The Top 10 Movies Made Solely To Screw With You
There's nothing better than getting lost in a great movie. They want nothing more than to entertain. All they ask in return is that you stay awake and try to remember the hero's sidekick's name if you can. Other movies, however, aren't just satisfied with helping you kill 90 minutes. They want to grab you by the remote and hold you face down in a puddle of fear, confusion, and terror.
Source: Celluloid Dreams
Note: SPOILERS abound!
10. Funny Games
Whether you see the 1997 Austrian original or the 2008 shot-for-shot remake of Michael Haneke's Funny Games, odds are you're going to end up confused, angry, and wondering why the hell they ever made this movie. Obstensibly a horror flick, Funny Games starts out with a tried and true horror premise. Two young psychopathic teens hold a family hostage and put them through a night of torture and terror. Sounds great so far, right? But as the movie unfolds, things start to happen that suggest Haneke isn't interested in giving you an hour and a half of thrills and chills. He just wants to screw with your head.
First off, the two psychopaths (variously called Paul and Peter, Tom and Jerry, and Beavis and Butthead) seem to know from the start that they're characters in a movie. They talk to the audience, asking you if you're enjoying the show and what you think will happen next. Besides having self-aware characters, Funny Games breaks every single rule in the horror movie bible. The little kid gets killed first, there are long scenes where nothing happens, and every single chance the victims have to fight back is snatched away before they even get started. At one point one of the killers even rewinds the movie when things don't go his way. Funny Games never once lets you forget that you are watching a movie. It also never stops doing exactly the opposite of what you expect it to.
Haneke, like any artsy-fartsy European worth his caviar, has said the movie is an "examination on violence in cinema." That may be, but it's also an incredibly ballsy middle finger to anyone who plunks down $4 at the local Blockbuster to watch it.
9. Mulholland Drive
Source: Universal Pictures
The films of America's favorite weirdo David Lynch could have filled out this entire list. Despite a couple forays into mainstream, non-insane, sensical cinema, Lynch has made a nice career making movies that simultaneously arouse, confuse, and bewilder. A lover of all things abnormal, Lynch fills his movies with a cavalcade of oddball characters doing oddball things in an oddball world just enough like our own to be disturbing. Never much a believer in silly, outdated things like plot, Lynch threw the narrative book out the window for his 2001 head-scratcher Mulholland Drive.
Originally conceived as a TV pilot, Mulholland Drive tells the fractured story of several sexy characters who try and fail to navigate their way through an otherworldy, noir Hollywood. We're being generous using the word "story." It's more like a bunch of things that happen in no particular order to a bunch of characters who may or may not be figments of each other's imaginations. Naomi Watts plays two similar characters (a favorite trick of Lynch's), there's no sense of time, and if you can figure out what it all means, you're a lot smarter than us. Several of the actors, including Watts, admitted that they had no idea what Lynch thought the story was about. Film critics have tried for years to come up with a coherent interpretation of the flick and there are as many theories as there are theorists. And all the while, David Lynch has refused to answer any questions and insists that the story makes perfect sense.
And in his subconscious funhouse it probably does. For the rest of us, watching Mulholland Drive is like trying to put together an amazing looking jigsaw puzzle with a several pieces missing. You'll go nuts trying to figure this movie out, but at least you get to see Naomi Watts make out with another chick. It's worth sitting through anything to get a look at that.
Source: Universal Pictures
The oldest film on the list, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is the twisted old granddaddy of movies who want to blow our minds and freak us out while they entertain us. Released in a time when most horror flicks revolved around dudes in cheap rubber suits, Psycho trades in a sophisticated brand of psychological horror that had never been seen up until that point.
For all the disturbing places it ends up, Psycho starts out as a pretty conventional genre picture about a woman on the run and the people who are looking for her. Young heroine Janet Leigh plays a woman who steals $4,000 from her employer and while on the run, stops at a rundown motel with a really creepy night manager played by Anthony Perkins. After a weird conversation, Leigh--who, remember, was the star of the film--decides to take a long, relaxing shower. Then, in one the most famous scenes in movie history, she has a very short, very unrelaxing shower that ends with her dead on the bathroom floor. And that's it. 40 minutes into the movie the main character is dead.
It's hard to conceive of now since even tribesmen living untouched by modern civilization in the darkest jungles of Borneo know the basic story of Psycho, but imagine the people who saw it in 1960 without knowing what was going to happen. Hitchcock had the stones to totally pull the rug out from under the audience's feet. After Leigh gets killed, they had no idea what was going to happen next. The person they were rooting for is at the bottom of a lake, and the only character they know is the nutcase who put her there. On top of the shock of the shower scene, now they felt lost and disturbed. Hitchcock could literally take the story anywhere he wanted. And because he was a sick monkey, he took it to a mummified old lady in a basement and a psycho killer in a wig. Good times.
7. The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie
Souce: Rialto Pictures
Another artsy flick from our betters across the Atlantic, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is basically an opium dream masquerading as a movie. Directed by renowned nutcase Luis Bunuel, it's full of the surreal imagery he was famous for. For those of you unfamiliar with his work, he was the guy who went freak-to-freak with Salvador Dali to make the 16-minute Un Chien Andalou--arguably the best short movie about slicing eyeballs ever made.
In his 1972 feature The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Bunuel gives his tortured mind a full 102 minutes to stretch out in all it's mind-twisting glory. The bare bones plot involves a group of upper class French people trying and failing to have dinner. As they move from house to restaurant to house, their plans are interrupted by a neverending parade of progressively weirder people and events.
They go to someone's house for dinner, but they have the date wrong. They try the restaurant of a local inn, but the owner has died that day. They find a tea house that has run out of everything except for water. Along the way, bizarre characters drop in to tell long, pointless stories that have nothing to do with anything. Their dinners are delayed by ghosts, drugs, a priest, sex, and even an entire battalion of soldiers.
With its countless scenes of hungry people not eating, the movie plays like the worst episode of No Reservations ever made. Despite its unashamed strangeness, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie was actually a hit. It did well at the box office and won the Oscar for best foreign film the same year The Godfather won best picture. There is a valid criticism of European middle class hypocrisy buried underneath all the oddity, but don't worry, we won't tell anyone you noticed.
6. Fight Club
Source: 20th Century Fox
It may be hard to believe now, when watching Fight Club is almost a right of passage and every guy between the ages of 17 and 30 secretly wishes he was Tyler Durden at some point in his life, but Fight Club was actually a flop when it was first released. No one knew what to make of its over-the-top violence, anti-consumerist message, and frequent close-ups of Meat Loaf's enormous boobs. The studios didn't help much. Initially marketed as a violent action flick, gung-ho movie-goers expected to see Brad Pitt kicking ass with his shirt off. They got that, but underneath they found a deep, pessimistic exploration of the difficulties of being a man in 1999.
Mainstream critics didn't know what to make of it. People called it "irresponsible and appalling." They warned of copycat crimes and waves of violence and vandalism inspired by the film. But most of all, Fight Club made people uncomfortable. If you have a penis between your legs, it's impossible to watch the movie without feeling a little disturbed. A pointed critique of male identity in the modern world, Fight Club is one of those rare movies that lays the audience's soul bare. People saw their Ikea- and Starbucks-saturated lives mocked and skewered on the screen. Fight Club points a bloody, broken finger directly at the viewer's life and says, "the world is turning you into a pussy!"
Fight Club promised a Hollywood thrill ride but delivered a kick in the crotch. But the good kind of kick in the crotch. The kind of kick in the crotch that makes you think.
Oh, and the twist! Brad Pitt and Ed Norton are totally the same dude!