Horror fans’ favourite holiday is around the corner and true fans can’t stand mainstream horrors (right?), so here’s a list of ten disturbing films to celebrate Halloween.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good, well-executed jump-scare in a horror film as much as the next person.
However, when you’ve seen so many horror movies, you can smell a jump-scare creeping a mile away in most cases.
When that happens, the intended effect is tarnished and it can make for an overall forgettable viewing experience.
This is where disturbing horror films come in.
Sure, they’re hard to watch, but a good one will build a sense of deep dread from early on and will stay with you long after the fact.
So in no particular order, here are ten disturbing horror films that will make you wish you could unsee what you just saw.
Eden Lake (2008)
Before Michael Fassbender became one of the biggest stars on the planet, he starred in this small, disturbing horror/thriller film from director James Watkins.
Eden Lake follows a couple on a romantic weekend away, when they’re soon approached, and terrorised by a gang of youths.
The disturbing element in this film is its unrelenting violence.
It doesn’t hold back much with a lot of the scenes hard-to-watch.
Eden Lake borders on torture-porn at some points and isn’t a very pleasant watch, but it is one that also isn’t easily forgotten.
Lars von Trier’s Antichrist is as disturbing as they come.
Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg play a husband and wife, who soon after the death of their infant son escape to a remote cabin to mourn their loss.
The grief becomes too much for the mother and some potentially sinister, unseen forces cause her to lash out in despicable ways.
Please do not be eating anything while watching this movie; if anything you should go in on an empty stomach.
The Skin I Live In (2011)
Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In stars Antonio Banderas as a brilliant plastic surgeon that’s discovered a revolutionary new synthetic skin.
Suffering from past traumas, the surgeon takes on a client to test the skin on; a client whose past may be linked to his own.
This film isn’t violent, gory, or scary – but the themes and the twist, in particular, will have you questioning if there is anything good left on this earth.
‘A young woman’s quest for revenge against the people who kidnapped and tormented her as a child leads her and a friend, who is also a victim of child abuse, on a terrifying journey into a living hell of depravity.’
The official synopsis for Martyrs says it best.
This film is the epitome of depravity in horror films and as bloody and brutal as it is, you can’t look away.
While this is pure torture-porn, the film does ask some deeper questions that will leave you thinking at the end of it.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece A Clockwork Orange may not be a traditional horror, but it may as well be with all that goes down in this film.
Sadism, violence, murder, rape and horrible people make up a lot of this film.
It’s the type of film that requires nerves of steel as some of the scenes can be a bit much for some people.
My recommendation: Watch it over 2-3 nights, so at least you can say you’ve seen it.
Funny Games (2007)
French director Michael Haneke has made it his career to produce disturbing, slow-burning dramas with themes so heavy that there’s no shame in feeling depressed after having seen any one of his films.
Haneke takes the basic home-invasion sub-genre of horror and puts an almost-intellectual spin on it.
This is not a film for your typical horror movie lover, but rather more for those appreciative of the art of filmmaking in general.
It’s a film that’s hard to get through due its slow pace, but is a very rewarding (and of course, disturbing) experience.
Incident in a Ghostland (2018)
It took me weeks to figure out whether I loved this movie, or hated it – in the end, a film that you’re still thinking about weeks later must be brilliant, right?
Ghostland is directed by Pascal Laugier, who also directed the gruesome film Martyrs (see above).
It follows a similar theme to Martyrs, in that it deals with two siblings’ past, and present abusive traumas.
It’s a film that’s equal parts classic genre-horror and psychological horror, with some extreme violence.
There’s a twist in here that turns the film on its head, adding a whole new element of disturbancy (not a word).
The movie that received the most unwarranted hate, potentially ever, is Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem.
The film’s story is an allegory on heaven and earth, nature and consumption, good and evil, the price of fame, and any other way you want to interpret it.
Its genius is just that – it can be interpreted in so many ways.
Where it’s disturbing is that it’s just relentless on the psychological-horror front – you may even go a bit kooky yourself after watching this, but it’s worth it.
Snowtown is based on the true story of the Snowtown Murders in mid-90’s Adelaide, Australia.
Another film that doesn’t rely on blood or gore to scare its audience, but rather is super-clever in its use of dread-building.
Snowtown has viewers feeling squeamish from the get-go and doesn’t let up.
It’s a heavy film to absorb with some seriously disturbing themes, but makes for essential viewing for horror film fans.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Henry stars Michael Rooker in the role of the real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas.
It’s an insightful look into the mind of a serial killer with the most disturbing thing about this film – its format.
It’s archaic, VHS-style look adds a real-world element to this film, making it look like Henry and his friends actually shot this during their horrendous adventures.
You don’t see this style of film much any more, and for good reason – the mark it can leave on a viewer is just too deep.