Saturday, 9 January 2010

The 10 Weirdest Movies of all Time.

The Internet and movie magazines are filled with lists; "10 Most Horrific Movie Deaths", "10 Most Frightening Films Ever Made" "Most Disturbing Films of All Time", etc. The trouble is, these lists tend to be rubbish. They tend to contain mainstream fodder that is, quite frankly, pants. One list I saw had Kubrick's live-action cartoon The Shining as the number 1 scariest film of all time. Frequently, similar lists to this one tend to include such crap fests as Donny Darko and pseudo-weirdness like Eraserhead.

So, in an effort to push raise the ante a little and compile a list of my own. This an effort to catalogue The Weirdest Movies I myself have experienced. Of course this is subjective but since I am not the most normal of creatures, I hope I have a higher tolerance for oddness than most. I apologise if you have a hard time tracking any of these down. Here goes...

10. The Shout (1978)
When Tim Curry plays the most normal character in a film, you know you're in trouble. Robert Stephens plays a doctor worried about mad trees and John Hurt spends his days making weird noises (he's an avant guard musician, you see) and having an illicit affair with Carol Drinkwater while hairy weirdo Alan Bates slowly takes over his home and his wife (MILF extraordinaire Susannah York). All this is related in flashback by Bates as he and Curry score a cricket match at an asylum. Aside from the amazing Devon locations and the bonkers musical score by Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, you also get to gawp at Jim Broadbent tearing his clothes of and smearing himself in shit whilst running around a field screaming. It's all incredibly British. But all of this pales in comparison to the film's central set piece; Bates has spent the last 18 years living with Aborigines and claims to have learnt the secret of the titular Shout, with which he can kill people. When he finally lets rip, you'll shit yourself.

Born of Fire (1983)
Peter Firth is a concert flautist on the trail of The Master Musician an evil magician who plans to blow up the world. It starts with a huge skull eclipsing the sun and has some remarkable images that even Jodorowsky would have been proud of. Apparently based on Arabic mythology, this weird little gem seems to have disappeared without trace, though it was recently released on region 1 DVD.

8. Nemo (1984)
His fevered little brain fueled by the crazed bedtime tales of his butler Benjamin (Nipsey Russell), Young Nemo (Seth Kibel) wanders out of his parent's luxury penthouse in the middle of the night and takes an elevator trip to the centre of the Earth where, for some reason, there is a magical fantasy land that is part Lewis Carrol, part Jules Verne, part Dr. Who when it was crap. There, not only does Young Nemo find the Nautilus (a superb bit of art direction if ever there was one) but also Harvey Keitel as the Zoro-like Mr. Legend but the impossibly beautiful Matilda May as Alice, who gets the little lad so hot under the collar that Mr. Rip (Russell again) turns him into a teenager (Jason Connery, would you believe). Add to the mix a man in an albino monkey suit, a very young Charley Boorman as Nemo's grumpy sidekick, Carole Bouqet (my God does this movie have some fine women in it) as an alien with a spaceship that runs on gold and a complete lack of any plot and you basically have the strangest kids film ever. So strange in fact that it's not for kids at all and ends up being some sort of Freudian nightmare. It's so obscure, I couldn't even find a decent picture from it. Unfortunately, it's only available in a terrible pan-and-scan print DVD with burnt-in Danish subtitles under it's nonsensical American title Dream One.

7. Society (1989)
Completely bizarre satire from the makers of the Re-animater films, this does not even begin to make sense. Apparently, the rich are an entirely different species, a sort of... well, actually, I haven't the faintest idea but they ain't normal and that's for sure. Apparently, in the original script, the well-to-do turn out to be members of a secret society that sacrifice members of lower classes. Director Brian Yuzna then decided to employ effects guru Screaming Mad George and have them turn out to be weird, twisted flesh-blobs that have incestuous orgies. The film never explains why this is. The whole thing climaxes in "The Shunt" a completely nuts sequence in which everyone melds into a writhing, splat of fleshy limbs. There's even a scene where a character thrusts his hand up another man's arse and pulls him inside-out. Oh, and there's a bum with a face. Delightful.

6. The Bothersom Man (2006)
If you imagine The Prisoner as rendered by Kafka, you'll kind of get an idea of what this is like. Andreas (Trond Fausa Auvaarg) arrives by bus in a strange, futuristic town surrounded by desert and is given a job as a clerk. He meets a beautiful women, settles down, gets married, buys a beautiful home and lives an apparently normal life. The problem is, no one except him seems to feel anything. He has an affair with a vibrant young girl but even his new lover turns out to be a soulless robot. Worse still, he can't even commit suicide as he is seemingly indestructible (the scene where he keeps getting hit by trains every time he tries to pick himself up off the track doesn't half make you wince) and there are hints that he may even be dead already. Just as everything seems lost, he discovers what might be a way out only for it to be snatched away from him at the last minute. It's one of those movies that could be about everything or nothing and you'll be scratching your head for days. Ultimately, though, it does at least raise a few points about individualism in the modern world, albeit obliquely.

5. Possession (1981)
There might be weirder films lower down this list, but none of those are quite as disturbing. For a start, none of those feature Isabelle Adjani giving birth to a weird blobby monster on the Berlin underground, keeping it locked up in a vacant apartment and having sex with it while she murders people and keeps their body parts in her freezer. And that's just a subplot. The film is actually about the breakdown of Sam Neill's marriage and the resulting madness that follows, with he and Adjani slashing each other with electric carving knives, doppelgangers, missing gay private detectives and people getting drowned in toilets. Weirdest of all is the way Neill says of his young son, "Maybe... I can take him... to the zoo... or something". Oh, and World War III breaks out because he's been neglecting his job.

4. Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970)
An early Werner Herzog movie now; the characters in the film, all of them, are tiny. Or rather, they occupy a world that is way to big for them. Basically, the plot involves a revolt at some sort of prison or institution and the anarchy that ensues. A monkey gets crucified, chickens eat each other and one the characters nearly laughs himself to death. I'm not all sure what it means and it's not one of the man's best but it's all very, very odd indeed.

3. Gozu (2003)
Minami (Yuta Sone) has a problem; his closest friend, mentor, blood brother and yakuza boss Ozaki (Sho Aikawa) has gone off his rocker. So much so that when the movie opens, we see him grabbing a small dog by its leash and spinning it around his head until it goes splat against a coffee shop window just because it was looking at him funny. His colleagues decide he must go and assign Minima to do the job. As he drives Ozaki to the junk yard in a remote town on the pretext of taking him to an important yakuza meeting but actually to have him disposed of, Minami accidentally kills Ozaki. The body then disappears and Minami goes on an insane Odyssey trying to find it. Lactating old women, ghosts, egg custard, a spiritualism sessions ending in BDSM, buggery with a soup ladle and a Minotaur. It all turns out that Minima has taken Ozaki to the scrapyard after all but has no recollection of it (the wardrobe full of tattooed human skins on hangers is amazing) but then Ozaki turns up again, reincarnated as a beautiful woman so that Minami can consummate his homoerotic desires for him. This prompts a scene where the female Ozaki gives birth to a fully-grown male Ozaki and the three live happily ever after. Part gangster film, part Orpheus in the Underworld on acid, this movie is weird, even by Japanese horror movie standards. It's weird even by Takeshi Miike's standards and he made Visitor Q, Ichi The Killer and Audition, for Christ's sake. The only explanation I can offer is that the film was made so fast, no one had time to think about what they were doing...

2. The Holy Mountain (1973)
This was going to be number one because it's certainly the best movie on the list but it's just not quite the weirdest. Alejandro Jodorowsky set out to make the cinematic equivalent of a holy book and came up with not only one of the greatest movies of all time, with rich cinematography, sets that make your eyes cum and music that makes your heart sing but some of the most memorable images in cinema. He wrote it after taking LSD and spending 7 nights without sleep so he wasn't too well at the time and it shows. Basically, the plot involves 9 powerful figures representing the various alchemical planets and their attempt to steal the secret of immortality from the 40,000-year-old occupants of The Holy Mountain. The images are amazing; armies march with each soldier holding a crucified dog, a man is shot and birds come out of his chest wound, Jesus is kidnapped so that his body can be used as a mold of life-sized replicas, there are mystical weapons for Jews, Buddhists and Christians, a machine that gives birth when it gets an orgasm, toads re-enact the conquest of Mexico, an Alchemist turns shit into gold... I could go on but I'd be here for years. None of this is weirdness for weirdness's sake, by the way; if you watch it with the director's commentary, you learn that every single image in the film has some massively deep, mystical meaning. But it might be better to leave you brain at the door and let it assail you with it's beautified craziness...

1. H.G. Welles' The War of the Worlds (2005)
No, not the Speilberg or David Latt movie. This epic odd fest is directed by independent film-maker Timothy Hines. He promised us a £40,000,000 blockbuster with amazing effects, faithful adaptation and a stellar cast. What we got was a three hour home movie shot in a field with a right bunch of amateurs. Leading man Anthony Piana is supposed to look like H.G. Welles but has been rightly compared to Freddy Mercury (his moustache keeps peeling of) James Lathrop as the artillery man does the most disturbing accent in cinema history (it was shot in and around Seattle and everyone speaks a form of English that make Dick Van Dyke sound like Gielgud) and Hines's missus Susan Goforth goes for crazed Victorian melodrama. But what really makes this film so weird is that none of the makers noticed how bad it was and protested violently that the critics, the public and just about everyone else were wrong and they were right and Hines was the next Orson Welles. In one sense, they were right, as this is the Citizen Kane of bad movies, you can forget Plan 9. It's actually a bit magical; it does keep you hooked. You sit there, mouth agape, unable to fathom what you are actually watching. Why is each scene tinted a different colour? Why does all the CGI look like it was rendered on ZX Spectrum by a 5-year-old? Why is the British army represented by little cartoon characters whose movements don't match the motion of their legs? Why does the alien cylinder look like a giant turd? Why do the aliens look like walnuts? Why does the extra barking orders to the workmen at the alien landing sight look like Ben Affleck? Why are all the good actors given bit parts and the stinkers given major roles? Why? WHY? WHY???

Honourable Mentions: The Cremaster Series, Rubber Johnny, Vampyr, Visitor Q, La Gioconda esta trieste, Une Chien Andalou, Simon of the Desert, Head, La Cabina...

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