There have been many great movies released in the 21st century, many of them have been charming fluff that’s endlessly rewatchable, but many of them have also been really disturbing and dealt with heavy subject matter, and in this list we will be taking a look at those movies that you won’t feel the need to rewatch after your first viewing.
10. Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009)
Rob Zombie’s Halloween II is an interesting film, not only is it the weirdest and most surreal film in the Halloween franchise but it might also be the most gruesome.
Halloween as a franchise began by giving people slow-burn thrills, but with each sequel the dreadful atmosphere of the original was replaced with gore, something that this entry comments on in a really unique fashion.
The kills in Halloween II are done in such a brutal and nihilistic manner that it’s really hard to enjoy them, it almost feels like Rob Zombie is trolling the audience, as most gore-hounds love to watch masked killers slaughter innocent victims in horrific ways, and by making them this horrific he is basically putting a mirror to his audience and asking them: Are you enjoying this? This is what you wanted, right? Do you really enjoy how fucked up and morally reprehensible this is?
It’s almost like Rob Zombie decided to take a few notes from Funny Games (1997) but add in as much brutal and unenjoyable gore as he could to emphasize the point even harder, while also turning the film into a surreal nightmare about PTSD and making Michael into the human manifestation of Trauma, which is basically the furthest you could possibly get from the barebones simplicity of the original.
It’s no wonder that people didn’t embrace it when it came out, most people don’t like being criticized and called out about things they enjoy, and fans of the original were obviously massively turned off by the massive shift in tone from the somewhat realistic to the full-blown surreal hellscape of trauma presented in Halloween II.
It’s the type of film that deserves multiple viewings but most people will have no interest in watching more than once.
9. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
The Passion of the Christ is by no means the most disturbing or fucked up film on this list, it does have a lot of gore and blood but the reason most people will probably never watch it more than once is down to the fact that this might be the most mean-spirited and anti-Semitic film released in the 21st century.
The film tells the story of the final 12 hours in the life of Jesus Christ but instead of spreading any of his messages about being good to thy neighbour and all that, it instead goes with the approach of repeatedly screaming its message in your face over the course of two hours, that message being: Look what Jesus did! He did all of this for you! To save you from the pits of hell! Even though you don’t deserve it, you sinful bastard! But he did it anyway! Now accept Jesus or burn in hell!!!
This attitude not only makes the film feel extremely preachy in all the worst ways but also robs the story of any depth or complexity as Mel Gibson is only showing us Jesus suffering to either force us to convert or to shame you into complete submission if you were already a die-hard Christian.
But the message that the film is screaming at you is just so out-dated and misguided that it becomes pretty infuriating and highly annoying after a while, and that’s not even mentioning Gibson’s portrayal of the Jews, which is down-right offensive and makes too much sense when put together with his infamous phone rant.
But what cements the film as being something that you’ll never watch again is that on top of being mean-spirited, excessively preachy, misguided, gory and anti-Semitic, it’s also incredibly boring.
The story of the Passion is an interesting one but it’s not interesting enough to justify the 127-minute runtime, and it’s painfully obvious that Mel Gibson had to drag the story to its breaking point with many over-long and unnecessary scenes that repeat the same point over and over again, many unimportant flashbacks that don’t connect too or add anything to the current narrative and a few short sub-plots that go absolutely nowhere.
The Passion of the Christ is a complete failure as a movie thanks to Gibson’s poor directing and terrible sense of pacing but it becomes an offensive dumpster fire of misguided ideas under closer inspection.
8. mother! (2017)
mother! might be the most ambitious and divisive film of 2017 (other than maybe The Last Jedi, in the Divisive department at least), it’s a two-hour long arthouse fever dream mash-up of all the themes and ideas Darren Aronofsky has been playing with in his career up to this point.
It’s both a character study on an artist whose obsession leads to the destruction of everything around him, a furious rant on how we’re treating the planet, a retelling of a biblical story, a study of damaged relationships, a study of the fragmented psyche of a female character and just over-all an absolutely batshit insane ride that is both utterly fucked up and nerve-wracking in its portrayal of anxiety inducingly awkward social gatherings.
It’s a film that is either a pretentious preachy mess and a work of genius from a brilliant auteur, both opinions are perfectly valid as the film is designed to provoke an extreme emotional reaction, it doesn’t matter if that reaction is positive or negative as long as it leaves a lasting impression on you.
The film begins as a slow but engaging character piece about the awkwardness of human interaction and tries to drive the audience crazy by dialling that awkwardness up with each passing scene until it reaches a breaking point where it turns into a 36-minute long sequence of complete mayhem that’s so overstuffed with ideas, themes and metaphors that you will feel exhausted afterwards.
Which makes the film kind of hard to rewatch and most people will probably just leave it at a single viewing.
7. Inland Empire (2006)
Inland Empire is a three hour long surreal nightmare directed by David Lynch and it’s probably the most disturbing film that David Lynch has ever made.
All of the films on this list are disturbing in one way or another, but Inland Empire is special in that it’s really hard to explain why it’s so god damn disturbing, it just is.
The film is working on such a subconscious level that it feels like a dream, not only because it follows dreamlike logic like the rest of David Lynch’s work but because it’s a film so complex and beyond explanation that the only other sensation that feels like it is dreaming.
The story pretty much fizzles out into nothing around the 45-minute mark and the rest of the film is this strange montage of unrelated and unexplainable scenes that leave you dumbfounded as to what the hell happened but also leave you feeling like you understood everything on a subconscious level and that there is something truly terrifying hiding deep under the images that you just saw.
If that make no sense, then it still makes a lot more sense than Inland Empire.
It’s a must-see for all David Lynch fans, but it’s also a film that many won’t revisit.
6. The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) (2011)
The Human Centipede 2 delivers on all the fucked-up imagery that the first one only hinted at, and so much more.
It’s undeniable that this film is filled with some of the most disgusting things that a human being could possibly do, and if the film really was nothing more than 90-minutes of fucked up shit then it still would have made its way onto this list, but the reason that makes it all even more disturbing than it already is, is the mind of the main character Martin Lomax.
Martin is simply put one of the most disgusting characters that have ever graced the silver screen, he is both this depraved monster devoid of morals but also a monster that we can understand and somewhat sympathize with, Martin is the victim of years of incest and rape that have left him broken and out of touch with reality, it has shattered his mind to the point that he doesn’t view his actions as evil or anything other than normal, he is a victim of horrific circumstances and all of his actions can be tracked back to his childhood and his disturbed relationship to his parents.
But even though we can understand him and explain his actions we can never forgive them or fully sympathize with him, if we only saw his home life then we might feel sorry for him, but the moment we see him kidnap people and torture them for his own horrifically twisted sexual pleasure then all of that pity goes out the window and we are left to sit there and watch as his broken mind goes out of control and does some of the worst things a person could possibly do to another human being.
It’s terrifying to watch but also so interesting that it’s hard to look away, Martin is just too twisted of a case study that you can’t help yourself but to continue watching and analyse his mental state and try to understand what would lead someone to do this and how a mind like his would even function.
Laurence R. Harvey’s performance is also so dementedly brilliant and compelling that he owns the screen any time he’s on it, which is pretty much every shot of the movie.
He’s so compelling that even when he’s just walking down some stairs, you feel absolutely captivated and on edge as something truly terrifying might be about to happen.
This is also the only film that Tom Six has made where he has shown himself to be a truly talented filmmaker, the first Human Centipede was a competently made anti-thriller but nothing truly special, and the third one was just down-right incompetent on all fronts, but here he is in his element and delivers a brilliantly directed piece of work.
His Mise-en-Scène is devilishly simple yet highly effective, his hand-held camerawork is visually stunning in a weirdly beautiful way while also putting you smack in the middle of this horrifying situation, and his use of black-and-white is actually kind of genius, and it’s kind of sad that he will most likely never reach this high point ever again.
It’s easy to understand why people would never watch this more than once, some people wouldn’t even give it that chance because of its well-earned reputation, but the people that have watched it, either out of curiosity (what was it about cats?) or genuine interest, will never forget this film.
For better or worse.
5. The House That Jack Built (2018)
The House That Jack Built is the newest film from the infamous but highly controversial Danish auteur Lars von Trier, his films have always been divisive and as controversial as the figure behind them, and The House That Jack Built is no different.
It tells the story of a serial killer over a 12 year period, it shows us five randomly chosen episodes that defined him, the film also functions as a deconstruction of art and the career of Lars von Trier himself as he confronts his own darkest sides and addresses every single criticism that’s been thrown his way throughout his career.
His supposed misogyny, his provocative nature, his troubling politics and everything in-between, and he pretty much comes to the conclusion that he is the most evil and reprehensible person alive and that he should never have been allowed to work for as long as he did without punishment and that the proper thing to do with him is to throw him into the deepest, darkest pits of hell where he can happily burn for the rest of eternity.
There have been rumours that this might be his last film, and if this really is his swan song then he couldn’t have gone out in a better way as The House That Jack Built is the perfect conclusion to his career, it takes all the themes he’s been working with, turns them on their head and finished them in the most personal yet ironic yet compelling ways possible.
The film is a brilliant critique of a troubled artists that both explains and apologizes for everything he did over his 40-year career, and if this isn’t his final film then this is hopefully the beginning of a new thematic trilogy.
For those that don’ know, you can divide his entire career into sets of trilogies dealing with a single theme, The Europe Trilogy, The Golden Hearts Trilogy, The still unfinished U.S.A Trilogy, The Depression Trilogy, and if he is about to start a new trilogy that deals with him making up for or criticising his own flaws as a director and a human being then we should be in for a treat.
But even if you take all of that meta-narrative thematic stuff out, we still have a brilliantly made and darkly comedic satire on humanity and how we deal with our worst sides, like Sexism, Murder, White Privilege, The Male Gaze, Patriarchy, Feminism, Nazis, Pretentious Art and more.
It’s a film jam-packed with thematic depth on multitude of complex issues and most people either don’t like that or can’t properly see that because of the many brutal murder scenes, which is understandable as the murders have been used as a big selling point for the movie and are done in such a way that it will either offend you, disturb you or make you burst out laughing, there really isn’t a middle ground on that and it’s pretty sad that more people can’t look past that as that is just the surface of a multi-layered work of art.
The House That Jack Built is a film that deserves to be viewed multiple times and fans of Lars von Trier will be doing so for years to come, but for everyone outside of that circle, The House That Jack Built will more likely than not remain a film that will never be watched again.
4. Pusher 3: I’m the Angel of Death (2005)
Nicolas Winding Refn is another great but controversial Danish director, Refn is at once more popular than Lars but still not as well-known as Lars, more people have seen Drive, Bronson, Pusher, Only God Forgives and The Neon Demon than Dogville, The Idiots, Epidemic, Melancholia or The Element of Crime, but ask someone what they think of Nicolas Winding Refn and you’ll most likely get the answer: Who’s Nicolas Winding Refn?
But ask someone what they think of Lars von Trier and you’ll probably get a whole speech about either how much they love him or absolutely hate him and think he’s the antichrist.
Which is a shame.
But out of Nicolas Winding Refn’s amazing filmography there is one film that’s a lot more underrated than it should be, and that’s Pusher 3: I’m the Angel of Death.
(Other contenders for Nicolas Winding Refn’s most underrated film are: Bleeder, Fear X, Valhalla Rising and Agatha Christie’s Marple: Nemesis)
Being the final film in the highly acclaimed Pusher Trilogy there were high expectations for this film and most people were left disappointed, which is kind of weird as Pusher 3 might be the best film of the Trilogy. The first one is great but doesn’t hold a candle to the greatness of the third one, the second one is a masterpiece and there is a case to be made that it’s the best one but Pusher 3 is still a more focused and effective film than Pusher 2.
It tells the story of the aging crime lord Milo who has pretty much been the villain of the trilogy up to this point, but here we finally begin to see his more human side and get a peek into a day in the life of an old man trying to keep his empire intact as everything is pretty much crumbling around him.
In every film of the trilogy a character is put through hell as he needs to get money to pay some dept, in the first one it was Frank that owed Milo money, in the second one it was Tonny that got caught up in the troubles of one Kurt the Cunt as Kurt owed Tonny’s father money after a failed meeting with Milo, and now in the third one it’s finally Milo’s turn to be put through the ringer as he owes money to the new king in town and is forced to betray his own morals to get it.
It’s a compelling story that perfectly brings this trilogy to a close in the best way possible, both narratively and thematically, but it’s also a film that’s really hard to watch thanks to the last 10 minutes, which are just plain horrific.
The film is pretty tame but intense all the way up to those final 10 minutes and then it takes a dark turn into a situation that will leave viewers disturbed, the situation will not be Spoiled here as it’s something that everyone should go in without knowing, but be warned, it’s so gruesome and fucked up that you’ll most likely never watch the film again.
3. Antichrist (2009)
Another masterpiece from the Danish madman Lars von Trier, Antichrist is an avant-garde horror film that’s one of the most fucked up things you’ll ever see, if you ever fancied watching genital mutilation then this is the film for you.
The film is a study in misogyny in society throughout history but it’s also about grief and how destructive that can be both to a person and to a relationship, and how hard it can be to cope with it.
It’s a film of intense emotions, complex themes and majorly fucked up imagery, it’s a film that’s a must-see for everyone that considers themselves a cinephile but one that you won’t find yourself revisiting often, or at all.
2. The Act of Killing (2012)
The Act of Killing is the only documentary on this list and it’s one that everyone should watch at least once, because it’s disturbing in an important way.
In present day documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer invites former Death Squad member Anwar Congo to take part in their newest documentary and help them recreate scenes from the Indonesian Killings of 1965-66, guided by Anwar’s imagination the reality of the genocide begins to come to live as glorified genre pieces, like Western’s, Gangster films and Musicals. But the more Anwar revisits the past the more it begins to haunt him as the fakery of the recreations begin to reveal the true horror of the act’s he has committed.
It’s a documentary that’s both, beautiful, strange and haunting, it shows us a piece of history that many outside Indonesia might not be familiar with and examines the effect that it had on everyone involved.
It’s a really heavy film that will leave most viewers emotionally drained and that is why most people won’t be revisiting this film, it’s a viewing experience that will stay with you for such a long time that a second viewing might be unnecessary, but it’s also such an important work that it needs to be seen.
1. The Bunny Game (2011)
The Bunny Game is about a prostitute that’s kidnapped, tortured and raped for days in the desert by a demented serial killer, it’s also based on a real story.
This is a passion project for main actress Rodleen Getsic, it’s based on her own kidnapping and the film was made as a therapeutic experience for her to get it out of her system so she could get on with her life.
Everything in the film was done for real, she does real drugs, has real sex, is really beaten and chained to a wall for hours, there was real knife play performed on her and there is a scene where she is branded for real with hot iron (in close up, you can see her skin crackle), and it’s all absolutely horrific.
Getsic is gives an astounding performance, she is obviously 120% committed to this film and the fact that the film even exists is extremely brave on her part.
This film is not an easy experience and most people will probably pass on it from reading the synopsis alone, but it’s such a brave and important work that not watching it is a disservice to Getsic’s brave contribution to cinema.
But even if you end up watching it, it’s such an overwhelming experience that you will most likely never watch it again.