Films That Deliberately Make The Viewer Feel As Uncomfortable As Possible
On a dark, cold, winter’s night, when you’re basically trapped inside your house by the weather, what better way to amuse yourself than to scare yourself witless?
Fellow horror fans will know that there are various forms the horror film can take. Some can scare you simply by being realistic – you can imagine yourself winding up in similar circumstances. Others are pure out-of-this-world fantasy, where fairytales become nightmares. Yet, others are worst-case-scenarios, the kind of real nightmare that everyone imagines will never happen to them. Then, there’s the incredibly unlikely, raving lunatic scenarios, but portrayed in a believable manner. Finally, there’s the slasher movie, which is best watched after a rotten day filled with cumbersome encounters; no brain-cells needed, just pure, uncensored violence.
Whatever your horrific tastes, be it slasher fun or the thinker’s guide to psychological torment, the following list should contain something for all those who love to hide behind cushions and shout at the screen. But what makes each of them worthy is their commentary on the nature of horror. ‘Reality’ has become a new concept, as audiences wish to see how others live, as long as their existence is more interesting than their own. Each example seeks to break away from the accepted format of a horror movie. Each of these films seeks to both scare the viewer, and make them feel uncomfortable about enjoying horror…
The scariest thought imaginable has to be watching others give into horrific, immoral and unthinkable desires and thinking, “Could I be capable of that?” And that is exactly where Oliver Hirschbegel’s Das Experiment leads viewers’ thoughts. More of a psychological thriller than a true ‘horror’, it does encourage some pretty dark ponderings.
Twenty adult men sign themselves up for a two week ‘scientific experiment’ – eight will act as guards and twelve will act as prisoners in a mock prison, purely for research purchases, earning a hefty paycheque for their efforts. The so-called ‘experiment’ quickly descends into a Lord Of The Flies-esque power struggle, with the guards resorting to such acts of brutality that viewers have to avert their eyes.
Peer pressure, bullying, victimisation and deliberate pot-stirring are all intelligently dealt with through the actions of these seemingly rational adult men. Tossing aside the irrelevant love-story, the film explores the darkest aspects of human nature and how a seemingly innocent game can quickly dissolve into anarchy. It’s uncomfortable watching and causes the viewer to feel guilty for simply being human. Yet, the most disturbing characters in the film are not the ones participating in the experiment, but those monitoring their actions. Yet, as with the scientists, viewers will secretly want to see what extremes these men will reach…
At the opposite end of the horror scale is Miguel Marti’s Sexy Killer. As implied by the title, it is a fun, tongue-in-cheek, definitely sexy, slash-fest. Often, the beauty of horror is not a logical plot but simply watching irritating characters being slaughtered by various innovative methods.
A Spanish university campus is being plagued by a serial killer. But, it’s a female serial killer. Not one of the characters is particularly likeable, but many are incredibly good looking. Especially the heroine. Or, to be more accurate, the villainess. Be warned – that is the plot. But, the victims deserve their comeuppance. And she, oddly enough, is almost likeable. She’s not misunderstood; she’s not a victim of a harsh upbringing or unjust society – she’s simply a serial killer.
The deliberately contrived plot is highly entertaining and the film is glossy and slick. A little too knowing at times – it pokes fun at every standard, run-of the mill slasher genre film out there. By the time the zombies show up, it’s gone on a little too long, but overall, it’s fun.
The plot is ridiculous but a lot of incredibly annoying, very attractive young people die. Violently. It plays to the audiences expectations of a horror movie and it gives them what they want. The most disconcerting part of this film is when the viewer begins to root for the killer. Yet, it’s Marti’s flippancy towards violence that makes the film most enjoyable. Is that a comment on society’s numbing attitudes to blood and gore, or is it just funny?
[REC] follows the trend set by Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project. The action is filmed by one of the characters – the viewer sees exactly what they see. Angela is a young reporter of a local TV show that follows various night shift workers during an average shift. For this particular episode, she is assisting fire-fighters.
The night starts off fairly dull – the firemen explain that some nights they see no action at all and even when they do, it’s usually burst water pipes or pets needing rescuing. As Angela longs for some drama to liven up her broadcast, a call comes in – there’s an elderly woman trapped in her apartment. As soon as they arrive at the scene, Angela gets her wish for action. The woman is covered in blood, casualties mount up and the local law enforcement seal off the building – trapping residents, rescuers and the TV crew inside.
Shot entirely through the lens of Angela’s cameraman, the tension and panic feel real, and the limited glimpses of the gory moments are all the scarier due to the lack of an omniscient viewpoint. Hollywood is not the only master of the low-budget, atmospheric horror movie. It is deliberately amateur and it seems real. And at only seventy-five minutes, it is certainly not overdone. With current programmes such as Ice Road Truckers playing on real-life-workplace drama, following fire-fighters on a nightshift is not unimaginable. The ironic part is that like Angela, the viewer will want action – neither is disappointed.
Ghost Game also continues the ‘reality’ fad sweeping the world. A ghost-story-turned-violent, it is based on Big Brother/Survivor-esque game shows. Eleven contestants vie to be the last one standing at ‘Case 17’, an allegedly haunted prison camp with a sordid history. Every so often, the viewers see the audiences at home, going about their everyday lives, simply watching the horrific events unfold and the film is all the more macabre because of this. Adding to this are the directors and producers of the ‘show’, supposedly controlling everything.
There are the usual clichés – are the ghosts real? Is it all a fix? Is one of the ‘contestants’ in on it? Of course, the chubby, mean girl isn’t going to fare too well – neither is the self-assured, arrogant bloke. But, it’s a fun watch, especially with the added appeal that it is set on a ‘real’ haunted prison camp and the reality TV factor briefly raises it above normal slash-film fare. However, towards the end, the ‘reality’ aspect does just give way to your typical blood bath theatrics. The audition tapes as the credits role is a nice, ironic addition. Not as intelligent as it could have been, but certainly entertaining and definitely scary.
13: Game of Death is similar in subject matter. It starts off simply enough – a hard-up, down-on-his-luck guy is offered the chance to earn $100 million. All he has to do is complete thirteen challenges. They start off simply enough, and then they move on to the humiliating. They quickly escalate into violence and soon he becomes a wanted man. The evil viewers are internet viewers, partially responsible for how his life is going to turn out.
The film is gross and, at times, tongue-in-cheek. Obviously, the police are incompetent. All except for one misunderstood, lone detective. Director Sakveerakul toys with the notions of heroes and heroines as well as morality. What does it take to make an ordinary man cross the line? Are we products of our childhoods? Are our memories always accurate? Are we responsible for our own choices? And, once again, how complicit are the viewers in the horror unfolding before them?
Occasionally, the film borders on too gross, and it becomes a little too abstract in its sermonising at the end, but it keeps you guessing. Not to mention enthralled. You will want to know what the next challenge will be…
The best horror movies invite uncomfortable questions. Is it wrong to imagine yourself succumbing to mob mentality and joining in with the bad guys? Is it wrong to secretly wish for the killer to succeed? Has our over-exposure to reality TV dulled our empathy for misguided people who choose to put themselves in those situations? Has out over-exposure to horror dulled our reactions to realistic terrifying scenarios? Or, is it just fun to hide behind a cushion and scream at yet another potential victim as they, once again, make the wrong decision? These five films are definitely scary, and provocative, viewing for a cold, dark winter’s night.
Recent World Cinema Features
Five Underrated Movies You Need To See. Sometimes a film goes
unnoticed, perhaps because it didn’t have the right backing or it wasn’t…
Top 5 Films To Win Over World Cinema Sceptics. Despite the joys that world…
Animating Reality. By definition an animated documentary shouldn’t really work.…
Gael García Bernal – Spanish Language Cinema As Social Message. Much more than an…
Around The World In 80 Films: I-J. Good news everyone – June has arrived! The pla…
Leave a Comment
No comments yet