What’s so great about weird movies?
Some movies can be mind-bending. Others might make us question things we thought were set in stone. And others still might bring us face to face with things that are part of us but better left undisturbed. And there are weird movies.
No matter the theme, films and the stories in them are part of our collective consciousness. One way or another, they are reflections of us and of the way we tell each other stories. Most of them follow traditional schemes, narratives and tropes. Even in those imagined spaces, order prevails.
But what about the films that are not concerned with order? What of the stories whose defining trait is their disorder, their… well, weirdness? Weird movies might be even more valuable to us than we ever imagined.
Let’s take a look at some:
Mandy (Panos Cosmatos, 2018)
Panos Cosmatos is no stranger to weird movies.
In 2010, he gave us the indie wonder “Beyond the Black Rainbow”, with its enigmatic imagery, loopy soundtrack and cryptic storyline. This year, he created a sensation with “Mandy”.
There are a lot of factors for Mandy’s success, and the selection of Nic Cage for the role of the deranged protagonist slowly spiraling into a drug-fueled revenge-quest whilst brandishing a humongous medieval looking axe is only one of them.
The soundtrack is heavy and filled with drone sounds, the color palettes are like someone dropped an acid tab onto the film reel, and the story… Well, the story, centered around Andrea Riseborough’s character, is a trip in and of itself.
A million views would only spawn a million more questions, the biggest one being: Which World is Real?
The Devils (Ken Russel, 1971)
“The Exorcist” who? This is one of THE seminal weird movies on demonic possession. The film is a dramatized historical account of the rise and fall of Urbain Grandier, a 17th-century Roman Catholic priest executed for witchcraft following the supposed possessions in Loudun, France.
Reed plays Grandier in the film and Vanessa Redgrave plays a hunchbacked sexually repressed nun who finds herself inadvertently responsible for the accusations. The summary doesn’t do this disturbing film an ounce of justice.
The weirdness of the film derives from its visuals as well as its story. Derek Jarman, who worked as Russel’s production designer, created a filmic world in a film about religion, lush with the most sacrilegious colors, aesthetic and imagery.
Redgrave probably rose to new heights owing to her magnificent obsessive contortions, and the antithesis of the clash between piousness and grotesquery is something that will mess with your head for a long, long while.
The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover (Peter Greenaway, 1989)
Speaking of weird, grotesque imagery, how do you like this gem by Peter Greenaway? This is one of those weird movies that don’t really scare you, but you can’t forget them for a minute.
It contains only three or so sets, a deranged mob leader, a guy who always reads, one very white bathroom, and the odd bit of cannibalism. Oh, and food. Lots and lots of food scenes.
Also, an albino ten-year-old tenor. Saying any more than this would really spoil the experience. Nonetheless, his is one weird movie you do not want to neglect seeing.
A Field in England (Ben Wheatley, 2013)
A new strain of weird movies has arisen in the past decade, harking back to the 70’s. It’s called “folk horror revival”, based on the folk horror films of British Cinema in the 70’s, such as “The Wicker Man”.
Ben Wheatley, director of “A field in England”, has contributed to the trend with the majority of his filmography. All his films are a little cooky, but “Field” takes the cake. The film, shot in black-and-white, is set during the mid-17th century English Civil War.
Basically, a bunch of soldiers, an alchemist’s assistant and the alchemist eat a bunch of trippy field mushrooms and thing get really weird after that. The director utilized the use of black and white to create exposure effects, and other montaging tricks.
“A field in England” isn’t just weird; like “Mandy”, it’s a trip that one has to see to truly understand.
Love Exposure (Sion Sono, 2008)
If Panos Cosmatos is “no stranger to weird movies”, then Sion Sono, the madman who made this epic on love as a religion of collective madness, is the master of weird movies.
“Love Exposure” is nearly four hours long. It all revolves around a teenage Japanese boy trying to win the heart of his man-hating beloved. He believes she is the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary, thus completing his mother’s dying wish.
If this isn’t weird enough, he tries to achieve that via rigorous panty-shots training, excessive deception and becoming involved in a religious cult led by a stalker who also traffics cocaine on the side.
This is a weird movie because it really commits to its depiction of love as a religious craze. Not only that, but its length, love-stricken characters, guerilla-style filming and overall offbeat humor contribute to a real cinematic experience.
Millennium Actress (Satoshi Kon, 2001)
This is one of my favorite films. As far as weird movies go, this might seem a little tame. Upon closer inspection, however, one can tell that this rightly deserves its title as a weird movie.
“Millennium Actress” deals with director Satoshi Kon’s most persisting question: what are the limits of our perception? What is the nature of memory, individual and collective? How is our reality “real”, based on these perceptions and memories?
The movie tells the story of two documentary filmmakers investigating the life of a retired acting legend. As she tells them the story of her life, the difference between reality and cinema becomes blurred.
In “Millennium Actress”, the weirdness lies in the execution. Anyone familiar with Kon’s work knows that he reveled in manipulating filmic space and time via the medium of animation. From one moment to the next, frames collapse onto one another.
We are transported, through the two journalists acting as audience surrogates, from the real world to movie sets and scenes. The scenes are anachronistic, all over the place. They constitute fragments of the collective memory of Japanese cinema’s landmark moments.
The weirdness of the film lies in the lack of distinction between real life and cinematic life. If there is any difference at all, that is. The film seems to say that all that matters regarding our grasp of “real” is one thing, our memories.
Skins (Pieles, Eduardo Casanova, 2017)
Hey, it’s on Netflix! Skins (Spanish: Pieles) is a 2017 Spanish drama film directed by Eduardo Casanova. Weird movies-wise, its pastel color palette is only the tip of the iceberg.
Skins gets a spot in this list not because its weirdness is some sort of breakthrough. Instead, it was its anchoring into the most human and profound feelings: the desire to be loved and accepted.
All of the characters in Skins suffer from some form of physical deformity. One woman has only half a “normal” face. A man has modified himself to look like a mermaid. A woman has her anus and her mouth positions reversed and another man suffers from a facial burn.
Yet, despite the physical weirdness, through bittersweet humor and while condemning the fetishization of disabilities, the film has a heart.
Do you know any other movies that would be a good fit for this list? Please share them with us in the comment section below!
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