Best intellectual horror movies and thrillers, surreal, visually beautiful and meaningful …

September 16, 2011 § 1 Comment

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What do you think about the horror genre? I think, that the general impression about horror movies is too trivial. Blood, chasing, killing, crime is what usually associates with a typical horror movie. But there is also another kind of horror… Intellectual horror. Movies, which keep you waiting for something to happen, which convey a feeling of mystery and endless beauty. Every frame can give the viewer a visually beautiful and mystical experience of something, that we can not ever fully understand. And the things we can not understand or don’t know are the things we are most afraid of. The best movies are movies, after which you have to do a lot of thinking. What did really happen and why? If there is an intrigue left unresolved, the movie will keep you thinking for some time and it can even make you rethink some actual events in your own life and sometimes even lead to a revelation. A horror movie, a thriller or mystery – no one of these genres suits well for such a movie. The best name I can think for the following movies is intellectual horror.

1. Antichrist, 2009.
Director: Lars von Trier.
Country: Denmark, Germany, France, Sweden, Italy, PolandAntichrist posterThere is only one Antichrist – no movie can ever be compared with it. At first it is important to abandon the stereotype, that Antichrist is something about religion or Satanism – nothing like it! Lars von Trier has been inspired by the visually beautiful “live nature” views from the Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky. Additionally to the incredibly beautiful views of living nature Lars von Trier has added a deeply philosophical contemplation about the meaning of nature in human essence and behavior. But visual beauty and deep meaning are not the only values of the film. Von Trier has balanced the film on the extreme edge of shocking suffer and repulse, displaying the evil nature of people. And, if we assume, that people are natural beings (a part of nature), then should we assume, that nature is evil? Or repulsive? Why are people performing evil actions? Have we departed from our natural roots or on the contrary – our natural essence is evil? In relation to this movie I would like to bring up the controversial psychology theories of biophobia and biophilia. Biophilia is the natural human affinity for natural surroundings – how we want to live in a green neighbourhood with a view towards a lake or other natural site and have flowerpots in our dwellings. Psychologists explain, that this necessity comes from the ancient interaction between people and nature since nature has always been our source of shelter and prosperity. Biophobia on the contrary views nature as a threat from ancient times, when we had to protect ourselves from poisonous snakes, wild animals and unpleasant weather conditions. We can still be afraid of nature basing on these ancient subconscious consequences. And this subconscious fear can arise frightening illusions. Is it better to face your fear or to confront it? Can it be healed by confronting or maybe the opposite effect will happen? Can pain be healed by confronting or will confronting lead to mad rebellion of aggression? As we know, for such natural beings as wild animals fear is also a reason of aggression, which is usually put into practice for self protection purposes.

2. Ink, 2009.
Director: Jamin Winans.
Country: USA.

Ink, posterInk is a beautifully shot, emotional alternative movie with a deep understanding of life. It talks about the most important things in life and how it is arranged. The movie is full of allegories – just open your eyes and mind and see them! Good dreams or bad dreams, which kidnap an innocent child’s soul are like good and bad temptations in life – to be honest or greedy to reach something. Ink, the evil character, turns out to be a loving person, who has just become harsh and ignorant because of the evil and ignorant nature of everyday life. And only the child’s innocent eyes can see his true soul and help him remember, who he really is. In a way we all are like innocent children, who are tempted to do evil things every day – things, which the society considers normal, which compose our everyday life. Aren’t we all like Ink then – harsh, ignorant and evil monsters, who have forgotten, who we really are? Another important message of the movie is the meaning of small things. How small events in life happen to be the cause of each other and like a snowball running down a hill turn into something big and meaningful. And change somebody’s life, for example. We might think, that we don’t have the power to change big events in the world. But this film says the opposite – by changing things in our small lives, we can really affect something big! We can help the humanity to remove it’s ugly mask and remember something old and forgotten – things like trust, love and true affection.

3. Stalker, 1979.
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky.
Country: Soviet Union.

Stalker, posterStalker is shot in a moderate and artistic pace, it displays visually amazing underwater and nature views. It is incredible, that Stalker has been filmed in 1979 – it’s so very much ahead of time. It talks about today and things, which are important to contemporary people. There were no other films like Stalker at that time, especially in the Soviet Union, where all films had to be joyful, carefree and the only meaning of cinema could be teaching communism. It’s amazing, how could such a controversial film be created at that time… What is common for all people – no matter, what is their origin, social status or occupation? We all want to be happy. And we all have different wishes to make it happen. To make our wishes true we have to cross the dangerous Zone, where danger encounters us on every corner. To make our wishes true we have to be careful, patient, respectful and never choose the easiest way. We just have to believe, that there is a certain place, where our deepest wishes will come true and then it will happen. But moving towards our dreams and fulfilling them – both are dangerous. By filling some of our dreams we can harm others – we can even cause a global catastrophe! Our wishes shouldn’t be selfish – otherwise we will be punished. Is it still worth for Stalker to help people to fill their dreams? He believes, that it is. He believes, that he could help somebody to overcome the misery and he believes, that there are still people, who’s wishes are unselfish. What would you do, if you were about to enter the room, where your wishes would come true? Can you find a wish important and unselfish enough, which would be worth fulfilling?

4. 9 Temples, 2010.
Director: Saranyoo Jiralak.
Country: Thailand.

9 Temples, poster

9 temples is a journey of self revelation, spirituality and destiny. What is the purpose of your life journey? We each have our own journey to take in our lives. We might want to change our destiny (or karma) by most unthinkable means, but at the end there are more mighty forces which will determine the destiny. And what is written to be will be…

5. Djinns (Stranded), 2010.
Directors: Hugues Martin, Sandra Martin.
Country: France, Morocco.

Djinns, posterBeautiful views of desert, houses and galleries made of clay and surreal visions in the desert are just a few of the visual values of the movie. The desert is vast and unexplored just like space and we still know so little about it. There are cultures in the desert, which have deeper roots than we can ever imagine – do we have the rights to intrude? There are even secrets hiding, which are much more ancient than the mankind. But some secrets are not meant for everyone’s eyes. If you are chosen to see something more than the others, then maybe you are chosen for something bigger? The mysterious desert – is it the source of our visions or maybe it is our mind, which is playing with us under the tight pressure of fear? Why do we keep killing each other? Are we obsessed? Why are there endless wars still going on? Is there something valuable to fight for? Or is war only a result of somebody’s mad obsession? Some obsessed people, who just happen to have too much power? What if, the object we are fighting for was just a simple sheet of paper? There are people between us, who will obtain the understanding.

6. Sauna, 2008.
Director: Antti – Jussi Annila.
Country: Finland, Czech Republic.

Sauna, posterSauna is a movie, shot in grey, dark colors, complemented with a mystical fog. It tells about our sins and a chance of forgiveness. War is a hard time, when people are forced to kill, but for some people killing is something casual and doesn’t cause any regrets. But have you ever thought, that your sins are being counted? What can you do to wash yourself from all your sins and to earn forgiveness? Sauna has always been a place of purification, a place for cleaning the body and soul. It stands alone on the margins of a mystical village, flooded by a mirror of black water (maybe it is flooded by sins?). Why are the inhabitants of the village afraid of it? Maybe we are afraid to clean our sins because the price will be too high to pay for it? Or maybe they are too many and can not be washed anymore… But sometimes living with the sins can be more torturing than any fear of washing them.

7. Seventh Moon, 2008
Director: Eduardo Sanchez.
Country: USA

Seventh Moon, posterEven though made in USA, this film is not a typical horror movie. The director Eduardo Sanchez has directed also the Blair Witch Project in 1999, which is not a typical horror movie as well. Even though very different in their structure, both films have a special, unconventional atmosphere of fear. What makes this movie special, is China with it’s traditions and beliefs, with the beautiful lights in the windows, the specific mentality – these are romantic and frightening surroundings at the same time. We shouldn’t treat the ancient Chinese legends with disrespect and disbelief – they might have a reasoned origin. And sometimes you can only save yourself by believing.

8. Cthulhu, 2007.
Director: Dan Gildark.
Country: USA.

Cthulhu, posterCthulhu is a movie about sanity and insanity, belief and disbelief. The main character, Russel, seems a very pragmatic and reasonable person. He comes to his mother’s funeral and finds out, that his father and the inhabitants of the village are involved into a religious cult. He seems almost the only one in the village, who is sane and doesn’t believe the legends of the cult, which awaits ancient spirits to return from the sea. But his father has a special plan for him and the ancient spirits really do come… The film has an intriguing story and keeps interest until the end, when something really unexpected happens.

9. Strayed, 2009.
Director: Akan Satayev.
Country: Kazakhstan.

Strayed, posterStrayed is a mystically beautiful movie. A vast area with emptiness around and a small cabin, where a local old man lives with his daughter. The house is empty, there is only a small table and two chairs in the room. A black dog is following the main character everywhere. The locals are friendly, but very mysterious – it seems, that they know more than they say. The main character can not find escape from this remote area and finally it turns out, that he can not find escape from his own life…

10. Marebito, 2004.
Director: Takashi Shimizu.
Country: Japan.

Marebito, posterMarebito is a typical Japanese horror movie, but it carries away the viewer with the idea of an underground world – more beautiful and more ancient than you can ever imagine. The main character is a cameraman, who investigates the structure of human fear. He goes down into the subway tunnels of Tokyo following some subconscious call. He moves deeper and deeper into the ground through endless tunnels until suddenly he discovers an underground world with ruins, left from ancient civilizations. Chained to a wall there is a beautiful naked girl with white skin. He rescues the girl and brings her home – the only problem is, that she can only survive by drinking human blood. The film is about passion and care about the innocent girl – where they lead the man, who follows these affinities. Maybe it is better to leave the underground world untouched?

10. Shelter, 2010.
Director: Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein
Country: USA.

Shelter, posterShelter is a strong movie, it leaves a deep impression after watching. The story is so unpredictable and extraordinary, that it keeps the viewer attached to the screen till the very end until the secret is revealed. The film makes us wonder – where do our souls go after death? Is it possible, that we can still meet our passed away relatives here on earth? Could we meet the same person with the same feelings and memories, but trapped inside another body? Would we still love our cherished soulmate then? The film creates surprises and revelations at the whole length of the movie until at the end you finally understand the truth.

11. Blood River, 2009.
Director: Adam Mason.
Country: USA.

Blood River, posterBlood River is a movie with a deep meaning, but you have to be patient with it. At the beginning it seems, that it is a shallow road – maniac movie, but at the end part everything turns out differently. A married couple get trapped in the desert and meet a mysterious stranger, who might be able to help them. A stranger, who appears as a savior, seems to know more about the couple than they expect. And at the moment, when you start thinking, that he is just a violent maniac, he turns out to be much more than that. He has come to make the final judgement about your life. Are you ready to meet him?

12. Vinyan, 2008.
Director: Fabrice du Welz.
Country: France, Belgium, UK, Australia.

Vinyan, posterVinyan has incredibly beautiful cinematography from the jungle of Thailand. The story, full of pain, hope and frustration is displayed on a visually superior level, where it seems, that all the surroundings of water, islands and jungle involve in the story emotionally. The film is about two parents seeking the most important treasure in their life, where everything else becomes worthless – their lost child. They find hope, where is no hope and continue believing, where is nothing to believe in. The woman’s belief is so strong, that she starts seeing some things, that others are not able to see…

13. Walk on the Scaffold (Progulka po eshafotu), 1992.
Director: Isaak Fridberg.
Country: Russia.

Progulka po eshafotu, poster
Unbelievable, that such a psychological horror movie could be created in Russia in 1992. There are no similar movies taken in Russia in that time. So many surreal views, a threatening mystery coming from the natural surroundings of forest and lake as well as from the old scaffold. Additionally to mystery the film is also charmingly romantic and erotic. Is it easy to answer such a question – if you would wake up in paradise unexpectedly one morning, where everything is perfect, would you care, where it came from? Would you care, if it is reality or just an illusion? You can be happy there… Would you choose the paradise about which you don’t know anything or the reality, which is poor and grey? Is truth better than a perfect illusion? But what if the illusion has unpleasant consequences?

14. Tideland, 2005.
Director: Terry Gilliam.
Country: UK, Canada.

Tideland, posterTideland is a beautiful and disgusting movie at the same time. It depicts a surreal world, as it is seen by the eyes of a young girl, who has never experienced care or responsibility from her drug addict parents. There are beautiful yellow fields, a lonely house in the field and a landmark of a spooky tree. But there are also disgusting, rotten views, depicting the rotten, cruel world around us. The reality in Tideland is filtered through the surreal lens of a child’s vision and the border between reality and dream dissolves… A really bizarre movie, which makes it unique.

15. Eraserhead, 1977.
Director: David Lynch.
Country: USA.

Eraserhead, posterEraserhead is a black and white movie, shot in industrial surroundings. The movie is absurd, bizarre with some shocking scenes. Is it another reality or some post apocalyptic world? The industrial landscapes are beautiful with factories, abandoned houses and industrial buildings. The movie is filled with symbolism. The main character has suddenly become a father to a mutant child – maybe the ugliness of the child symbolises the fear of the man to become a father? The movie can be interpreted in many ways – interpretation is left to the viewer, that is the beauty of true art and David Lynch’s masterpieces.

16. Tetsuo, the Iron Man, 1989.
Director: Shin’ya Tsukamoto.
Country: Japan.

Tetsuo the Iron Man, posterTetsuo, the Iron Man seems like a live artistic and musical performance. This film will be loved by the fans of industrial music and industrial photography. It can be compared to an industrial music video – developed under the industrial metallic sounds it starts gently and develops into a faster and faster pace until reaches the culmination. Culmination of madness, absurd and insanity.

17. The Abandoned.
Director: Nacho Cerda.
Country: Spain, UK, Bulgaria.

The Abandoned, posterThe Abanoned is a beautifully surreal and frightening experience from the beginning till the end. Marie goes to see her inherited house, which turns out to be a surreal, old wooden building, situated in a forest on an island, captured from all sides by mist. The viewer is astonished, when she sees a copy of herself in the house alive and staring at her with blind eyes. Marie runs frightened till death and falls into the river, surrounding the island. All the views of nature, the forest, the river and the old house are mysteriously beautiful. Marie wakes up in the house again and a series of mysterious and unexpected events follow revealing her family history, that she was so eager to find out, when she meets there her twin brother. The movie is shot in a natural manner without disturbing artificial special effects – that makes the movie look even more believable. It gives the viewer a frightening feeling of expectation. The story has unexpected twists and the director has masterfully connected the end with the beginning, which makes the ending a true treat. The film is so surreal, that at the end I started thinking – maybe Marie died already at the moment, when she fell into the river and the rest of the film was her experience after death? This is, what I call real intellectual horror.

18. I Come With the Rain, 2008.
Director: Anh Dung Tran.
Country: France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Spain, UK.

I Come With the Rain

I come with the rain is a cruel and mysterious journey into the subconscious world of suffering, self-sacrifice, destruction, love and desire. It gives a deep experience, if you manage to open your senses to it. It also touches some eternally important and unanswered questions: is self-sacrifice the most beautiful thing in the world? If it is true, then self-sacrifice also brings pain and suffering with it… Is the suffering of humanity the most beautiful thing in the world? Art is considered to be beautiful only, if it embraces real emotions – artist, who can’t express emotions is no artist at all… Is suffering a form of art? Is also cruelty beautiful, if it comes hand in hand with suffering? When suffering should be admired and when disapproved? The movie examines these questions by creating a symbolic resemblance of the life story of Christ. The main character deals with suffering by sacrificing himself to heal poor people and by taking their pain upon himself. The detective deals with suffering by fighting his memories and nightmares of a serial killer (or artist?). And the gangster deals with suffering by making others suffer, but also by suffering himself because of his beloved girlfriend Lily. You can notice resemblances of some Biblical characters, for example, Jesus Christ, Pilate and Mary Magdalene, or maybe not, if you don’t look for them. But the main question you can ask to yourself is, how did Christ feel, when he was crucified – do we actually care? We care only, what he did for us… And maybe there are other people like Christ, who appear in our world time by time and what do we do with them – don’t we crucify them over and over again? Some people complain, that the film lacks logical explanation, sequence and coherence, but can you explain the life of Jesus Christ with a logical approach? Not everything can be explained – there are things more powerful than our minds, which can only be experienced by our sensual perception, which is left in a subconscious level. The movie drives you in with an astonishing soundtrack, which gives a dark, surreal and a little sad atmosphere by implementing amazing tracks by Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra, Goodspeed, You Black Emperor!, Explosions in the Sky and Radiohead. The Hong Kong atmosphere is also powerful – so big, so alive and boiling, so modern and so lonely… So many contrasts can be found in the movie – a billionaire, owner of a pharmaceutical conglomerate, who can’t heal the people with his medicine and his son, a poor tramp, who sleeps on bare boards, he can heal anybody with his soul powers. A girl, who chooses a poor tramp and life in a tent in reeds to live with love, self-sacrifice and suffering instead of a life in ultramodern interior, crammed with money and expensive things to live with cruelty. The film is controversial, cruel and sometimes shocking, but also endlessly beautiful and leaves a lasting feeling of sadness. Sadness about our society – sadness about ourselves… Some flesh sculptures, inspired by Francis Bacon’s paintings emphasize the shocking and beautiful effects of the film.

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§ One Response to Best intellectual horror movies and thrillers, surreal, visually beautiful and meaningful …

  • Lasse says:

    Interesting list. I’ll be sure to check these out! There really are too few movies that make you THINK within the horror genre. Most of it is mindless, shallow violence without deeper purpose for the sake of cheap thrills.

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