Nothing Bad Can Happen (2013)



Director: Katrin Gebbe

Starring: Julius Feldmeier, Sascha Alexander Gersak, Annika Kuhl

Jesus Christ!

It’s rare to find a film which manages to disturb and horrify without ever being exploitative or using cheap shock tactics like you’d see in the August Underground movies but Nothing Bad Can Happen manages to do exactly that. I came away from the film feeling drained and disturbed in a way that I haven’t felt since Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs which should certainly ring alarm bells if you can’t handle upsetting subject matters in your films. Although Nothing Bad Can Happen is undoubtedly a superb piece of filmmaking, it’s something I’d recommend with caution due to explicit sequences involving abuse of all kinds and cruelty to animals.


The film follows the true events surrounding a young self-proclaimed ‘Jesus freak’ called Tore who happens to have some form of autism which makes him think and act very differently to others. Tore places all of his faith in Jesus Christ and is naively taken in by a truly evil family who take advantage of his absurdly good nature. It’s a fascinating meditation on evil in society and the dangers of religion. Despite being an utterly gruelling watch, Nothing Bad Can Happen never gratuitously relishes in the violence and is always focused on character and delivering a powerful message. The fact that these events are true makes the film all the more relevant and important.

First-time director Katrin Gebbe shows astonishing confidence behind the camera. Despite the ugly subject matter, the images always try to find beauty and light through the bleakness. There’s a hypnotic sense of realism to the whole film which reminded me of Justin Kurzel’s equally uncompromising Snowtown. The acting from the unknown cast is similarly impressive, particularly breakout star Julius Feldmeier in the lead who manages to make Tore an engaging and sympathetic main character. Sascha Alexander Gersak also feels toe-curlingly real as the malevolent patriarch determined to break Tore’s Holy spirit.


You could easily mistake Nothing Bad Can Happen as being the kind of lost film in Lars Von Trier’s ‘Golden Hearts Trilogy’ which correspondingly follows mentally-challenged protagonists as they battle through life’s brutal hardships. It’s just as tough to watch as seeing Emily Watson getting stoned by feral kids or Bjork dancing desperately through life despite the world crumbling around her. It’ll be just too depressing for some people and it does get harder to watch as the film progresses but the reason I watch films is to be moved and provoked by some sort of emotional response. Nothing Bad Can Happen does this in spade loads.


Initially appearing to be the ideal father figure, Benno, played by German actor Sascha Alexander Gersak in Nothing Bad Can Happen, shows his dark side as he mocks and violently tests a young boy’s religious fai

This is a haunting piece of work which will bury itself under your skin and stay there long after the credits roll. It’s a torturous watch at times but it carries an important message which is extremely relevant to society today. The pacing is very slow at the beginning but it’s also immersive and character-focused meaning that it’s always easy to engage with. There was not one moment where I was bored or distracted in its 110 minute running time. It’s a heart-breaking watch which will surely shake you to your core. A stunning debut but proceed with caution.



10 Greatest Movie Endings



This was a ruddy difficult list to come up with! One of the things I love most about films is their endings. The way a film ends is so important because it’s the last thing you’re thinking off when you step out of the cinema or humble living room at home. Many mediocre films are made good by their ending and some even rely on the way they end. Sleepaway Camp, for example is a film completely transformed by the final ten seconds. I won’t spoil it for those who are yet to see it, but the whole film is basically a hilariously cheesy teen slasher until the final ten seconds which are the most terrifying ten seconds I have ever experienced.

So, trying to come up with a top ten was difficult for me. It’s a list of personal favourites, so you won’t find The Third Man or Casablanca on here I’m afraid. The trouble is that I love so many film endings and trying to whittle it down to a top ten is a difficult task. But any who, after much thought and deliberation I have come up with ten movie endings I love. Please don’t hurt me. Spoilers will obviously ensue so if you haven’t seen one of them, quickly scroll down to the next!

10) The Dark Knight


My love for Christopher Nolan is no secret. Many consider The Dark Knight his crowning achievement and it isn’t difficult to see why. The film is packed full of memorable scenes and its powerful ending is amongst one of them. The stunning shot of Batman riding away into a tunnel of light has since become iconic. With Gary Oldman’s incredible monologue playing over a montage of images alongside Hans Zimmer’s gorgeous score, it’s impossible not to get the chills once “the dark knight” is said and then cuts to black. A perfect end to a perfect film.

9) Irreversible


I’ll never forget the mixture of excitement and concern when I finally sat down to watch the notorious Irreversible. It’s often lauded as being one of the most disturbing films of all time with people often coming out of it in a state of trauma! That’s if they haven’t switched it off already after the dizzying camerawork and extreme bludgeon to the face in the first ten minutes. Irreversible is a total assault on the senses. For those who don’t know, it’s the tale of Vincent Cassel getting revenge on a man who raped his girlfriend. However, it’s told backward in a Memento style so perhaps this ending I speak of is technically the beginning? Oh well, it’s brilliant anyway and marvellously depressing. We see the couple loved up and totally unaware of the tragedy that’s about to face them. Monica lies on the grass with Beethoven’s symphony playing over. The camera spins in the most dizzying way until we’re hit by strobe lighting with the words “time destroys everything”. What a happy line to end on.

8) The Piano Teacher


Michael Haneke has done a few masterpieces, but The Piano Teacher could very well be my favourite. It’s kind of like a good version of Fifty Shade of Grey. Isabelle Huppert (on electrifying form) eats up the scenery as an oppressed woman longing for an abusive relationship. She thinks she might’ve found one in one of her sexpot pupil’s, Walter Klemmer and cringe-inducing awkwardness ensues. The film ends in a shocking and powerful way. After being humiliated and raped by Walter, Erica goes to a concert hall where Walter is playing and sees him chatting up some girls. In a moment of total madness she pulls out a kitchen knife and stabs herself before walking calmly out of the doors. It’s such a haunting ending and most of it is down to Isabelle’s spellbinding wordless portrayal.

7) Requiem for a Dream


I’m not sure what all these downbeat endings say about me, but I’m not a manic depressive, honest! Requiem for a Dream is manically depressing though. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a whisk being plunged into your heart. It also holds a crown for having one of the most miserable endings of all time. Our four heroes begin the film full of hope and dreams, however by the end of it we find them all at the lowest of the low with no suggestion of them ever escaping. After one of the most intense twenty minutes you’re ever likely to see, we’re treated to a tracking out of each character in bed and getting into the foetal position. All the while Clint Mansell’s legendary score plays in the most haunting fashion. The saddest part is seeing Ellen Burstyn’s character turn into a mental wreck before finally dreaming of being reunited with her son on the infomercial and in the red dress. If this doesn’t move you, then there’s no hope.

6) Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me


This film is often seen as a misfire in the Lynchian canon, but for me it’s one of his best. It’s possibly the darkest film he has ever done and also one of the scariest. Instead of documenting the last seven days of cult icon, Laura Palmer, in a realistic police procedural way, David goes full on Lynch on us and presents her final days as a dizzying and haunting nightmare. It all leads up to the horrific train car murder full of flashing lights, screaming and BOB. After that eye-popping trauma we’re left with Laura sitting in the red room with Dale Cooper standing over her. She begins to cry as an angel hovers over her. Suddenly her cries turn into laughter. It’s such a haunting final image, but it’s also full of hope as Laura finally got her angel. Whenever someone mentions Twin Peaks, it’s this stunning image I immediately think of.

5) The Holy Mountain


This is the film that actually inspired the list. I saw The Holy Mountain for the first time last week and was astounded by its ending. I thought to myself, ‘surely that’s one of the best endings of all time?’ and I honestly think it is! The entire film is full of the weirdest stuff you could ever imagine. It’s not just got the odd weird moment in it; the whole film is weird every second of the way, like Eraserhead. So the fact that it ends with such stark realism is jarring. The master (played by the director himself) sits our heroes down in a circle and reveals to them the grand secret of the holy mountain. “We began in a fairytale and we came to life, but is this life reality? No. It is a film! Zoom back camera.” The camera then zooms back to reveal the film crew. It ends with him saying “real life awaits us” as everyone walks away. It has to be the boldest breaking of the fourth wall ever! It’s so postmodern that it would give Bodger a heart attack.

4) Dancer in the Dark


I said that Requiem for a Dream holds the crown for one of the most depressing endings ever. Well, if Requiem holds the crown, Dancer in the Dark wears it. Lars Von Trier’s shattering musical stars Icelandic oddball, Bjork as a simple penniless immigrant going blind and lifting the gloom by pretending her life is a musical. She ends up on death row for shooting a bastard cop and of course, Lars, the king of nihilism makes us witness the final hanging in all its hope-shredding glory. It’s probably the most traumatic scene I’ve ever witnessed on film with Bjork turning into a total wreck before singing a final song. The song is violently cut short as they pull the lever and her neck snaps. It’s executed in such a shocking and powerful way. Some curtains are shut (like the end of a stage musical perhaps?) and a quote comes up which basically tells the audience that they knew what was going to happen, so why did they sit through it? The camera then goes up and out of the ceiling just like Bjork described earlier in the film. It’s a beautifully tragic and agonising way to end.

3) Black Swan


Here’s another offering from Darren Aronofsky. Black Swan is one hell of an intense experience. The whole schizophrenic fever dream of a film builds up to the final scene where Nina finally stops fighting her hallucinations and embraces them. It results in her giving (in the words of Rowetta) the greatest performance of her life. Her eyes go red and she even bursts out of her skin with giant swan wings. After a disagreement with rival Lily, in the interval (resulting in murder) she goes on stage to rapturous applause and takes her final bow. We see Nina with a giant bleeding hole in her stomach as she jumps down proclaiming that she “was perfect” before fading to white. God it’s exhilarating! The searing score helps a lot too. When the credits roll over the applause we can finally breathe a sigh of relief as we realise that Darren has just pulled off one of the very best films of all time.

2) There Will Be Blood


Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic masterpiece tells the tale of Daniel Plainview, an oil man with a lot of ambition and greed. It’s a rag to riches story which is made profoundly ironic by its mesmerising third act. Daniel is basically insane, friendless and drunk (sounds like a description of me!) with contempt for everything in life, but he is rich. He’s very rich! He’s so rich that he even has a bowling alley in his mansion. It’s this bowling alley which will haunt you forever. Whenever I see a bowling alley, I immediately think back to this final scene and get an urge to stomp all over it shouting, “DRAAAIIIIINAGE!” which is why I’m barred from several bowling alleys in my area. The ending to There Will Be Blood features the greatest performance by any actor ever. It’s impossible to take your eyes off of Daniel Day Lewis as he goes ape at Eli before pounding his head in with a bowling pin. His butler potters in as Daniel speaks the immortal lines “I’m finished.” Thus, commanding the end of the film. That final image of Daniel crouching and eating his steak over Eli’s bloodied body has haunted me ever since.

1) The Cabin in the Woods


Perhaps this is a controversial number one pick, but I think The Cabin in the Woods has to be my favourite ending to any film I’ve seen. If you’re not a passionate horror lover or hater then the joke of The Cabin in the Woods will likely go over your head. It’s a highly meta and unbelievably intelligent film which pokes fun at slasher movies and harshly criticises them in equal measure. Every slasher film seems dull in comparison to The Cabin in the Woods which is the ultimate slasher film. It begins in a world full of clichés we’ve seen ten gazillion times. A bunch of youngsters going out to an abandoned cabin blah blah blah. Which is why it is such a shock in the way the film ends. The first act is so grounded in reality compared to its absolutely loopy final act which sees the characters being part of some ludicrous conspiracy involving the end of the world. After witnessing an insane amount of glorious carnage, Sigourney Weaver makes a surprise cameo appearance as the mysterious ‘director’ of the mysterious underground research facility to reveal the big twist. Before we know it, we find out that the world is ending and our beloved Marty (the fool) must die otherwise the gods will rise. Sure enough a giant hand bursts through the ground and whacks us in the face. It has to be the most surprising ending ever to one of the most surprising films. Not only does it work on an entertaining level, but there’s so much deeper meaning to it about horror films in general if you’re willing to dig a little deeper.

So there we have it! Ten of my favourite endings. There are loads and loads of others which I would’ve loved to have included so please tell me your favourite movie endings. Also, please be kind to me in the comments 🙂

Dancer in the Dark (2000)



Director: Lars Von Trier

Stars: Bjork, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse

Mamma Mia on Prozac

I should let you know that I’m not one to cry in movies. That’s not to say that I’m a hard-nosed bastard with no feelings, because of course I well up in many films including the opening of Up and the final third of Requiem for a Dream. However, no film had actually made me release tears until I saw Dancer in the Dark for the second time. Even on my first viewing I did not cry, I just felt very overwhelmed. I suppose once you know the tragic conclusion, it makes it all the more unbearable to watch. Last night I watched Dancer in the Dark for a third time and I cried again.


I didn’t cry quite as much, but tears were still there and it still had that awful emotional wallop to the gut. Dancer in the Dark is one of those rare films which possess such a raw and intense emotional power. It could possibly be the most powerful film I have ever seen. I don’t know anyone who could just zap through the credits, pull the disc out of their DVD player and get on with their lives. Every time I see it, I stare into the credits and I’m haunted by the final shot for hours and hours. In fact, when I went to bed last night, I cried again just thinking about it.

Lars Von Trier is the definition of a love-it or hate-it director. The only film I haven’t liked of his is The Idiots, which is coincidentally part of his Golden Hearts Trilogy which includes this and Breaking the Waves, his other masterpiece. I’ve also loved Dogville and immensely admired his latest Depression Trilogy which features: Antichrist, Melancholia and Nymphomaniac. He’s been accused of creating films to shock for the sake of it, and whilst I do agree with that to some extent (did we really need that brief porn in Antichrist?) you can’t deny that his films are unlike any other. All are beautifully made and written to provoke thought and emotion.

Dancer in the Dark is Lars’ masterpiece. Yes, Breaking the Waves come close, but you just have to give the prize to Dancer for pure innovation. It opens with a sensational overture (written by Bjork) which is enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The story behind this overture is that Lars wanted the music to play whilst the curtains were shut over the screen, however he later realised that most movie theaters don’t have curtains anymore and so put images of paintings over the music instead. I think his initial idea was lovely, and would’ve worked perfectly well over a blank screen like the strange opening to 2001: A Space Odyssey.


We then open to a brilliant piece of comedy where our hero Selma and her friend Cathy are in some rather dull rehearsals for an amateur production of The Sound of Music. This hilarious opening completely juxtaposes the devastating finale. In fact, most viewers forget just how funny the first twenty minutes are, as the ending just completely eclipses that. Lars uses the same Dogme style as he did for The Idiots and Breaking the Waves. It almost feels like a documentary, with the images looking far too natural and the performances feeling far too real. It allows us to truly immerse ourselves into Selma’s world, which of course makes the film all the more hard-hitting.

Talking of performances, Bjork’s is truly sensational. Who would’ve thought that a little Icelandic pop-goddess would be able to give Meryl Streep a run for her money! In fact, Bjork’s performance is more comparable to Emily Watson’s legendary debut in Breaking the Waves. It’s so raw, emotional and intense to watch. Bjork even said that she didn’t feel as if she was acting, she would go onto the set and become Selma. Surely that’s the mark of an incredibly talented actress? It’s a shame that Lars gave her such an awful experience that she never acted again. Bjork didn’t even want to do Dancer in the Dark, she agreed to write the music, but Lars blackmailed her into acting by saying that he wouldn’t use her music unless she played Selma.

Rumour has it that every morning on set Bjork would march up to Lars and say, ‘Mr Von Trier, I despise you,’ and then spit at his face! However, this is so difficult to believe as the character she plays is nothing like that. Selma is a kind-hearted and simple soul whose only goal in life is to earn enough money for her son to have an operation, to prevent him from going blind. It’s Selma’s kind nature which ultimately lands her in some truly heart-wrenching trouble.


Of course, you mustn’t forget that Dancer in the Dark is in fact a musical! Selma is a musical enthusiast because ‘nothing dreadful ever happens.’ Obviously she isn’t a fan of Sweeney Todd, Les Mis or indeed the very musical she is starring in. The songs in the film are all fantastic; I even began liking Scatterheart on my third viewing, understanding that the lack of melody and structure perfectly mirrors the situation which Selma finds herself in. The musical numbers offer a fantastical escape from the dreary reality. The washed-out colours are now bright and vibrant. Extras awkwardly dance around and have unnaturally wide smiles. The musical numbers don’t fit with the tone of the film, and that is exactly the point!

It’s the ending which catapults Dancer in the Dark into masterpiece status though. It has images which will sear into your brain and will touch you in parts which you didn’t know could be touched! I’ve seen many depressing films, but this one takes the prize for the most depressing ending of all time. However, it’s also a genius way to end the film. I especially love the quote which superimposes the screen. It mirrors Selma’s early monologue where she describes cheating films by leaving after the second-to-last song so that the film will play on forever.

It’s easy to see why most people wouldn’t want to watch Dancer in the Dark a second time, let alone a third time like I did! However, I love films which take you on a journey. Films which have the power to physically move you are so rare, and experiencing emotion like this is really quite extraordinary. Dancer in the Dark is a magical masterpiece which must be experienced by everyone at least once. Lars has dabbled in pretty much every genre now: comedy (The Idiots), melodrama (Breaking the Waves), horror (Antichrist), sci-fi (Melancholia) and even porn (Nymphomaniac) however, it’s his contribution to the musical genre which he will be most cherished for.


10 Incredibly Depressing Movies That Will Crush Your Soul



Sometimes you need nothing more than to have a good cry. Unfortunately for me, I seem incapable of doing that (although two films on this list actually made me sob!). It’s not that I’m a hard b*****d or anything (I hope I’m not), in fact I like to think of myself as quite a compassionate and caring human who would mend a fly’s wing if I saw it struggling to fly. There’s something inside me that stops me from releasing my tears. Of course I welled up in Up (get it?) but I’m actually one of the few who didn’t manage to release any tears. The list of films which you’ll find below are amongst the most soul destroying films I’ve seen. Please remember that at the tender age of 19, I still have yet to see some of the most depressing films such as: Christiane F, Leaving Las Vegas, Dear Zachary and any Ingmar Bergman film, but be assured that all of these are on my list of films to see!

But without further ado, let us delve into some of the most powerful and moving experiences that film has to offer. As I mentioned before, even I managed to sob in at least two of these films, so if you don’t get choked up in any of these then you must be some sort of robot like ChatBot.

10. The Elephant Man


David Lynch is at his best when he’s letting his unconscious thoughts run riot in my opinion. However, I understand that a lot of the more ‘normal’ members of the public prefer something that is more straight forward and easy to understand, so maybe you should check out The Elephant Man. It’s one of Lynch’s most acclaimed works and it’s easy to see why. It’s a massive step away from the ultra surrealistic and horrifying world of Eraserhead, and rightly so. It’s the true story of Victorian circus-freak, Joseph Merrick. A hideously deformed human being with a hidden heart of gold. John Hurt plays Merrick superbly and Anthony Hopkins is just as remarkable in his turn as the doctor who takes him in.

It would take the hardest of hearts not to be moved by this story. It’s the perfect film which illustrates the famous saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No one ever gave Merrick even the chance to speak, yet when he does he’s one of the most humbling people you’ll ever witness. He’s overwhelmed with thanks at even the smallest piece of kindness from someone and it’s both delightful and heart-breaking to see. It’s the darker elements of the film that I find the most saddening though. I can barely watch the scene where Pauline Quirke and her gang of bullies break into Merrick’s room and torment him, or the famous train station scene, or the devastating ending where Merrick passes away by simply wanting to sleep like a ‘normal’ person. It’s a beautiful film sure to move the hardest of hearts.

9. 12 Years a Slave


12 Years is definitely the most recent film on my list, but by no means the least deserving. I was pretty darn shocked to see such explicit misery caught on a mainstream film. I’m used to seeing depressing stuff, but this is normally in foreign independent films, not Oscar nominees! 12 Years a Slave deserved every one of its nominations though, and should’ve won far more than it did. It’s another terrible true story of Solomon Northup, a free man in the slave times who is captured and taken into slavery for twelve dreadful years.

In these years we and Solomon witness some of the most horrendous acts in history. The treatment of Lupita Nyong’o is particularly hard to watch as she’s raped and whipped to an inch of her life at the hand of Michael Fassbender’s sadistic plantation owner, Edwin Epps. 12 Years a Slave is quite simply a masterpiece. It’s superbly directed by Steve McQueen and features stellar performances across the board. The film really makes the viewer feel like they’re experiencing the hardship of slavery, which makes me wonder why it was such a mainstream hit. I’m glad it was though because it’s such a powerful and important film with an ending that almost moved me to tears.

8. Irreversible


The inclusion of Gaspar Noe’s notorious rape-revenge shocker should elicit no surprise from readers who know their stuff about the disturbing side of cinema. Irreversible is one of the most unpleasant experiences you can have whilst watching a film, yet it remains as one of my favourites. The film is an extraordinary achievement and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The hallucinatory camera work is mesmerising to watch as every scene is done in one continuous shot. A method Gaspar would later use to even more mind-blowing effect in Enter the Void.

Irreversible is the tale of a couple in love (Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci, real-life partners) who attend a party, only for Monica to be brutally raped and left for dead in an underpass, leaving Vincent hell-bent on revenge. What makes the film strange though is its backward structure. The film begins with the tragic ending and ends with the hopeful beginning and a title card saying ‘Time destroys everything’ which suggests that our lives all lead up to one horrifying moment. If that isn’t depressing enough for you then perhaps seeing a man’s face destroyed by a fire extinguisher and the most brutal rape scene in cinema history (it’s 10 minutes long and the camera doesn’t move an inch) will have you thanking the Lord for your joyous life… That is until, time destroys it of course.

7. Breaking the Waves


A list of crushing films wouldn’t be complete without a bit of Lars Von Trier. Breaking the Waves is often considered his best film and I wouldn’t necessarily argue with that. Whilst my personal favourite Lars film is still yet to come (patience, my dears) Breaking the Waves definitely comes a close second for me as his best film. It follows Emily Watson on electrifying form, in her film debut (Oscar-nominated. Should’ve won.) as a simple, God-fearing Scottish woman who falls madly in love with Stellan Skarsgard’s oil-rig worker, Jan. That is until he gets bashed on the head, becomes paralysed and convinces Bess to prostitute herself.

It’s a very intense film to watch because Bess’ descent into degradation feels so natural. It’s painful because Bess is such a sweet woman and some truly awful things happen to her. The way Lars captures the love between Bess and Jan is truly inspired. It feels so natural and pure, making it all the more hurtful to watch. The film packs an incredible emotional punch with an ending that may perplex some people, but I found it quite beautiful. Breaking the Waves is no easy watch and I came very close to breaking my waves i.e. Crying.

6. Lilya 4-Ever


Lukas Moodysson was known as the masterful Swedish filmmaker who was the king of feel-good without it feeling too corny. His second feature, Together, was a wonderful comedic drama which celebrated the Hippy movement in 70’s Sweden. That’s why it was such a shock to see him make something as unbearably devastating as Lilya 4-Ever. It’s a film set in a poverty-stricken part of Russia and follows 16 year-old Lilya (played shockingly well by the young Oksana Akinshina) whose dreams of starting a new life in America are crushed when her mother callously abandons her and leaves her to the mercy of the cruel real world.

Lilya 4-Ever feels painfully realistic with its documentary-style directing and terrific acting. It’s another film that almost moved me to tears as you feel completely immersed in Lilya’s world. What makes it worse is that she’s such a lovable character who tries to make the best out of really crap situations. Things escalate from bad to worse to the very worst. I don’t want to spoil the experience by saying what happens, but needless to say that Lilya gets mixed up in some pretty dark things. What makes the film painfully sad is that Lilya isn’t the only one to have this story. Children are subjected to vile abuse everyday and Lilya 4-Ever is a powerful reminder of this.

5. The Seventh Continent

The Seventh Continent

Michael Haneke is the king of portraying alienation. All of his films feature very long takes and aren’t afraid of showing the darker side of cinema. His most famous film is probably Funny Games which is a powerful comment on movie violence and how far you can push the boundaries. However, people seem very unfamiliar with Haneke’s debut film, The Seventh Continent. It follows an everyday family doing everyday things until it becomes clear that they’re planning something.

That’s all I’m going to say on the plot and I’d recommend not reading anything about this film. I stupidly found out the revelation before I watched it, although I’m sure it was no less harrowing to watch. The Seventh Continent will probably bore most viewers for the first hour or so, but I’d urge you to stick with it. The final 45 minutes are some of the most disturbing images I’ve ever had the displeasure of viewing. It’s an incredibly powerful and moving film and one which you’ll probably never forget.

4. Martyrs


Oh, Martyrs… My wonderful, wonderful Martyrs! In my opinionated opinion, Pascal Laugier’s, Martyrs is not only one of the best modern horror movies ever made, but one of the best movies ever! My love for Martyrs is obvious for those who love foreign horror as much as I do, but for those who aren’t aware of this masterpiece, to outline the story would be to completely crush its genius. It basically follows a girl who broke free from a strange torture chamber and hunts down her captors. What follows is an emotional mass of unpredictability that will play on your knowledge of the horror genre in a similar (albeit, less zany) way to The Cabin in the Woods.

But Martyrs is so much more than a horror movie. Martyrs kicks an insane emotional punch and the final half hour is notoriously hard to watch and will probably be the decider in whether you like it or not. For me, the final scenes are haunting, powerful and perfect. Some call it exploitative torture-porn, but I’d have to disagree. Torture-porn is violence for the sake of violence. Martyrs is much more profound than this, and I don’t think torture-porn is supposed to make you well up quite like Martyrs does. It’s a masterpiece of a movie, and another one which almost makes me cry every time I see it.

3. Amour


Now we arrive at one of the two films on this list to actually make me cry. Michael Haneke rears his beautiful old head again and brings two more old heads with him! Amour is his latest film and is also probably one of his best. It’s the simple tale, that we’ll all probably have to go through at some point, of watching the one that you love die. I like to think that I’ll be lucky enough to find someone to grow old with and Amour showcases this, but focuses solely on the most Earth-shattering latter years leading to death. Emmanuelle Riva (on Oscar-nominated form, should’ve won) is astonishing as Ann, the woman whose health is slowly deteriorating in front of the very eyes of the man who loves her the most.

What makes Amour stand out against Hollywood tear-jerkers (e.g. My Sisters Keeper) is that it remains completely unsentimental and detached. Haneke isn’t trying to manipulate his audience in any way, he’s just showing us what happens when we get old and it’s incredibly moving to watch. The scene that actually made me cry was towards the end when Ann (now unable to move or speak) refuses to eat because she wants to die, and Georges gets frustrated with her because he doesn’t want her to go and hits her. It’s just utterly devastating to watch and the entire film is full of this intense power that doesn’t let up until it’s over. There’s no remarkable story or anything, it’s just the story of life, and it’s a painfully haunting one.

2. Requiem for a Dream


Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream remains in my top 10 films of all time. It often appears at the top of lists for depressing films and it’s not hard to see why. The film is basically two stories. One follows Ellen Burstyn (Oscar-nominated, should’ve won) as an elderly woman who’s looking forward to appearing on television. However, she’s determined to fit into her red dress so takes some diet pills, only to become addicted with devastating results. The other story follows her grandson, Jared Leto who has a beautiful girlfriend, Jennifer Connelly and loyal friend, Marlon Wayans. They all have a zest for life and full of dreams, but unfortunately become uncontrollably addicted to heroin, again with devastating results.

There are no happy endings here folks. Whilst the film is rated ‘18’ for its explicit sex and violence, I think it should be shown to every 14 year-old across the world, for this is far more powerful than any PSHCE lesson. It’s a highly effective and devastating watch that nearly omits tears from me every time I see it. Aronofsky’s directing is simply magnificent. It’s incredibly disorientating and intense to watch. The final half hour is almost unbearably intense to watch and will leave you completely and utterly drained of life. The way things get worse and worse are as unnerving as Eileen sitting on the wall crying. Requiem for a Dream is a masterpiece and one of the true greats of depressing movies.

1. Dancer in the Dark


Literally every one of Lars Von Trier’s films has a heavily bleak element to it. His most hopeful films feature the end of the world and a woman dangerously addicted to sex (no joke). Dancer in the Dark however, takes the absolute biscuit as the most depressing film, not just that Lars has ever done, but I have ever seen. It’s the last instalment of his Golden Hearts trilogy (it followed the previously mentioned Breaking the Waves) and my personal favourite film of his. Dancer in the Dark actually made me sob out loud. When it was over I went straight to bed and couldn’t stop thinking about it. It haunted me for weeks and still haunts me to this day. It’s probably the most heart-breaking and powerful film I have ever seen.

Dancer in the Dark follows Icelandic pop God, Bjork (on electrifying form) in her first and only acting role (it’s been said that Lars and Bjork despised each other on set and Bjork was unfortunately put off acting for life) as a simple-minded Czech immigrant who’s slowly going blind. She does all her best to save up all the little money she has to pay for her son’s eye operation to prevent him from going blind too. Without spoiling too much, Bjork’s life goes from bad to unbearable and the only way she can escape her reality is to sing and pretend that life is a jolly 60’s Hollywood musical. The final moments in Dancer in the Dark are almost too painful to watch. Lars pulls no punches on the misery and the ending has got to be the saddest of all time. It’s the cinematic equivalent of an iron-fisted sucker punch to the gut, and it’s also a masterpiece.

So we’ve finally made it through these soul-crushing tear-jerker’s. Don’t you feel happier about your life now? Whenever you’re down, just thank God that you’re not having a life like John Merrick, Solomon Northup, Alex, Bess McNeil, Lilya, Anna, Georg, Lucie, Anna, Georges, Anne, Harry, Marion, Tyrone, Sara or Selma. That is of course unless you are a deformed, suicidal, drug-addicted, 80 year-old slave prostitute. Then you’re pretty much done for. Please let me know if you think I should’ve included anything else and thanks for reading!

Regrettable omissions: Grave of the Fireflies, Schindler’s List

Lilya 4-Ever (2002)



Director: Lukas Moodysson

Stars: Oksana Akinshina, Artyom Bogucharskiy, Pavel Ponomaryov


Those who know me well will know that depressing cinema is my kind of thing. Any film that can take you on a powerful and draining experience is a film well worth seeing in my book, so when I heard about how gruelling Lukas Moodysson’s third feature, Lilya 4-Ever, was I just had to seek it out. Whilst I can understand why most people would find it completely bemusing as to why someone would want to watch a film where the protagonist is put through hell, this is the kind of film I really admire when done right. Lilya 4-Ever is done right, and whilst it’s by no means an easy watch, it’s an important one which everyone should make time to see.


The film opens to Rammstein, a heavy metal German rock band used more recently in Lars von Trier’s latest near-masterpiece, Nymphomaniac. They play over a horrendous and ominous image of our hero, Lilya, running from something and covered in bruises. The entire film is a flashback which leads up to this emotive image, and it’s an image which assured me that this was going to be a film to remember.

Lilya 4-Ever opens with a sense of hope and optimism with Lilya looking forward to going to start a new life in America and leaving her Russian slum. However, this is quickly crushed within the first 10 minutes. Her mother abandons her and leaves her at the mercy of her hard-hearted Aunt who offers as little support as possible. Things go from bad to worse and eventually end up at the worst. Lukas does a wonderful job at immersing the audience in the world of Lilya. The raw handheld directing is reminiscent of our own cuddly pessimist, Lars Von Trier.


In fact, Lilya 4-Ever would’ve made a welcome replacement for The Idiots in Lars’ golden hearts trilogy. The film is very much like Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves in that it takes a likable and generally kind-hearted female and then the world mercilessly rips her apart. It’s about as far away from Hollywood as you can get, but unfortunately this is the world we’re living in. Someone, somewhere in the world is having a life like Lilya and Moodysson does a damn convincing job at portraying this.

The authenticity of the film isn’t least helped by 15 year-old Oksana Akinshina’s stellar performance. I believed her in every frame and sometimes she just broke my heart. It was so nice to see her in those rare moments where she’s smiling and laughing, and trying to make the most out of her dreadful situation. The moments when she’s at her lowest are the most sould-crushing, and Oksana often conveys more emotion in just one heart-breaking expression than most actors manage to do in a career.


Lilya 4-Ever is an experience that is hard to forget. It didn’t quite make me cry, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I welled up in more than one place. What makes the film even more crushing to watch is that you know that it’s completely true and that this stuff has happened and is happening to people across the world. It’s not a film you instantly forget the next day, and to me that’s the mark of a truly great film. The ending is beautifully done and is powerful enough to move mountains. As I said before, Lilya isn’t an easy film to watch, but very much like the equally distressing 12 Years a Slave, it has such an important message that it needs to be seen by everyone.




Melancholia (2011)



Director: Lars von Trier

Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling

The end is night, but hopefully not for Lars’ film-making career!

Lars Von Trier is a man I admire very much as a director, but not as a person. He may come across as the cuddly and vulnerable Dane in his interviews but this is a self-confessed pervert who makes sick jokes about sympathising with Hitler and a misogynist who had an affair with his very own babysitter. Lars is not a pleasant man. However, his films are often remarkable. They can range from the boringly pretentious (The Idiots) to the emotionally sublime (Dancer in the Dark) but they always provoke a strong reaction and he isn’t afraid to push the envelope. I’m please to say that Melancholia is another near-masterpiece from Lars.


I reacted to Melancholia in an extremely similar way to the first film in his depression trilogy, Antichrist. When I first saw Antichrist I didn’t know what to think really. I found a lot of it boring, yet I was continuously fascinated with it. After it finished, I couldn’t get it out of my head and I knew that I wanted to see it again. I know consider it a remarkable horror film and don’t find it boring at all on subsequent viewings. Similarly, once Melancholia finished I didn’t know if I liked it or not, but I couldn’t get it out of my head and I knew that I wanted to see it again.

After reading some fascinating analysis’ and allowing the film to sink in a bit, I now consider it a thoroughly interesting work of brilliance. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Melancholia, but I didn’t expect what I got. I knew the film was going to be something pretty amazing from the gorgeous opening. It’s reminiscent of the extraordinary prologue to Antichrist as it depicts perfect, artistic shots in slow motion with classical music being played. Many would find it pretentious, and perhaps it is, but I loved it. I was transfixed in a way that is very similar to when I’d watch a David Lynch film. I felt mesmerised by its dream-like quality.


The first half of the film focuses on Kirsten Dunst’s character, Justine as she trudges through an awkward and stodgy wedding party. It’s slow, but I didn’t find it boring. I found it fascinating to see how the characters interact. At first glance there’s not a lot going on, but if you dig a little deeper there’s a lot of important stuff happening to Justine. She’s hiding her depression and there’s a lot of hints as to what’s causing it: Her thoroughly pessimistic mother perhaps? (wonderfully played by Charlotte Rampling) or her father who seems uninterested in her life? The closing scenes to this segment are also quite bizarre and suggest that bigger things are happening here.

The second part focuses more on Claire. Charlotte Gainsbourg is again quite brilliant in her role as a woman shaken about the idea of the world ending, but it’s Kirsten Dunst who really shines in this part as a crippled depressive who can barely walk. It’s a shattering performance and one which I didn’t think Kirsten was capable of. It’s beautifully shot by Lars and directed with his signature documentary style which makes the catastrophe feel frighteningly real and thought provoking. The film looks truly stunning in blu-ray and I’d recommend paying the extra pounds for it!


Melancholia is a slow film, but an interesting one. The second part is especially atmospheric and gorgeously captured. The film’s final scenes literally had my heart beating because the sense of panic really leaps off of the screen. The end shot is especially haunting and very symbolic. Essentially the film is saying death is inevitable and there is nothing. It’s depressing, yet incredibly interesting. Perhaps the film isn’t about the end of the world at all, but instead one huge metaphor for depression. Whatever it’s about, I found it fascinating and extremely deep. The acting is superb and the directing and cinematography are even better. It’s one which I look forward to revisiting as I think you’ll be able to get a lot out of it on second viewing.






Martyrs (2008)



Director: Pascal Laugier

Stars: Mylene Jampanoi, Morjana Alaoui, Catherine Begin

One of the greatest films of all time. Profound, moving and utterly devastating

Martyrs is another French film that is one of the most effective and incredible films I have ever seen. It’s a rare thing now to get a horror film that truly shocks you, but Martyrs is one of these rarities. A film that you can’t un-see, and possibly one you wouldn’t want to either. Now, it would be easy to dismiss Martyrs as ‘torture-porn’ like Hostel, but Martyrs is so much deeper than that. The explicit and hugely upsetting torture sequences serve a very fine purpose to the mind-boggling narrative, and carefully constructed characters. You could also dismiss Martyrs as being exploitative, using gore for gore’s sake. However, Martyrs uses some of the most cringe-inducing gore I’ve ever seen, which dares you not to look away. Never has violence looked more nasty or pointless. You could even say that it’s a comment on how films glamorise violence. Martyrs shows violence for what it really is.


What makes Martyrs so extraordinary is its unpredictability and the way it plays on your expectations, in a similar way to The Cabin in the Woods, only not humorous in the slightest. The film changes direction at least four times, and two of these occasions are in the opening 10 minutes! The first time I saw Martyrs, I was in shock at the first plot twist, as it delivers the nasty surprise thick and fast like a Michael Haneke film. It defies all conventions, without ever feeling schizophrenic in tone. Even though Martyrs has so many plot twists, it never feels messy and it’s always focused on true narrative it’s trying to express. I’ve seen the film about six times now and it still manages to hit me hard with its visceral shocks.

Another great thing about Martyrs is its characters. The main protagonists feature on the front cover, both of them have a touching relationship as we see them through childhood. One of them, Lucie, is terribly haunted and a really tragic character who I felt immeasurably sympathetic towards. Her friend, is also almost like her carer who looks after Lucie, and also probably has feelings for her too. They’re both very deep characters who we can care for. Martyrs also features a memorable villain, who’s not in for long but offers a lasting and chilling presence, almost like Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. However, I don’t want to spoil too much, because that would be such a shame.


The turning point for people will be just over half-way when Martyrs takes a seriously surprising and gut-punching turn that no one could see coming. There’s a really heart-wrenching scene when Anna makes a discovery which should be strictly kept under wraps. This scene is one of the hardest scenes to watch in the film, and is outrageously disturbing. I always say that films become masterpieces when they turn into more of an experience, such as Black Swan, but Martyrs transcends from being an experience to being a challenge. It’s a real challenge to make it through the final half hour of Martyrs, as things only become more disturbing.

The final half hour will be the decider about whether you liked Martyrs or not. You can say what you like about the last half hour but whatever you say, it will be the thing that you remember the most about it. I shall not spoil it, but it’s one of the saddest moments, actually no, it is the saddest moment I’ve seen on film. Every time I see it I almost cry which is something I don’t do on many occasions. It packs such a huge emotional punch, and also has this chills-inducing music that escalates your feelings. Every time I see it I just want to collapse into a ball and weep an ocean of tears. But I’m yet to try that. It really is what takes Martyrs from being already one of the best horror films ever to being legendary. If you feel no emotion in this final third then you’re either a robot or a psychopath.


I can understand why people hate these final moments, because I remember when I saw it a second time, I thought that it would be much better to have a Frontiers-type finale. However, then I realised that this is what Pascal Laugier would want us to have, and is probably what other film-makers would give us. It’s these final moments that are the biggest shock of the film and also are very relevant to the narrative as it allows us to go deeper into the characters. Suddenly the mystery is revealed and it’s a chilling one. Martyrs turns unbelievably deep and philosophical which will make you provoke more thought than you could imagine. The ending will make your jaw drop, as it’s a lot to take in. You could even say that the film takes another surprising turn. The final two shots are just the final nails in the coffin of your psyche. They’re the last visceral shocks, and the last shot is sure to haunt your dreams.

So it’s easy to call Martyrs ‘torture-porn’ but it seriously is anything but. Since when has ‘torture-porn’ made you think or feel as much emotion as Martyrs does. It’s hugely depressing, and leaves such an emotional impact. The directing alone makes Martyrs more than just an exploitation film! He’s created a moving masterpiece. It’s not easy to watch but the pay-off is immense. Martyrs is possibly the boldest and most powerful films I’ve ever seen. It’s truly unforgettable, and I could write a list of superlatives like I did with The Dark Knight, but not one of them would justify just how mesmerising this film is. It’s a true horror masterpiece. Martyrs is a difficult film to recommend, because it’s the opposite end of entertainment, but the pay-off is truly unlike any other. Witness it for yourself. It’s one of the best horror films ever made. Maybe even the best.