I was tagged on Facebook to do a list of movies that have stayed with you. I thought it was a good idea for a blog post. Plus this enables me to ramble on a little. While the original list calls for 15 movies I decided to take it down to 10 and I tweaked it slightly since the films you could pick for the list could be anything and ones that aren’t ones that were disturbing. However, I went ahead and tried to limit it to only doing ones that did disturb me and stayed with me a lot longer than I may have wanted them to. Though it also led me to be impressed by the films even more. This was actually harder to do than I originally thought because I wanted to make sure the reasons why a film stayed with me was for a specific reason.
Here are ten films that got under my skin and stayed with me for a lot longer than I wished they had though, in some ways, I’m thankful they did.
In alphabetical order.
An American Werewolf In London – I don’t know how but some way I convinced my dad to take me to see this when I was way too young (I must have held my breath). I was very much a young horror fan at that point but I was not ready for this film which, in all honesty, I did not see in its entirety until a couple years later. The first part of the film where the characters of David and Jack are attacked by a werewolf was the most terrifying thing I had seen. For many years after (possibly to this day but I’m not saying) if I was out at night I would always look around to darken corners and wonder if there was a giant werewolf there ready to pounce.
Cannibal Holocaust – I had seen other films from the cannibal era of cinema that had come out in the late 70’s and early 80’s but none of them could have prepared me for this one. Because it hadn’t been officially released on video in the US at the time I was watching these (late 90’s and early 2000’s) I hadn’t seen this one until years later (thanks to a friend who sent me a bootleg) and boy was it an experience. The film is most known because it does have real animal slaughter in it (something even director Ruggero Deodato regrets doing) including a disturbing scene with a turtle. That alone was enough for me to be bothered by this film for long after I saw it. However, the actual fictional scenes of the film are just as disturbing dealing with not only the cannibals but moreso the cruelty of the documentary crew. I appreciate the rawness of the film and even now it gets under my skin. Having watched it again recently on Blu-ray the film hasn’t lost a thing.
A Clockwork Orange – I sort of went into this one a bit blind. I knew it was Stanley Kubrick, whom I was a huge fan of, and knew it had a reputation but knew little about it. I was bombarded with so many feelings of being horrified and impressed that I couldn’t make heads or tales of it for the longest time. I thought about it long after watching it that I ended up renting it several times from the video store. The sheer genius of it is that it is so in your face that you either dismiss it or accept it. While I was bothered by it I also couldn’t get enough of it. A weird parallel between the character of Alex and myself as the viewer? Feel free to psycho analyze me on that one. It is my personal favorite Kubrick film and one that while it still affects me to this day it is one I also can’t stop watching.
The Exorcist – This one may not be a surprise, especially if you know me, since I consider this the scariest film I have ever seen. Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic and I believe in the existence of both God and a devil but no other film has ever gotten under my skin like this one has. It not only stayed with me when I first saw it (when I was 9!) but even now I am cautious about when I watch it knowing it’ll still scare me to this day. William Friedkin’s brilliant direction of giving the film a frankness in its depiction of the possession is just stunning from a filmmaking stand point. It also makes it, even all these years later, the most terrifying motion picture I have ever seen. Excuse me while I turn the lights on.
Faces Of Death – It might seem odd now since it’s common knowledge that a good chunk of this is fake and recreations. Though part of it is still real footage. In a day when it’s not hard to see real footage of the atrocities of the world it was not possible in the days before the internet. The closest thing you got, if you were so interested, was in this infamous film. Especially at the time when we all thought it was all real. Seeing real footage of dead bodies was as shocking as it can be. I think it was the first time the young me actually thought of how fragile life is by seeing the instances of an actual corpse. I was so freaked out by this film that I did what anyone else would … I convinced my best friend at the time to show it at his birthday party. Isn’t that what friends do? Even though it may not be as effective as it once was it was still the precursor to the horror of the worlds we unfortunately now see regularly on TV and with the click of a mouse.
The Girl Next Door – Not to be confused with the (underrated) film with Elisha Cuthbert, this one is based on the Jack Ketchum novel which is a fictional account of a truly disturbing real life case about a girl and her sister taken into a family where they were tortured horribly. This film is a reminder of even people who you think couldn’t do horrendous things, especially to a child, in fact do. Truly heartbreaking and one I still haven’t shaken.
Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer – This was a film I was reading about for awhile at the time since it was one that had problems getting released due to its content. It’s one of the films that led the way to eventually creating the NC-17 rating. Much like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre this film has a realism to it that makes it more disturbing as we follow the exploits of serial killer Henry and his new protege (for lack of a better word) Otis. I hadn’t seen anything remotely like it at the time and the long wait for it did not diminish the impact. Not to mention it was made in Chicago so seeing familiar locations didn’t exactly add to my comfort. This also has one of the most unsettling scenes I’ve seen as Henry and Otis watch the video they recorded of a home invasion they did.
Paranormal Activity – This one may make some people roll their eyes but you can keep rolling them all the way back into your head. I saw this before the film was released. I knew nothing about it. The theatre was filled and none of us knew what we were in for. What I was in for was a truly scary experience. So much so that this adult went home and slept with the lights on. As someone who is slightly sensitive (meaning I have seen and heard spirits all of my life though on a much smaller scale than a medium does) so I’m sort of partial to supernatural films. It’s easy to forget that there was nothing like this film for the longest time so in many ways it was new in its simplicity. It stayed with me long after the onslaught of lesser (though still entertaining) sequels and copycats.
A Serbian Film – The notoriety of this film has become almost legend by this point but I saw it right before it became known. I knew pretty much nothing about it when a friend of mine got ahold of a 35mm print directly from the Serbian distributor so it was the original uncut version on a giant screen which I watched at like 1am. The film is a disturbing trip down the life of a retired porn star who gets drawn into doing one more film but he can’t know anything about it only to discover he is making snuff films. This film doesn’t hold back by any means. This film haunted me long after where I’m sure people were sick of me talking about it. I was conflicted because I was heavily disturbed by the film but also impressed by it. The film is technically very well made and I’ve been so jaded at this point that to have a film get under my skin like this one did I have to appreciate it.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – Despite the fact that this film uses cinematic techniques throughout (composed shots, dolly shots, etc.) it has the feeling of a documentary making it all the more powerful. As if director Tobe Hooper captured this as it happened. The first time I saw this I think I sat in silence with my mouth gaped open. I have learned since to appreciate the dark humor of the film but at the time I didn’t see humor but an assault of intensity unlike anything I had seen. I remember trying to tell other people about it at school (yes, I was that kid in grade school) but I found myself at a loss. It was almost too much. I ended up buying the video eventually and watched it numerous times appreciating it on a whole other level. Though the underlying unnerving nature of it I still feel even now. Plus I finally got to see it at a drive-in so I feel I’ve gone full circle.