because of this (and because I’m slowly losing my mind) I thought, “Hey! One might say that 2020 is like a really messed up thriller/horror screenplay” – and thus was the birth of this article. Mind you, the films on this list are based on my opinion and are films that I have actually seen. While some of them are not necessarily scary or “messy” (insert Saw franchise which is just wtf), their themes or messages are in themselves “messed-up”. In this essay I will…
(Har har, uni jokes…) Anyway, moving on.
So, please allow me to distract you, and pass your time with these 10 films – in no particular order – I thought were as messy as 2020 (if not more):
The Road (John Hillcoat, 2009)
If you feel as though you are currently living in an apocalyptic wasteland with the lockdown – this movie is just for that. It will tug at your heartstrings as you watch a father and his son try to survive in a wasteland of cannibals and unseen threats.
The film has a manner of keeping you on constant alert for possible threats, immersing you into the film, sharing the emotions and journey of the characters. The Road succeeds in asking viewers the question of “what would you do?” in a possible after-apocalyptic situation…
Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
What an… interesting film. Combining themes of class and morals, this film has you feeling both sad and disappointed for the lower-class family at the centre of the film, as they con their way into an upper-class family’s home.
While the film has great comedic value, it renders an overall serious tone, and confronts viewers with serious topics of economy. About 1/2 of the way through the film, a curveball is thrown – this is where the film gets quite messy, and where we realise that parasites may be numerous, but seldom easily found…
Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho, 2013)
Another Bong Joon-ho masterpiece, this film is set in a semi-dystopian society created by (you guessed it) humans. After releasing an artificial coolant to combat global warming, the earth is frozen into an Artificial Ice Age, leaving the remaining survivors on a train.
Like Parasite, and most of Joon-ho’s works, this film tackles the major theme of class and morals. It is a good depiction of how, even in a situation of near-extinction, humans still feel the need for hierarchy – even on a train. It has lots of moments of suspense, disgust and sorrow for the members of the “tail section” of the train.
There’s fighting, plotting, scheming, revolting, shooting, an engine, weird snobbish people, lots of grey and red, Tilda Swinton and Chris Evans – need I say more?
Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
I am a huge fan of psychological thrillers/horrors (not so much the conventional horror with the infamous jumpscare) so I appreciate the strangeness, and immensely scary material this film offers. Needless to say, Ari Aster is a master at creating strange, heavily cultured, ritualistic films – he has a knack for creating films based on Pagan-like rituals and beliefs, and incorporating them into modern life.
I remember a few hours after watching this with my sister, she left to sleep at our grandmother’s, and I was left to sleep that night as the only one in the house that had seen the film. Not much sleep happened that night. Every creak, every squeak, every rustle froze me – I lay on my back not daring to look in the corners of my room (if you’ve seen the film you’ll understand).
P.S. Hereditary will make you want to check your mom…
Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)
I’ve never taken hallucinogenic drugs, but I’m damn sure this is what a trip feels like. The sister film to Hereditary, Ari Aster provides us with another splendid psychological horror about a group of post-grads who go with their Swedish friend to his home village out in the Middle-Of-Nowhere-In-Sweden for the mid-summer festivities.
The film starts out quite disturbingly, and we are able to see lots of foreshadowing (we stan foreshadowing) for the rest of the film – Aster does this by making use of murals, conversation as well as character-relationship dynamics. However, the film is VERY misleading with its bright, warm lighting and colours… don’t be fooled.
There’s shrooms, dancing, pies, juice, weird-tea, bears, more shrooms, more dancing, weird rituals and a whole lot of minutes full of “what the -” in this splendid film.
A cure for wellness (Gore Verbinski, 2016)
I wonder what goes through a screenwriter’s mind when they write films like this. While the films lacks certain elements, it’s a good film to view if you’re in the mood for some mindgame-y stuff. The film employs good direction and SOUND (I’m a huge fan of using sound in films), as well as metaphors to create the suspense and distress dynamics, even though the script may be lacking. Plus, the performance by the amazing Dane DeHaan makes up for some things…
I could spend a while talking about this film, it’s a great film if you’re a fan of piecing together a mystery that’s Shutter Island-esque, even though the film has a few holes and a mystery that is quite easily pieced together. It’s a good, stimulating film to watch, as the protagonist explores the wellness-centre and has a cat-and-mouse encounter almost throughout the entire film.
Eels, water, fathers, daughters is my four word description of this film.
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
Arguably my favourite movie since I was a little human… while this movie is SUPER weird, it moulded me into the strange (still small) human I am now. It’s the kind of movie that describes those weird dreams you have at 3am where you question if you’e even in reality once you wake up.
As a little 5 year old, I watched this film for the first time and BOY was I confused. It’s kind of like watching The Neverending Story as a child and growing up to be a adult with a lot of trust and abandonment issues, i.e. me.
Needless to say, Studio Ghibli never disappoints with their films – there’re dragons, and ghosts, a cute boy (I mean come on, need I say more), a baby (😊), little soot-balls that talk, and a very nice, very pleasant, not at all scary spirit.
If this film leaves you with nothing at all, let it at least leave you with the image of Haku.
Dogtooth (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2009)
Oh lord, this movie makes me feel grateful for my parents. I discovered this film a while ago when I was browsing through a streaming service – boy am I glad I watched this film.
It’s basically about a family in #lockdown, except, they’ve kept their children in lockdown from birth till adulthood, while everyone else is living a normal life. The children are adults, but have been taught about life incorrectly – calling salt “telephone” and them not knowing what a kitten is (till one enters their yard).
Other than them being taught incorrectly, they’ve also been told that if one of them loses their “dogtooth” they will get to leave the house. Cue the curiosity of the children, and the further wackiness that comes with that.
This film is easily one of my favourites, while it may not be very pleasant to view, it is a great film to ponder. Besides, foreign films are always weird, in a rather pleasant way?
Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000)
Like Midsommar, this movie is one trip and a half – as it should be, since it’s a film about addiction. The film is created in such a brilliant way so as to immerse its viewers in the feelings and “highs” of the characters, as they each deal with their respective addictions.
Aronofsky enjoys making his viewers feel… weird, and it shows in his direction. With awkward super-close-ups, first person-esque camera angles and overhead shots, he manages to make you so afraid of fridges and cops, even though all you’ve done is turn the film on.
At the end of the film, you either feel sorry for the characters, feel angry at them, or you might want to vomit at the mere thought of diet-pills. It’s safe to say, this film will alter your opinion on drugs, or will at least leave you feeling numb once the film ends.
Mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)
Mr Aronofsky sure loves his Theological metaphors (enter Noah, although that’s actual theology), when he’s not focusing on other psychological ways of messing up his audience (Black Swan). The film has a cyclical nature in its narrative, so you’ll know that somewhere along the line the film is going to address what you saw earlier in the story.
Its narrative is almost dreamlike, and is focused on Veronica (played by the phenomenal Jennifer Lawrence) as she fixes up her isolated home with her husband, the poet (or “Him”). Their life is seemingly normal, until they get an unexpected visitor one night who ends up being joined by his family. Once the visitor enters, the house ends up in chaos – and I mean some weird stuff starts happening.
If you don’t catch the metaphors in this film, that’s okay, it took me a little while too. While some metaphors are blatantly obvious and quite offensive once you figure them out, others are a little harder to decipher. What stands out about Aronofsky’s films is his attack on human nature, especially in a crisis or in a matter of survival – and perhaps how we are the biggests ruiners of ourselves and our surroundings. Ultimately, the film is a story of creation, destruction, and creation again…
The film is quite a rollercoaster, and while it scores averagely by critics, I do recommend this to anyone who is a fan of Aronofsky, or any sort of metaphorical attack on humanity (although I must say it is not for the faint of heart, or stomach).
Films that didn’t make the cut, but are valid no less:
When writing this article I received some recommendations that weren’t in the list: some of which I had never seen, some I had to cut for sake of the length of the article, some I thought weren’t the kind of messed up I was looking for or there were other elements of the film that left me unsatisfied. They are:
Black Swan, Perfect Blue, Shutter Island, The Void, Get Out, Us, Gone Girl, Crimson Peak, Coraline, The Purge, I Spit on Your Grave, Pan’s Labyrinth, Train to Busan, A Quiet Place, The Shining, Silence of The Lambs, Saw, The Perfection and Marrowbone.
If there are any films you think are worth seeing as a “wtf” film, or any that you think shouldn’t be on this list, let me know in the comments! As always, we at GirlOnTheBus hope you guys stay safe and sane!