6. The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2014)
After returning from a business trip, man comes home one night to his apartment and finds his wife missing. He begins to search through the apartment complex they live in, from apartment to attic, in an attempt to find her, with the inhabitants relating strange stories to him involving sex, violence, and–most curiously–his own wife.
As the film winds its way towards revealing the many mysteries its narrative and the odd characters he meets build, with each one set in a surreal, hallucinatory tableau, as if he’s visiting the most bloody fun house in existence.
A visually stunning film, The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears is a French film that worships at the altar of Italian giallo. Playing more like a dream than a straight horror film, the eye-popping symbolism and eerie cinematography is more interested in looking good than detailing the narrative, but when a horror film looks this good it’s difficult to notice. For fans who prefer style over substance in their film, The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears is a feast for the eyes and ears and a great tribute to giallo.
7. Buzzard (2014)
Millenials–especially those on the older spectrum of this designation–have been accused by their elders of being unwilling, and maybe even unable, to grow up and face responsibility. As if an answering this as a challenge, 2014’s Buzzard gleefully slashes away at this accusation by diving head-first into depicting exactly what this would entail.
Disaffected bank worker Marty pulls low-grade scams–ordering office supplies on the bank’s dime and returning them for cash, filing bogus faulty merchandise claims, etc.–as he wanders through his boring, low-ambition life. But when he decides to cash unused return checks, Marty figures he’s in a lot of trouble and decides to hide out in Detroit, where he installs himself in a luxury suite, blowing his cash in one last splash of indulgence.
But the story doesn’t end there, instead taking a dark turn into paranoia and violence as Marty’s paranoia begins to get the best of him, and being caught on surveillance cameras isn’t helping his case.
Co-starring, written, and directed by upcoming indie auteur Joel Potrykus, Buzzard captures a young man who sees few escapes or options in his life that’s fuelled and informed by comic books and horror films more than anything and childishly jumps at the chance for an escape from it however short-lived it may be.
Considering the time, place, and cultural climate for Millenials this film was produced in, Potrykus may be making a statement about a generation that’s been raised to be functionally dysfunctional in the world. Or maybe it’s just a weird black comedy. Either way, it’s worth a watch.
8. The Cult (A Seita) (2015)
The world having been abandoned by the rich, a young man decides to return to his former home in the deserted ruins of Recife, Brazil in 2040. There, he languidly strolls around nearly empty buildings and streets, redecorates his former home, and befriends and gets sexually involved with a variety of disaffected, aimless men that have stayed behind on Earth.
As he has been immunized against the need for sleep, he lives an idle life of countless hours awake reading, exploring the city, and lounging. But he also begins to notice strange pink posters plastered across the city with illustrations of men in masks and face paint holding poses. He eventually discovers that these are the signs of an active cult in the city and whose rituals he cautiously investigates. After all, with all the time in the world and nothing better to do, why not?
The Cult (A Seita) is a stunning debut film from writer-director André Antônio, who frames his shots in the style of Stanley Kubrick by way of Sofia Coppola. Depicting a barren cityscape that still comes across as vibrant, Antônio shoots from mid-range so the settings dwarf the actors, enhancing the emptiness of the world they now inhabit.
An entry into queer cinema that has a toe in sci-fi from a South American director, The Cult is an original, visually intriguing film that’s still–two years after its official release–making its rounds on the festival circuit. But if you get a chance to see it, or catch it on its eventual VOD release, watch it. It’s a new vision that places the future somewhere in an archaic past and something that hasn’t been seen before.
9. American Honey (2016)
Teenager Star is in a bad situation: stuck in Oklahoma, orphaned, and taking care of two young children while their absentee mother strips, she puts up with being groped by their father and sees no way out of her situation. But after a chance meeting, Star is invited to hit the road with a group of young salespeople who sell magazines door-to-door. She packs her bags and joins up with them, kicking off an unconventional road movie and coming-of-age drama in the process.
Casting mostly unknowns to lend the film verisimilitude, including first-time actress Sasha Lane as Star, and capturing the landscape of America–its citizens, class differences, social and economic extremes, and of course its natural, haunting beauty–in the early 21st century, American Honey is a small masterpiece. Directed by Andrea Arnold, this film is a lyrical ode to youth, hope, and the hard-earned lessons learned while exploring the possibilities of both of those ideals.
10. A Monster Calls (2017)
Now for a story about a boy and his monster: late one night, 12-year-old Conor O’Malley meets and befriends a giant tree-like monster late one night who tells him that he has come to tell Conor three true stories and will return every night at the same time to relate them to him. Afterwards, the monster wants to hear a true story from Conor.
The monster shows up and relates three stories to Conor, each a wild fantasy involving the monster and each ending with a dark moral about human nature. When it comes for Conor to tell his story, the truth of Conor’s deepest fears is eventually revealed by the monster, who also guides him with kindness of how he can face it.
This is the bulk and broad brushstrokes of the film’s content, but it’s much deeper and more meaningful than that when considering the difficulties Conor faces in life, particularly in regards to his terminally ill mother. And this film is stunning: based on a critically acclaimed book, A Monster Calls is an emotionally moving, visually fantastic movie with stellar performances by all involved, including a pitch-perfect performance by newcomer Lewis MacDougall.
Approaching topics of love, mortality, and human nature seldom seen in children’s films, A Monster Calls is a rare film that will have adults finding themselves wiping away a tear and maybe hugging their kids a little longer than usual after watching it. Poor marketing and a crowded release slate sunk A Monster Calls at the box office but make no mistake: this film’s a gem and a kid’s film parents should watch as well that has something important–and profound–to say.
Author Bio: Mike Gray is a writer and academic from the Jersey Shore. His work has appeared on Cracked and Funny or Die and he maintains a film and TV blog at mikegraymikegray.wordpress.com.