To most, cinema is a form of escapism from an increasingly complicated society. Teleporting an audience to another realm to make them laugh, cry or think about the complexities of humanity is a hard feat in 2019. While most people enjoy Hollywood Blockbusters like Black Panther or Deadpool, cinema’s darker side is generally forgotten or given a shallow reputation. Film is a multi-faceted creature, full of strange and deep crevices filled with things you probably never imagined could even be possible.
Horror films are easily the foremost escapist genre in art history. Tackling themes and characters that most humans would try and constantly avoid or don’t even imagine to be real. The most impactful and shocking films combine hyperbolic facets of real life with the impossible.
If a movie stays with you long after the initial viewing then it’s done its job. Despite critics quickly dismissing the darker side of film, there are lots of people who love a wholly different type of escape. Which generally includes: realistic scenes of violence, absurdism, torture and a general disregard for human life.
The movies on this list all come with a forewarning with potential to scar your mind for years to come and prove that a movie can still be considered artistic or poignant, even if it’s on the extreme side. If you’re curious to find out what lies beneath the surface of the conventional and one-dimensional movies we see advertised everywhere, you’re on the right list.
Choose wisely and have some cat or dog videos queued up to cleanse your palate after viewing these incredible and daunting movies.
Check back on Screamish as we continue to countdown the 10 most disturbing movies of all time!
1. Martyrs (2008)
Dir: Pascal Laugier
There’s nothing redemptive about this film, which is probably why it was never released theatrically in the United States. In interviews, when asked about the influence for the film director Pascal Laugier has said “Our occidental urban societies are filled with despair and brutality,” a feeling that “we’re living in a world close to its own end.” Martyrs could easily be categorized as self-indulgent, self-masturbatory and nihilistic for no reason. However, there’s something to be said about a movie that has such a polarizing effect on every viewer. At its core, this movie explores torture, revenge and the infinite capacity for human cruelty, which can be pretty topical for anyone living in modern society.
Martyrs tells the story of a once missing child Lucie, found wandering after her escape from some sort of subterranean torture chamber. Years later, Lucie ends up at an orphanage, where she recovers physically but not emotionally or mentally, she is haunted by the ghost of a woman she failed to free in her hurry to flee her captors. With the help of fellow orphan Anna, she eventually tracks down the people who eviscerated her life. This all leads to both troubled women confronting a seemingly normal upper middle-class family in an unusual house in the middle of the forest. Lucie has suspected that the parents of this family were responsible for kidnapping her all those years ago. Without revealing too much, bloodshed ensues and Anna quickly discovers Lucie was entirely right. There is a secret dungeon in the house, currently holding a badly abused woman resembling the ghost she earlier described.
From there a once seen, never forgotten 30 minutes sequence begins. The audience is forced to watch the films heroine be subjected to brutal acts of degradation and torture, it sounds horrible and it is. Led by “Mademoiselle” a sinister middle-aged woman tells Anna about her cult, which involves systematically torturing ‘martyrs’ under the guise of learning secrets of the afterlife through her victim’s extreme pain.
To me Martyrs is a ground-breaking movie. It challenges the audience to endure some of the most heinous acts seen on film and speaks largely on modern day atrocities we ignore, without any restraint. This movie continuously causes discussions about intent behind it all. Which is where all the best horror films come from. It’s exactly why Eli Roth movies are completely forgotten the next day, and some like Martyrs or Possession stay with you forever. Whether it’s a meta commentary on ‘torture porn’, society, or just a brilliantly visceral horror film doesn’t matter, because the impact it’s made on the genre will be hard to top. This movie left me feeling bludgeoned and wrecked emotionally, spiritually and genuinely horrified me.
For the brave few who seek out the darkest and most depraved cinema has to offer this is a must see. Watch the trailer below.
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