Six films that will make you feel all kinds of strange
Join me in feeling all kinds of strange, for better or for worse.
Dear hopeful reader,
When I think of the word strange, I think unexpected, incredulous, comical, obscure, far-out, disturbing, uneasy, curious, uncanny, fantastical, and definitely memorable. Something strange subverts expectations, may make one feel sickened but riveted. A strange that you won’t unsee, won’t forget.
Certain movies can do that. They’ll make you feel uncomfortable in broad daylight, but also move you with their darkness and depth. I’ve listed six I can’t erase from my memory, yet I don’t want to either. Join me in feeling all kinds of strange, for better or for worse.
#1: Mænd & Høns
Two estranged brothers learn about their father’s passing, and with that, that they’re actually adopted half-brothers. Their real father is a geneticist specializing in stem cell research, and their mother, unknown. To find out more about their family, they travel to the Island of Ork, where they’re met by three other half-brothers—and in not such a friendly fashion.
All half-brothers have hare-lips, and all are socially awkward; resorting to animalistic violence is a common occurrence for them, at first. The house they are to share with one another is wild, overgrown, full of barn animals, full of secrets.
The brothers’ interactions will raise eyebrows at least a few times. The secrets unraveled over time will shake you to your core. And while this is mostly a bizarre and uncomfortable watch, the ending—so pure and lovely—is worth getting to. Every little preposterous detail connects to the story so fittingly. Truly, a genius of the absurd wrote and directed Mænd & Høns.
#2: Bones and All
Back to the 80’s, baby! (For 80’s babies and of before obsessed with the 80’s, that’s a bonus reason to watch this film.) Bones and All is a coming-of-age romance with one unsettling twist: cannibalism.
When Maren turns 18, her father abandons her. He leaves her some money, her birth certificate, and a cassette tape detailing what she has been since she was born and urging her to conquer her primal instincts. The birth certificate indicates where her mother was born: Minnesota. She decides to travel there to learn more about her. Along her journey, she meets another eater her age, Lee, and they fall in love.
Consuming horror about cannibals is unpleasant, so I avoid it. Unless it’s The Walking Dead universe or The Last Of Us, so dedicated, I stomached through those unsavory moments. Fortunately, Bones and All shows people-eating as palatably and tastefully as possible, with those scenes being sparse and impactful.
More importantly, the film ignites thought processes in one on the morality and ethics of cannibalism prompted by the traumatic experiences of the protagonists—at least in the safety of the cinematic setting. At what point is it justified, one may ask themselves throughout the viewing.
While the cannibals are clearly other, they’re shown in a more nuanced light. They too go through human emotions and struggles. And their biggest dilemma is either giving in to their monster or following the straight and narrow. As much as it’s grotesque at times, the movie is still gorgeous to watch.
What an outrageous film! In Men, we follow a recent widow, Harper, who goes on a solitary holiday in the picturesque Cotson, Herefordshire. Hoping to find healing, she rents a country house from a man with a peculiar demeanor, which she—and we the viewers—brush off as innocent awkwardness, at first.
During the beginning of her stay she wanders off to explore her surroundings. The beautiful countryside inspires a feeling of well-being, happiness, and wonder until Harper stumbles upon a tunnel that in time reveals a man who begins chasing after her. Having escaped him, she’s then followed by a naked man who tries to get into the country house she’s renting. Afterwards, events unfold in the most strangest, spine-chilling of ways.
Men explores grief and guilt in wild allegorical manifestations that constantly play with the audience’s mind. If the film starts out grounded in reality, all that blurs away fast. The conclusion is one explosive metaphor—so indulgent and freakish yet riveting and aching—which I won’t dare spoiling. You have to see it to (un)believe it, but be warned, you’ll never unsee it after.
#4: Come True
For reasons unknown, Sarah, who dreams nightmares of one particular silhouette with glowy eyes, runs away from home, from her mother. Now homeless, she spends her nights outside or at friends’ houses. During class and throughout the day, she struggles to keep awake.
Desperate for money, she luckily comes across a notice on a paid sleep study. She decides to participate. In the beginning, Sarah sleeps better. In time, her nightmares worsen. The sleep study affects her daily life to the point of distorting her perception—the mysterious shadow appears before her, for real.
If you have sleep paralysis, Come True may or may not be your cup of chilling coffee. One scene especially hits home, is too close for comfort. In addition, the movie is quite a mindscrew. Eventually the viewers start questioning what is real and what is not, and well after the film has ended.
Otesánek is based on a Czech folk tale with the same title, with a more open-ended conclusion. It follows the Horák family who unfortunately cannot have children. While on a holiday with their neighbors, Karel, the husband, finds a tree stump oddly resembling a baby.
To cheer up Božena, the wife, he polishes and shows her the stump. Smitten, she sees the anthropomorphic stub as real and treats it as an infant of her flesh and blood and calls it Otík. As not to show up with a baby out of the blue, Božena fakes a pregnancy by wearing a different pillow for each month. She even believes her lie to be true.
Becoming more impatient, she gives metaphorical birth to the log early. Otík comes alive and becomes a ravenous eater. As Otík grows, so does the appetite. The Horák family cat vanishes, the postman and neighbors too—one by one.
As much as laughable and ludicrous Otesánek is, there’s a layer of tragedy that’s heavily palpable throughout the film. It reminded me of the first season of Servant. While the childlessness depicted in the movie and show differs, the side-effect delusions of both mothers mirror each other. The need for motherhood and love for a nonexistent child, at this point, are far too intense for reality to penetrate the veil.
Gorgeous—yes, that’s a name apparently—and her friends from school with equally silly names with fitting talents go on a summer vacation to her aunt’s house. As a gift, they present a watermelon to the aunt and leave it in a well to keep it cool.
Later on, one of the school girls, Mac, goes to fetch the watermelon but doesn’t come back. As Fantasy goes to do the same, she discovers Mac’s decapitated head that flies in the air and bites her butt. (This is the moment you grimace in disbelief.) Having escaped, everyone else brushes off Fantasy’s experience. Until other surreal, strange happenings haunt the other girls…
A decapitated head bites a butt, a piano swallows a body whole, another body gets trapped in a grandfather clock—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of madness! What a wacky movie Hausu is! And no wonder; the story was discussed and conceptualized by the director with his daughter who was a pre-teen at the time. That explains the childlike and boundless quality of the film.
Moral of the story: listen to children’s wackiest ideas, let them flourish. Let your imagination run wild, realize it with your craft. Because a movie like Hausu becomes a cult classic in due course.
There are so many other films I wanted to mention, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you all with the sheer volume, only a little bit. These are the ones that affected me the most thus far. And they’re either unheard of or have been overlooked or forgotten. I may do a part deux later on if anyone’s interested.
Is there a particular movie that made you feel all kinds of strange? Do tell me about your experience.
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