There are movies best enjoyed with a hot mug of steaming cocoa, a warm blanket, and arm (or two) wrapped tight around you. There are movies that are recommended after a hard day at work, a romcom of say, a cute ticket booth attendant having a crush on a lawyer way beyond her league, and then becoming mistaken for fiancée of said lawyer when said lawyer falls in a coma, but she falls in love with rough brother while lawyer is still sleeping.
And then there’s the movie about an axe murderer. Or a doctor who creates human centipedes. Or a film disturbing film involving baby rape.
Yes. There are movies that aim to disturb and for the disturbed. No steaming hot of cocoa here. Just an (untouched) tub of popcorn, with the lights kept on.
DNX has curated the list of movies to be enjoyed during the pandemic. Take note, and trigger warning: These are not meant to be watched alone. Unless you have a rather strong constitution.
When the new coronavirus broke late last year, there was a renewed interest in the film which was released a little less than decade ago. Forget Koontz. Contagion contains too many elements about the current pandemic you might think everything now is a well-played cosmic joke. A novel virus from bats? Check. A nutjob conspiracy theorist who dabbles in home remedies? Check. Talks of the disease being a bioweapon? Check. A President who boldly declares that gasoline is a disinfectant? Um, not really.
But you get the drift.
Boasting an ensemble cast of big-named stars – Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, and Gwyneth Paltrow as Patient Zero – the film present a richly-layered narrative and a slew of what-ifs. What if a particularly virulent virus breaks, and there is very little information about it? What if the virus breaks in a big crowded city? The film even addresses the politics within health orgs, and presents a question for reflection: What happens if there is a virus outbreak in a post-truth era?
Contagion must be taken with a more than just a grain of salt, though, and a firm belief that IT IS JUST A MOVIE. Film is soooo eerily prescient, it could get disturbing, and it could screw up your mind a bit.
FOUR STARS OUT OF FIVE
The Shining (1980)
Jack Nicholson’s maniacal smile framed by shards of a broken-down door is probably one of the most iconic scenes in horror movie history.
Directed by Stanley Kubrick and based off Stephen King’s novel of the same name, film tells the story of Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic who is hired as an off-season caretaker for The Overlook Hotel, toting along with him his wife Wendy, and little boy Danny (the young ‘un is blessed with psychic powers – the titular “shining”.
All is well, of course, except when little Danny started seeing two extremely creepy twins, and Jack saw a pretty girl in a bathtub who may or may not be what she seems.
Film culminates in an unforgettable chase within a maze, as well as the escape of Wendy and son from Jack who has literally become axe-crazy.
Film is straight-up supernatural horror, but it could well be a cautionary tell of the mind playing tricks on is when cooped up with no outside connections (Torrance family, after all, was caught in a blizzard, so even communication had been cut). It could well be, like good friend and film buff Jim Tolentino said, a movie about cabin fever, and how one could really lose it once one’s mind turns in on itself.
Film is near-perfect (Shelley Duvall as Wendy is one of weak points, IMHO), with Kubrick’s notorious eye for detail coming to perfect play (yes, he really did hire a typist to create a stack of 500 odd pages all bearing the words “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” only a few of which were onscreen).
Film has set a standard for its time, and with minimal casting too. Not for the faint of heart, or for those who can’t stand to stay alone in their room for longer than an hour.
4.5 stars out of 5
28 Days Later (2002)
Cillian Murphy. Naomi Harris. Brendan Gleeson.
And a horde of zombies that could infect you within SECONDS with infected blood.
I mean, what’s not to like?
28 Days Later is a cautionary tale of sorts, as film opens with a group of animal liberators freeing some chimpanzees in a laboratory. Turns out said chimps are infected with a particularly contagious virus that turns humans into raging zombies (not the George Romero lumbering kind – the other kind).
Film introduces us to Jim (the Fantastic Mr. Murphy) who wakes up from a coma to a deserted world where (most) humans have turned into infected raging monsters. He meets Selena (Naomi Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley), both survivors of the rage. Later still, Selena and Jim (Mark got himself infected) met taxi driver Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Hannah (Megan Burns). Things seem to turn slightly better when the survivors were rescued by a group of military men (but not before Frank was infected), who may or may not have nefarious intent of their own.
Directed by Danny Boyle (fans would recognize him for Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, and Steve Jobs), film is more than just a post-apocalyptic gorefest that it promises to be. It explores the exploitative side of humans, who might be more dangerous than the infected (military men who “rescued” them for instance, were really intent in turning the women into sex slaves).
Film at least ends in an upbeat note (reports say the optimistic ending nearly didn’t make it to the final showing – as the helmers apparently had a bleaker ending that did not test well with audiences).
4 stars out of 5
Rec is a Spanish film, shot in found footage, faux documentary style (think shaky hand-held camera of The Blair Witch Project, but with claustrophobia thrown in).
Film tells the story of a TV crew documenting night shift fire fighters. Reporter Angel, and cameraman Pablo were routinely recording the fire station when a distress call was called out in one of the apartments in the area.
Responding with the firefighters, Angela and Pablo soon learned that they got more than what they bargained for when the distress call turned out to have horrific consequences: one of the tenants, apparently, had been infected and had been biting others in turn.
Of the entries in our list, Rec is the most straightforward; it’s a movie that is meant to scare, and that it did with some unnerving realistic shots of dimmed hallways, and enclosed spaces. It’s a perfect melding of medium and narrative style, and the film never fails to throw in a few genuine jump scares.
You know the directors — Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza – were having a lot of fun making a no-statement, nothing-to-say-except-boo horror film when it threw demonic possession into the mix. Film could have unravelled there but didn’t, which shows that the duo have deft hands at story-telling, and terrifying their audiences.
3.5 stars out of four
I am Legend (2007)
There are horror movies on quarantines, on infections, on government going auto-pilot and placing the hands of peace-keeping on anyone but the peace-keepers.
And then there’s the horror film about a cure gone awry.
I am Legend is built upon that particular premise, of a cure for cancer that went horribly, horribly wrong, annihilating practically everyone, except for the remaining handful who became humanoid albino vampires.
Directed by Francis Lawrence (known for his music video repertoire, and by Hunger Games fans for directing most of the films in the franchise), film deals with the Lt. Col Neville (Will Smith) and his solitary existence in a desolated metropolis, living with his loyal mutt Samantha (SPOILER ALERT: Dog’s death is one of the saddest depicted in any movie).
Things start to looking up, though when Neville meets Anna (Alice Braga) and young boy Ethan who are both trying to find their way into a survivors’ camp in Vermont.
Film is a lovely combination of quiet reflection on civilization, and being human, and of humanity in general (could the camp be true? How did Neville survive? What of the vampires – why are they showing signs of sentience?).
It could get awfully scary, and the third act could be a drag, but Smith – bless him for disengaging from his Fresh Prince persona – carries the weight of the film on his more-than-able shoulders.
4 out of 5 stars