On this week’s episode we talked about mindfuck movies. I think the term “mindfuck” is subjective and open to interpretation. For instance, Kevin (and many others) believe Memento to be a mindfuck movie. I, on the other hand, do not. I consider it expertly and cleverly made. But it doesn’t fuck with my mind. For me, I define a mindfuck movie thusly: When you or a character on screen can’t tell if what is happening is REALLY happening, your mind has been fucked.
Below is a list of 10 movies I consider to be introductory mindfuck movies found on five different streaming platforms. If you’re curious about mindfuck movies and have never seen one, here are 10 options to start you off. I recommend knocking a few of these out (they’re also just good movies) before diving head-first into Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Kuso, or Holy Motors.
Antibirth (2016) – Netflix
It took a few doses for me to get this one down. Don’t get me wrong, I love Natasha, Chloe, and Meg. This is a cold, dreary film, though. I don’t much care for cold and dreary. These three women deliver remarkable performances in an otherwise ok movie. With that said, though, it’s entertaining and gross. It’ll take you on a ride, that’s for sure. Antibirth follows wild party girl Lou (Lyonne) after a blackout-drunk night of partying. It turns out Lou had a little too much fun and got herself pregnant. Or did she? As the story unravels, we discover all the evil forces involved, including giant fury hallucinations.
Baskin (2015) – Netflix
This will likely be your first taste of Turkish horror (or Turkish cinema for that matter). This will also bring out several WTFs from you and your viewing partners. You’ll need some time afterwards to process what exactly you just witnessed. It’s been six months and I’m still trying to figure it all out. Baskin is about a group of cops who respond to a call for help at an abandoned building. What they discover (or do they?) is a ritual of sorts that involves weird sex stuff (or does it?). Every now and then we’re transported back to a cafe where one of our protagonists is listening to a story of this odd occurrence (or is he?). It’s good. But you’ll need well wishes. So… here (*throws good-intentioned wishes at you).
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015) – Amazon Prime
This is going to end up on my best of 2017 list. That I promise you. It won’t be at the top, but it’ll be on there. I was nervous before finally getting to see this because it had been built up so much since it took forever to get releasing. I had seen Oz Perkins’s follow-up to Blackcoat’s Daughter called I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House. Suffice to say I didn’t care for it. But I needed to see this movie (then title February) everyone more important than me was talking about. The wait was well worth it. Perkins has made such a dark, cold, dread-inducing movie here. Our five main players (Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton, James Remar, and Lauren Holly) deliver Perkins’s story flawlessly. Shipka shows that she is a force and delivers one of my favorite performances I’ve seen this year. And as far as the fucking of your mind, I’ll consider this a light mindfuck. In The Blackcoat’s Daughter two young women are left behind at their boarding school during winter break. Together they must battle whatever evil is lurking in the hallowed halls of their deserted school.
Dark City (1998) – Hulu
I don’t remember much about Dark City because it was a little too Sci-Fi and a little too… well, dark. It’s on this list because a.) It’s on Hulu, and b.) Kevin brought it up on our mindfuck episode. What I DO remember is a stellar cast that includes heavy hitters like Rufus Sewell, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, and Richard O’Brien. After watching the trailer, this deserves a re-watch from me. Dark City follows John Murdoch (Sewell) after he wakes up in a strange place having total memory loss. As he navigates his way around this new land, he discovers the sinister goings-on and goes to great lengths to stop them.
Irreversible (2002) – Amazon Prime
Right up front I want to send a warning: this contains a graphic, real-time, lengthy rape scene that will be upsetting to some (if not most). The good thing, though, is that this is streaming, so don’t be afraid to use that “skip-ahead-10-seconds” function. As I mentioned on the episode, Irreversible is as much a mindfuck movie as Memento is. I don’t really consider it a mindfuck, but many do, and it’s a good film to include in the starter pack. Above all else, Gaspar Noe has created a near masterpiece. Filmed from end to beginning, Irreversible is, at its heart, a revenge story. We’re introduced to our protagonists AFTER they’ve gone through the shit, which makes the ending all the more heartbreaking. Watch it. Stick with it. You’ll want to turn it off in the first 15 minutes, but trust me, don’t.
Jacob’s Ladder (1990) – TubiTV
I first saw this (for some odd reason) as a small child. I remembered almost nothing about it until I watched it recently. Wow. Even though this was made just as Desert Storm was kicking into gear, and even though its characters are dealing with PTSD from the Vietnam War, this movie hits home – and hard – today. Right now. In 2017. There aren’t a ton of movies over 20 years old that carried with them some sort of social/political/economical/etc. commentary that will hit you in the gut when viewed presently. Jacob’s Ladder is one of those, though. Even though we’re introduced fairly early to the fact that our main protagonist is dealing with some major PTSD, we the viewer are still thrown through the ringer. Adrian Lyne has crafted a heartbreaking story that hits any movie-lovers’ sweet spots. In Jacob’s Ladder, Jacob is trying to get back to a sense of normalcy after returning home from the Vietnam War. Whether it’s the loss of his son, the separation from his wife, his new girlfriend, or the constant sense that he’s being followed, Jacob tries to get a grip on reality.
Pi (1998) – Shudder
“There will be no order. Only chaos.” I remember watching this for the first time at my friend Ben’s house when I was a junior in high school. Like most people do, I went through my “fake intellectual” phase that year. Ben was a real intellectual, though, and I pretended to understand all the shit he talked about. But this movie, albeit a little too far out there for a 16-year-old, stuck with me. Not so much the mindfuckiness of it all, but the thriller aspect. And Pi was the first film that made me realize movies could actually say something. This is a total genre movie, and I promise it will fuck your mind and make you really think about what the hell is going on in the world. And if you’re the least bit prone to paranoia, well… good luck! Pi is about one man’s quest (read: unhealthy obsession) to find order in the world. Despite influences healthy and unhealthy all around him, Max will stop at nothing to prove to himself (and the world) that he has found the truth – that a pattern exists for everything to exist. You know, basic Aronofsky shit.
Take Shelter (2011) – Shudder
Last year we had comedian and artist Winslow Dumain on the show to talk about mental health and this movie. I encourage you to take a listen here. I should also say, it’s because of Take Shelter that we finally subscribed to Shudder. (For God’s sake, buckle down and drop the $5 a month it costs for the most expansive horror library on the internet!) I’ll consider Take Shelter another light mindfuck movie. Before you have a good horror movie you need a good drama, and Jeff Nichols has done that here. It’s such a heartbreaking story with superb performances from Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. Our minds our fucked via Curtis’s (Shannon), thus, creating one of the most tense movies I’ve ever seen. Take Shelter is ultimately about mental illness and how it affects those touched by it. Shannon plays Curtis who starts seeing visions of some sort of apocalypse approaching. He’s so convinced something is coming that he sacrifices almost everything to protect himself and his family.
They Look Like People (2015) – Hulu
As I said on our episode with Brendan Reilly, I went from absolutely hating this movie to absolutely loving this movie. I have only recently learned (I’m a late bloomer, sorry) that the secret to cinema is keeping an open mind. Don’t take things just at face value. I’ve found that if I watch a movie just for the moving pictures, I’m going to enjoy it far less than if I go in with an open mind, willing to experience what the filmmaker intended. Thus is the case with TLLP. It’s weird. Really weird. The uncomfortableness of it all will make you want to cringe or worse, shut it off. Cringe all you want, but please don’t turn this movie off. Experience what Perry Blackshear wants you to experience. That uncomfortableness? That’s exactly what Blackshear, and actors MacLeod Andrews and Evan Dumouchel want. It means they’re doing their job really well. Go along for the ride with your mind completely open and you won’t regret it. They Look Like People reconnects two friends that haven’t seen each other in several years. Wyatt (Andrews) seemingly pops up out of nowhere to surprise Christian (Dumouchel). The reason for Wyatt’s pop in is far more sinister (and trippy) than Christian could ever realize, though. The power of friendship is a mighty thing and TTLP shows to what lengths friends will go to show their love for one another.
Timecrimes (2007) – Shudder
I think I’ll categorize Timecrimes as another light mindfuck. It’s clever as hell. As of this writing I haven’t seen Colossal yet, but Timecrimes is an excellent showcase of Nacho Vigalondo’s talent. The story is perfectly crafted and the execution is flawless. At every turn you’re pulling for another Hector (watch the movie and you’ll get what I mean). And I’ll say I got the ending I wanted. It was earned. Thank God. Timecrimes pits Hector (Karra Elejalde) against himself and… time. After stumbling across a time machine, Hector tries to course-correct his mistakes. But how many tries will it take him?
I honestly feel like these 10 options are not only good movies, but excellent introductions into mindfuck cinema. Let us know what you think. What other movies would you include on this list? If you end up watching one of these, let us know what you thought of it!