So apparently all I do in self-isolation is watch stuff, because I am here with another dose of ‘films I watched this month so you gotta watch them too’. If you didn’t catch my last post about dark and gritty films to wrap your eyes around, you’ll find it here! It’s got a few recommendations of films that are likely to make you go ‘oh bloody hell’, or recoil in horror at the somewhat too realistic way murder can be portrayed nowadays.
As always, I’m going to keep them as spoiler free as possible, with hopefully enough ‘ooh factor’ to make you bother watching any if not all of these films. Let’s just jump right in shall we.
I watched a YouTube video of someone saying that this film changed their life, which made me think: ‘no it didn’t’, first of all, and then ‘I gotta watch this’. Let me tell you before we go any further though, following the watching of this film, I had the maddest, deepest Google session I’ve ever had in my life. I simply, could not understand the ending, and also, almost every other part. Not in a ‘what a terrible film’ way though. More like, in a ‘wow, this is so bizarre and intense I can’t even guess’ way.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and… Jake Gyllenhaal, Enemy tells the story of history teacher Adam Bell finding his exact lookalike in a film he’s told to watch by his coworker.
Adam starts to stalk his doppelganger, and manages to find a way to meet him, only for his doppelganger to turn his monotonous and somewhat chaotic life completely upside down.
That’s all I’m going to say. But this film is full of imagery (that I missed and subsequently found out mid-Googling) that leads to the plot twist and answer you’re looking for that’s kind of never explicitly reached.
It’s an intensely interesting film to watch; every shot is bathed in a sickly yellow glow, and giant spiders are repeatedly seen throughout the film. It’s strange, it’s deep and I guarantee you won’t understand the ending. I don’t even write that smugly, if you understand the ending please tell me so we can get deep about this film.
Did it change my life? Not exactly. Was Jake Gyllenhaal perfect at portraying two completely different characters? Absolutely. Were the spiders terrifying? Not in the way you’d expect. Watch this film.
El Hoyo (The Platform) (2019)
Guys, El Hoyo rocked my world. I loved it. I was pointed to the film by fellow expat Steph, who told me it looked grim and eerie. I watched the trailer, and to be honest, I didn’t get it. It looked like a weird dystopian concrete prison scenario, and whilst I love dystopias (apart from the one we are currently heading through), I hate too much concrete. Still I’m not one to turn down someone’s personal recommendation so I gave it a whirl and dear Jesus it was worth it.
This is a Spanish film, so it has subtitles, and if you’re not in the Netherlands, it’s probably called The Platform on Netflix.
It tells the story of Goreng, who wakes up in a concrete cell opposite his new cellmate, Trimagasi, an older gentleman who looks like he’s no-good. Now, we never really learn why Goreng is in this cell, which I guess is fine, but we do learn that he’s in there by choice.
It turns out that you may go to this strange, futuristic prison instead of (I assume) normal prison, or a psychiatric facility, depending on your crime. There’s also talk of Diplomas being earned whilst on the inside too, which is an idea that was quite frankly never really expanded on at all.
There’s a giant hole in the centre of the cell, which made me whoozy as the camera panned over a black hole of a pit traveling seemingly endlessly south. There are people above and below, in their own cells, so you can hear everything that goes on, and once a day, a giant platform filled with the most divine banquet you’ve ever seen is lowered floor by floor.
Now, the trouble is, the more floors there are above your own cell, the less food you’re going to receive once it gets to you. If that’s not a huge statement in itself, I don’t know what is. Unluckily (or luckily, you’ll see the longer you watch this film) for Goreng, he awakens on floor 48, which means 94 other people have already had their pickings from the banquet, and the platform looks utterly disgusting. Honestly, table manners = gone.
The film becomes brutally violent from then on out, as you’d imagine from a sci-fi horror. Goreng tries his best to help the people on the lower levels get their pick of the food, but it turns out to be almost hopeless. Will he succeed? You’ll have to watch it to find out.
El Hoyo is such a thrilling dystopian nightmare. It’s bleak, it’s bloody, it’s full of political allegory. It’s a fantastic film that you can’t miss.
Blue Jay (2016)
Ok, a slight change of direction, Blue Jay is a heartbreaking love story consisting of just 2 characters. Guys, if you’ve got a lost love out there, or you’re recovering from heartbreak, I dunno, maybe give this one a miss.
Jim and Amanda, former high school sweethearts, meet each other by chance in the grocery store one day. Their first encounter is slightly awkward, as you’d expect from a couple of former lovers, but Jim persists and asks Amanda to have coffee with him.
What follows is a nostalgic dip into their lives at present, and a look in at what they shared together together in the past, which is incredibly sweet but tinged with sadness that you’ll recognise if you’ve ever been through something similar. It’s relatively slow paced, yet full of surprises, and a little bit of a shock ending that really shows just how important communication is between two people in a relationship. Although the ending of the film isn’t necessarily sad, I did finish it feeling slightly bleak, so prepare for your emotions to be stamped on if you’re a sensitive soul.
Oh, and it’s all shot in black and white too, which keeps the film’s simplicity intact, and helps keep the focus on the two characters, who, by the way, were played with a lot of passion and depth.
Blue Ruin (2013)
Alright, so Blue Ruin was directed by the same guy who directed Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier, which, if you read my last post, happened to be my favourite out of the four films I wriote about.
Dwight is living rough, living in his car, and eating scraps from out of bin bags. One day he’s awoken by a cop, who takes him to the police station and tells him that the man who murdered his parents 20 years earlier, Wade Cleland, is being released from prison.
Shocked by the news, Dwight travels the country to see the man being released himself. He then follows the hired limousine taking Wade and his family to a bar for a raucous celebration of his release, and murders him in a bathroom stall.
What I… (can I say liked??) about this film, is how real the murder seems. Wait, I’m not a psycopath. Rather than one of those basic Hollywood murders, that’s (I assume) nothing like a real murder in the cold light of day, Blue Ruin shows the raw and uncensored moment of the act of taking someone’s life, in all its gruesome and disgusting reality. I felt the same terror as I did when characters in Greem Room were killed off, because it was just far too life like for my poor eyeballs. Murder is a terrifying yet truly real thing that takes place in life, and quite often we’re desensitised to it because of how often we see it portrayed as a gunshot and a bit of blood.
To me, a true horror will show you realistic actions and consequences, so this film really freaked me out.
So Dwight moves on, covered in blood, finds his sister who he’s not seen for years and eventually discovers that Wade’s family are out for a bit of revenge. There’s a lot more (realistic) gore, and a twist ending that makes you feel pretty crappy for, well, everyone involved to be honest. It doesn’t have a happy ending, and the characters are so life like, I think it will really leave you feeling a little bit weird inside.
The Wailing (2016)
Let me preface this by saying that The Wailing is a whopping 2 hours and 36 minutes in length. That’s a recipe for a sore booty if ever I saw one. Is it worth said sore booty? Yes. Or, you could do as I do and watch the first 2 hours and 22 minutes in one evening, and the other 14 the following day. I don’t know, it just got late and freaky, ok?
Put into its simplest terms, because with 2 hours and 36 minutes of film, you bet it’s gonna be complicated, The Wailing is a South Korean film based around a policeman investigating a series of gruesome murders in his quiet little town, in order to save his own daughter.
But wait, how does it become so complicated, you ask? Guys, The Wailing goes deep. It touches on zombification, demonic possession (featuring the literal devil), exorcisms and Gods, and it’s a wild ride. If you’re into boils and cracking bones, this is the film for you. If you’re into whole families being torn apart (that’s literally as well as figuratively) go right ahead. This film proper freaked me out, and honestly, although glowing red eyes on some half naked guy didn’t get me the first time, by the end of the film, it hit a little different.