Having been an avid collector of movies over the course of my 30-plus years, I have evolved from the humble VHS tape, through the now defunct CDI, Laserdisc and Video CD formats, to settle – for how long, who knows? – on the now commonly known DVD and Blu-ray. I’m a keeper when it comes to the classics (as well as having a weakness for early Adam Sandler efforts), but what about those superb and/or thought-provoking efforts that left a lasting impression, yet few would want to add to their collection or even revisit?
As MANIAC hits US VOD and limited cinemas, and approaches DVD and Blu-ray release in the UK, we’ve gathered together what we believe are five movie masterpieces you’ll never want to experience again. This, despite being heralded by most as a genuinely acclaimed piece of filmmaking (otherwise we’d have a list consisting of the shower of shite that is Jason Friedman and Aaron Seltzer’s complete car crash canon). We begin in no particular order with…
After being given a tiny budget to make a cheap monster movie by Maljack Productions, few could have predicted just what debut director John McNaughton would unleash onto the world. Instead of the tacky creature feature the studio were expecting, he introduced to us one of cinemas most unflinching and, dare I say, memorably realistic boogeymen. It was a harrowing and unforgettable performance from Michael Rooker in a role based on the real crimes of sociopath Henry Lee Lucas. The picture ultimately came about after the director came across a documentary which focused on the man known for his killing spree alongside prison pal, Otis Toole. HENRY was truly a disturbing picture that outraged many with its graphic depictions of home-invasion, murder and rape. In part, it was also the reason it sat on the shelf for four years, so controversial was its realistic content. In essence, the film was a character study of a disturbed mind, one that stayed with you and left an unnerving impression of just what the charming man sitting next to you on a train or a bus, or even your neighbour, could be capable of.
Adapting Lionel Shriver’s touching and traumatic novel was always going to difficult for any filmmaker, due to the way the novel is set out. Director Lynne Ramsey (along with husband and writing partner Rory Kinnear) did a superb job in tackling the letters one wife and mother sends to her husband, which point to the horrifying realisation their son may well be building up to being more than just a little tearaway. Tilda Swinton’s haunting role as the mother of a monster is teeming with guilt as she struggles, and in some respects refuses, to form any sort of bond with her first born child. While at no point does she ask herself was this the reason for his increasingly disturbing behaviour and subsequent shocking Columbine-style school massacre, you sense that’s the raw question that gnaws away. The story continually jumps from present to past to slowly give us a conclusion which packs a jaw-dropping, emotional punch to the gut. Again, it leaves you to question the unfolding events and who the real villain is… and whether or not you really want to have children. Ezra Miller chills as the sadistic son.
Justin Kurtzel was another director making his debut with a selection of fact-based criminal activies perpetrated by a psychopath, who hid behind the mask of a charming family man. This series of events, centred on the ‘bodies in the barrels’ case originated in the struggling suburbs of South Australia during the late 1990s, is told from the point of view of young Jamie Vlassakis (Lucas Pittaway), who is immediately captivated by his mother’s new boyfriend and his twitchy pals. John Bunting carried out 11 murders of what he saw as a ‘crusading’ set of killings of pedophiles, that later descended into the murder of innocent homosexuals (and a number of their family members) for their social security payments; continuing to cash their cheques to avoid the authorities asking questions of their whereabouts. Few of the actors had experience in film, yet they all give standout performances in a shocking tale dripping with dread. None more so than Daniel Henshall, who is simply astonishing as the terrifyingly charismatic Bunting.
Few films come with as much viewing punishment as Pascal Laugier’s MARTYRS, as well as boasting a strong social and political statement. The moment we’re introduced to Morjana Alaoui’s young Anna, an unrelenting and escalating series of violent events sees her vengeful quest for payback against what she believes are the people who kidnapped and tormented her as a child, lead her on another terrifying path into even more depravity than she could ever have imagined. What the film packs in is a host of genuine surprises, none of which will sit easy. It also serves up even more tortured questions than answers, with a third act that will stay with you for a long time. There are buckets of blood to prove yet again, few do extreme horror better than the French (also see HAUTE TENSION, INSIDE and FRONTIER(S)). The aforementioned journey to the edge of living hell slowly spirals into an endurance test, to leave its disturbingly uneasy tone crawling under your skin layer by layer, which for poor Anna, is in a shocking and literal sense. Survive Laugier’s stark film once and you’ll appreciate its orgy of bloody content. Go back for more then you have problems… or you’re just plain fucked up.
Ever considered dabbling in the world of drugs? I suggest if you’re in any way tempted to sample such life-sucking shit, you take in Darren Aronofsky’s intoxicating adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr’s controversial 1978 novel, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. Featuring arguably the most memorable music score of the last 20 years (Clint Mansell’s unforgettable and foreboding ‘Lux Aeterna’ has been included for dramatic effect in countless movie trailers), the film leaves us to question just what is a drug, and could addiction be within us all to some respect. Centring on the four linked addicts with varying ‘necessities’, Aronofsky takes us on a dizzying and depressing descent into the desperation of these lost souls on the brink of self-destruction. Performances are rock solid from all (yes, even Marlon Wayans, I shit you not!) as we bare witness to a sobering tale from Selby Jr’s master of the macabre. The film’s provocative direction is nauseating to point where we’re just not sure how much more we can take hurtling back and forth into fantasy and reality, before we’re left with the struggle, much like our ‘heroes’, to distinguish between the two.
MANIAC is out on DVD and Blu-ray 1st July in the UK, and is now on limited theatrical release in the US and VOD.