Ahh… The Shining (1980). Remember that scene?
I do. And it’s one of the scenes people bring up the most when it comes to “movies I saw as a child that totally ruined my life.” Well, that and anything involving Pennywise in It (1990).
Keeping with the Halloween spirit I’m returning the favor.
This list might be disappointing. At heart I’m not a horror fan. Some people need horror films and thrive on them, while it isn’t a genre I psychologically need. Nevertheless, I have been drawn to its imagery since I was a little girl (I mean, honestly, who wasn’t?)- a way of testing myself. And like anyone else, some of those images seeped into my subconscious, bothering me for days, weeks, months, even years.
Keeping with that spirit, I’ve compiled a list of horror films for the upcoming holiday. Want to watch something that’s truly horrific? Here are six films that really, really bothered me, listed in two parts: horror films you have most likely already heard of or seen, and horror films I’m supposing you haven’t.
Either way, they make for a truly scary/uncomfortable/enraging/mind-bending holiday. Proceed with caution. Or, if you’re a true horror fan, love them to death- no pun intended.
– – – Part One: What You May Have Seen – – –
Okay, so I’m sure just about everyone who is reading this has at least seen the first film. Maybe you’ve seen its remake, sequels, reboots, prequel and recent foray into 3-D. I’ve only seen two films from this franchise.
Uh… it was enough.
The original is probably the loudest and most relentless horror film I’ve ever seen. The sound of Marilyn Burns’ screaming was so pathetic I hoped for her death, because death is the only release from the film’s stomach-churning set pieces.
The remake was just as brutal. During one of the scenes with R. Lee Emery’s Sheriff Hoyt I started blacking out in the theater. I’m not kidding. I almost started elbowing my roommate and telling her, “This film makes me feel like there is no God.”
5) Audition (1999)
Audition ups the ante from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre because it literally made me pass out. It got to the piano wire dream sequence and I stepped out of the room to get a drink from the kitchen or something. I thought I was fine. I really did. But the next thing I knew I was face down on the floor.
Takashi Miike had done something no other filmmaker had done before- cause pretty much all of my blood to leave my brain.
I returned to the room where the movie was paused and my friends were waiting. I decided not to mention what had happened. “All right, let’s do this,” I said.
For some reason the rest of the film was a breeze (yes, even the “kiri kiri kiri” scene).
4) Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)
This film just… bothered me. I can’t put it into words. Although Ju-on isn’t as brutal or relentless as the aforementioned (by most standards it wouldn’t even be considered scary), it had the uncanny ability to get under my skin. It’s the only J-Horror film that has done that.
The premise is cruel enough its own. You get cursed from simply entering a house? Even if it’s for a few minutes? That’s terrible. Then there’s the inexplicable, creepy, skin-crawling shit that happens to you as a consequence. I hated just about everything that happened to the characters in this film.
Ju-on is also notable for its economy- doing quite a bit with very little. It doesn’t go for the atmospherics or gratuitous violence like other horror films do. Director Takashi Shimizu knows how to frame his shots, move his camera and make you so uneasy you can’t stand it. Then he shows you exactly what you don’t want to see.
– – – Part Two: What You Might Not Know About – – –
Funny Games is one of the most infuriating arthouse films in cinema history. People often walk out, to which director Michael Haneke responded, “Those who did not watch it to the end apparently did not need it.” Which is true. Funny Games is not for everybody.
At heart it’s is a home invasion film, but what follows is so brutal and senseless the audience feels insulted. That’s partly because they are addressed and indirectly involved in the story. I can’t give any more away than that, but that’s what differentiates Games from the standard horror film. You’re not just watching, you’re made 100% aware of what you’re watching.
I’d argue that this makes Funny Games one of the most interesting and confrontational films about spectatorship and film itself. Oftentimes viewers are so enraged they miss that part of the puzzle. You might be one of those viewers if you have the stomach to finish it.
Haneke directed two version of the film. The first was made in his native Austria and starred Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Arno Frisch and Frank Giering. Since Games was a direct commentary on American violence Haneke always planned on remaking it in English. He did ten years later with Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt and Brady Corbett- creating a shot-for-shot recreation of the original.
Both are incredibly difficult to watch.
2) Trouble Every Day (2001)
For the most part Claire Denis’s Trouble Every Day moves at a glacial pace, with scenes and dialogue that seem incomplete and vague. It centers on a group of scientists who are infected during a study abroad. It’s implied that their studies were about the human libido. It’s also implied that everyone involved is now confused or unhappy.
The bulk of the film follows what happens once they return from France. It seems two of them, Shane Brown (Vincent Gallo) and Coré (Béatrice Dalle), are afflicted with something close to vampirism- overtaken with an overwhelming urge to fuck and kill people, preferably at the same time.
This might sound intriguing to you, but Trouble is a series of very slow wind-ups, threatening to bore you to death. Then the scenes I would nickname “fuck-eating” begin to happen. Because you don’t fully understand what’s happening and Denis keeps us in the dark, what’s happening is just as confusing as it is horrific.
You’ll probably lose all interest in sex after watching it. Or at least certain sex acts. Or all sex acts. I’m not making any guarantees. Either way, you won’t have sex for a while. This film is kind of like Antichrist (2009).
1) Possession (1981)
I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENED IN THIS FILM. NO IDEA. OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED IN THIS FILM. MY BRAIN IS BLEEDING AND I’M BEGINNING TO HEMORRHAGE.
There is no way to prepare you for Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession. All I can tell you was he wrote and directed it in the wake of his divorce. The intensity of playing the female lead took such a toll on Isabelle Adjani that it took several years to recover. After watching it, I believe her.
In fact, Adjani is in a constant state of rapture or hysterics throughout the entire film. At one point she acts out what is one of the most intense mental breakdowns I’ve ever seen. The simple act of watching her and her on-screen husband, played by Sam Neill, is as inexplicable as it is emotionally exhausting. Then the film gets weirder. And weirder. And even weirder. Then even weirder, just when you thought it wasn’t possible.
Then it’s over and you’re like, “WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST WATCH AND WHY AM I SO RATTLED.” If I was ever asked to name my quintessential horror film of all time, I’d say “Possession.” But maybe it’s not even a horror film. I have no idea what the hell it is.