The first time I saw David Lynch’s Eraserhead, I was not sure what to do with it. There is a guy with crazy hair who lives in a giant industrial wasteland with a blob growing in the corner of his room. He has a mutant baby with a slightly unhinged girl (I would be a little spastic, myself, if I had grown up in a pre-steam punk nightmare) and his in-laws are so bizarre that being in the same room with them on screen, makes me uncomfortable.
But, because of all that, I have seen the film more than once and have searched for others like it. There is some strange stuff we humans have created, particularly in the realm of cinema: movies that bare the questions, “who the hell made this and what is wrong with them?” If you wish to get in touch with your inner weird, here is a list of ten movies that are sure to have you scratching your head and wanting a hug.
1. Eraserhead (1977)
Before he spawned The Elephant man and Twin Peaks, David Lynch made a beautiful nightmare named Eraserhead. It starred Jack Nance and Charlotte Stewart in a beautifully constructed alternate world of incredible and haunting visuals, but what left the biggest impression in my mind was the sound. The ambience in this film, from the suckling puppies to the loud machine hums, tied my stomach in knots.
2. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)
Lets just say you are a Japanese everyman and you accidently run over some guy who gets his jollies from sticking scrap metal in his body. Then, lets say his way of getting back at you is by sending bad vibes your way so you slowly turn into a scrap metal monster. If that is something you are experiencing, then you are living Tetsuo. This film, written and directed by Shinya Tsukamoto was actually based on the play he wrote and directed in college. It is filled to the brim with horrifying hallucinations and downright crazy storytelling. It is gross, terrifying and inconceivably strange.
3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Terry Gilliam is known for making weird films but when you team him up with Hunter S. Thompson, you get Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro take a psychedelic and hallucinogenic road trip to Vegas to find the American dream and, instead, find one of the strangest, most captivating bizarro cult movies of the last generation. The even stranger part is that it is based on the true experiences of Thompson and his lawyer as they tripped on obscene amounts of drugs on their journey to and in Las Vegas.
4. Brazil (1985)
Since we are talking about Terry Gilliam, we must mention Brazil. This is, in my opinion, some of Gilliam’s best work and has a message about modern society that is still relevant today.
Jonathan Pryce plays Sam Lowry, a lowly government man in the records department of a future society plagued by bureaucratic inefficiency. He dreams of flying and saving the girl of his dreams from a giant robot. When he actually meets her, he ends up having to fight the giant robot of society to save them both.
5. Being John Malkovich (1999)
The first feature film by Spike Jonze (who also directed Adaptation) is a much more lighthearted kind of weird than the movies on the list so far. It has an all-star cast, including John Cusack, Catherine Keener and, of course, Mr. Malkovich, himself, but the movie is so strange, there really has not been another quite like it. A puppeteer turned desk jockey (Cusack) on the seventh and a half floor of a Manhattan office building finds a portal that allows one to control John Malkovich, the esteemed actor. After his devious coworker, Maxine (Keener) finds out about the gateway to all that is Malkovich, she tries to turn it into a business venture. This movie is funny, surprising and always strange.
6. Enter the Void (2009)
Argentine filmmaker, Gaspar Noe’ gives his perspective on perspective in this film about a dead drug dealing teenager in Japan whose ghost is watching over his stripper sister. The cinematography in this movie is destined to be studied for years to come due to the intricate and occasionally overwhelming first person point of view that the camera depicts through much of the narrative.
7. Antichrist (2009)
This movie has been a source of nothing but controversy since its release. Its grotesque and unsettling imagery of sex and violence has caused great debate as to the film’s meaning and if there is one.
Lars Von Trier apparently used the film as a way to deal with his own depression at the time of writing and directing it. It is clear to see that whatever he was going through was profound and very dark if that is, in fact, what the film embodies. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are our protagonists in this brutal and sometimes sickening depiction of depression, fear, guilt and lunacy.
8. Alice (1988)
Alice in Wonderland is an odd story to begin with and all of the reimagining’s of the original Lewis Carroll story have not strayed from that. But, the most bizarre depiction of Wonderland would have to be Jan Svankmajer’s Alice. Set in an old and shabby house with one live action actress and a plethora of stop motion animated creatures, sock caterpillars and living slabs of raw meat, this thing is one hell of a weird Czech ride.
9. Donnie Darko (2001)
Who is Frank the demonic bunny?
If you know the answer to this question, then you are already a fan of the cult phenomenon that is Donnie Darko.
Donnie plays with themes and concepts in spirituality, transcendence, time travel, and comic book super hero lore, and piles it into what appears to be a high school coming of age movie with a young Jake Gyllenhaal. This movie rocks in the craziest way and it rocks even more the second and third time.
10. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Who would of thought that such an unusual script would end up with such a large budget and the director of Flashdance, Adrian Lyne. Tim Robbins plays a Vietnam Vet who begins seeing demonic and unsettling hallucinations walking around in his daily life. His dead son also pays him a visit in this surreal and crazy brain trip of a film. Lyne was actually forced to change some scenes and alter the ending of the film when test audiences claimed it was far too intense to watch. Jacob’s Ladder will forever be in the spectrum of the weird and unnatural.
There are plenty more weird movies out there and they need to be seen and talked about if for no better reason than we cannot comprehend why they were made.