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Ten Great Movies That Aren’t Afraid To Push the Boundaries!

The Ten Most Disturbing Films I Have Ever Seen

Review: Man Bites Dog

Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel and Benoit Poelvoorde’s mockumentary-style satire manages to top all other entries into the genre, even Rob Reiner’s famous mocko This Is Spinal Tap (1984). Titled C’est Arrivé Près De Chez Vous (literally, ‘It Happened In Your Neighbourhood’) is better known by the title Man Bites Dog (1992), which is a joke in itself. The film is a strong criticism of journalism and the obsession the media have with documentation.

Poelvoorde plays Ben, a sadistic, motiveless serial killer who goes about his business of murdering, raping, disembowling and burying countless people. What makes it interesting is the addition of a camera crew, who follow Ben around and document his every move. They seem to have no moral stance; they don’t condone Ben’s actions, but they certainly don’t try to stop him. Early in the film, after a long day of murdering, Ben asks his colleagues out to dinner. They awkwardly refuse, attempting to make up excuses. Why? It seems obvious why; they are afraid he will kill them without warning, as he has so many people. But the crew begin to realize they are Ben’s friends, and even as some of them are accidentally murdered, they continue to stick with him, film his activities and even participate in them.

The latter is expressed in a gruesome rape scene three quarters of the way into the film. Surprisingly cut from the original Region 4 DVD I watched, I was surprised to see it included when I bought the Criterion DVD just a few days ago. We watch, horrified, as the camera crew and Ben himself penetrate a helpless woman and force her husband to watch, before (off-screen, thankfully) disembowling her and shooting her husband.

No, Man Bites Dog is not a pleasant film, and at times it can get rather grating and repetitive, but the originality more than makes up for that. The acting, too, which is superb for a few amateur filmmakers, supports the film’s tale and makes it all the more believable, and thus, more horrifying. Poelvoorde plays Ben with ease, making him a serial killer reflective of the seeming normality of society which is bursting to explode. He reminds me of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho; Bateman, unlike many serial killers in films, does not have a multiple personality disorder where he, without warning, descents into insanity. No, he is always insane and ready to pop, night and day, and so is Ben in this film. He does not have a darker side; he only has one side, and that is just normality. He is the same person when he is murdering people as he is when he is laughing, buying his friends’ drinks, and visiting his family: he is calm. Sure, there are moments when he gets irritated, but he is so used to murdering that he sees it as such a normal act as cooking dinner, taking out the trash or watching TV.

Man Bites Dog, like most student films from rookie filmmakers, contains many references to other films. While smashing a man’s head in in his bathroom, Ben asks the crew which film the scene reminds them of; the film’s successive sound recordists all end up getting murdered, a reference to the aforementioned This is Spinal Tap, and there is one reference which struck me the most. We see a man walking along before Ben jumps out and strangles him, then suddenly we realize the footage is video as it is rewound and played back, this time in slow motion. This is a clear reference to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990), in which a couple raped and murdered is shown as video footage before being played back (a technique used again by Michael Haneke in Cache (2005)). These cultural references might not seem like references so much as simply referring to other films, considering that the film itself is a documentary.

The film as a whole, is interesting and worth seeing, but at times can be incredibly difficult to watch, especially as we realize the directors are trying to get us to sympathise and laugh with Ben. The small Belgian film has become incredibly popular; a cult favourite, and it remains, while not the best film to deal with the serial killer genre, nonetheless an incredibly smart, shocking and in-your-face explosive look at media influence and obsession.

My Rating:

Average Rating:

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10 Movies That Are Extremely Uncomfortable to Watch with Family

Every fortnight, me and a group of friends have a Movie Night. We go to my friend Stephen’s house. He has a large study which he has converted into a “theatre room” over a long period of time. He is also an avid collector of Criterion Collection DVDs (He has 60-something. I have 5.) We’ve been doing this thing for about six months now, going through all his Criterion movies, and last night we watched the Lars von Trier “horror” movie Antichrist.

Stephen and I were the only two present who had seen the film before. Also in attendance was my girlfriend Ashley, and four other mutual friends who had not seen it and had very little idea of what to expect. I told Ashley (who dealt with the on-screen “happenings” rather well, considering…) that it was a sexually-explicit, often mistaken as misogynistic festival of violence and gore. She was at first optimistic, saying she hadn’t seen a good horror movie in ages. The optimism didn’t last once the film reached the third act. She was unable to watch some parts, and I can well understand why.

Antichrist is not the sort of film you want to watch with someone you hold close or even respect. And I can imagine watching it with actual family would be even worse (my mother would vomit, my dad would laugh). So, without further ado, here are ten movies that (I imagine) would be extremely uncomfortable to watch with family, and since I don’t often actually rank lists, I’m going to make this one a count down from ten.

10: Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Darren Aronofsky’s hellish drug drama turns downright terrifying in its drawn-out, brutally punctuated third act. Scenes of Ellen Burstyn being incessantly electrocuted and Jennifer Connelly losing all dignity at a drug-fuelled sex party are enough to make anyone squirm in their seat.

9: Funny Games (1997)

Who really wants to see two men mercilessly break all conventional horror movie rules to draw out torture and eventual murder upon a young couple and their son during the long 100 minutes of this typical Haneke thriller? I know I don’t, and certainly not with family.

8: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)

In a horrific home-invasion scene brutally replayed on a home video camera, we see two psychopathic killers at their worst, most disgustingly inhumane attitude. And as if that weren’t enough, an overly depressing, nihilistic ending combined with countless scenes of unmotivated violence punctuate a brilliant reality.

7: Man Bites Dog (1992)

In one of the most unconventional horror films ever made (and one of my personal favourites, he-he-hee), a camera crew follow a serial killer around, documenting his rapes and murders (including the sickeningly slow death of an elderly woman from cardiac arrest) and eventually getting involved in them. A horror film which comically delights in some of the most disgusting acts, Man Bites Dog is grotesque but brilliant.

6: Audition (1999)

This one actually happened. I saw Audition at a young age with my Dad, and the next day we decided to play a prank on my mum. We told her it was a romantic comedy about a man who tries to audition the perfect girlfriend. We completely left out the brutal amputation and torture in the third act, and let her discover that herself…

5: A Serbian Film (2009)

One of the most gratuitously graphic films I have ever seen, A Serbian Film has it all. Kids watching porn, graphic oral sex, rape, paedophilia, facial cumshots, implied rape of an infant, and the gouging of eyes with an erect penis, among many other atrocities. Just perfect for a night in with the family, right?

4: Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Two years ago, I broke up with a girlfriend who was a vegetarian when she told me she was in another relationship. I was very angry and immature at the time. I contemplated sending her a downloaded DVD of this disgusting animal snuff film in the mail at one point, though thankfully I refrained from doing so. It’s notorious, repulsive, excessive and bloody. Not for the faint of heart, or anyone with an emotional attachment to turtles.

3: Irreversible (2002)

Gaspar Noe’s 2002 masterpiece may be controversial and filled to the brim with excessive, gratuitous violence but it is nevertheless a serious work of art, as demonstrated in the horrifyingly beautiful final scene. However, that is no reason to watch this with anyone you value in any way.

2: Salo, or: The 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s almost unendurable, 2-hour festival of disturbing violence, rape, sex, and general mistreatment of human beings may be a hateful metaphor for fascism, but that certainly doesn’t make it any easier to watch whatsoever.

1: Happiness (1998)

Some will debate this film at the position of number one, but I put it here because, a) it is the most honest of the films on the list, which makes it scarier, and b) it is a disturbing film about family, perfect for a list of movies that are uncomfortable to watch with family. Who wants to see their mum peering curiously at their dad while watching Dylan Baker masturbate to pictures of kids? It’s an awkward, paranoid moment no-one wants to encounter, and makes the movie all the more uncomfortable.

So, those’re my picks. Let me know, was there anything I missed out?

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