With Halloween coming up quickly, I thought I’d do a horror movie post. But me being me, I can’t just be content with slashers and serial killers, even though I do love movies with great gooey gobs of gushing blood. This is a list of movies that aren’t technically classified in the horror genre, but they are scary as shit because of the subject matter they cover or because of certain scenes that cannot be unseen. There are no ghosts or axe murderers, but these stories are every bit as horrific as your typical horror genre fare, possibly even more so because of the emotional damage they wreak.
I tried not to add any spoilers; there’s nothing here that couldn’t be found in the synopses on The Internet Movie Database or in the trailers. Here are my picks. They’re listed in the order that I thought of them and I’m absolutely certain that I’m forgetting some.
Johnny Got His Gun (1971)
You may know this one better as the background for Metallica’s One music video. A young American soldier is hit by a mortar shell on the last day of World War I. He becomes a quadruple amputee who has lost his arms, legs, eyes, ears, mouth and nose. He can’t speak. He can’t communicate. He is stuck inside his brain with no one to hear him. This might even be a worse fate than the next film on the list since he is aware of reality.
Pink Floyd The Wall (1982)
If you haven’t seen this movie, you’re either twelve years old or you’ve been living in a bomb shelter without television since the Bay of Pigs. Aside from the giant marching Nazi hammers, the man-eating vaginas, children being put through a meat grinder and all the rest, the scariest part about this movie to me is being trapped in your own mind with all of that. Pink has completely lost touch with reality and is living in a world that no one would ever choose to live in and there’s no way out.
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a drug addict. I’m not proud of it, but that was me. I saw this movie in the theater and when I got out, I was shaking. It actually made me experience what it was like to go through withdrawal a little bit. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not, but I never want to see Requiem for a Dream again.
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Yes, it’s animated, but that shouldn’t keep anyone from seeing this. The fact that it’s animated simply allows unrestrained horror. Be thankful it is animated since a live-action version would be impossible to watch. It is beautiful in a macabre way and the animation still holds up pretty well. Whether you are American or Japanese or neither, this is an important story. It’s heartbreaking and devastating. It makes me feel guilty and terrible, and above all, positively human.
Nobody Knows (2004)
It is not a romantic comedy. This is the tale of a twelve year old boy trying to take care of his siblings after their mother abandoned them. It is not a Hollywood movie. It is based on a true story. It will devour your soul and leave you a pissed off mess to know that anyone could do this to their children.
The War Zone (1999)
I’m not even going to describe this movie. Let’s just say, there is a scene in here that you don’t think they will show–there’s no way they could possibly show that, right?–and then they do. It’s impossible to watch. Ray Winstone is an amazing actor. This movie takes a toll on you. You will need a shower and a stiff drink afterwards.
Love & Pop (1998)
This movie has a cutesy title, a cutesy box cover and trailers that give no sense at all how devastating this film really is. It f0llows four teenage girls through their “compensated dating” adventures, with each successive encounter upping the danger. It was filmed almost entirely on hand-held digital cameras giving it a distinctly voyeuristic impression, which given the subject matter, just makes it even more difficult to watch. Perhaps it’s just me and my own teenage experiences, but I found this film to be really emotionally draining. By the end, I could barely even look at the screen anymore.
Bad Guy (2001)
“Bad” guy is a severe understatement. A girl embarrasses a pimp in front of his pimpy colleagues, so he sets about destroying her. And that’s exactly what he does. With every scene, you think, “this can’t possibly get any worse, can it?” and then it does. And you wonder just what else can befall this unfortunate girl who just happened to insult the wrong dude. And then you find out. This movie is like watching a massive car crash in slow motion for hours. You’ll want to hug someone after watching it.