15 Nov 2014


I have a bit of a odd topic today, I want to write about the weird film. In literature there is (arguably) a sub genre of horror stories which are weird rather that scary, macabre rather than gory. I write arguably because in essence the weird story is not confined to horror, it is just more prevalent in that genre and most often contains a supernatural element to it. 

H. P. Lovecraft wrote in his essay  Supernatural Horror in Literature 
"The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain--a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space."
But while it would be easy to reference the works of writers such as: Lovecraft, M.R. James, Lord Dunsany, and Clive Barker, for example, there is more scope than horror stories. Look at the works of Ray Bradbury, Franz Kafka and the wonderful books by China Mieville, there are dozens if not hundreds of well written stories which are "weird" but not really horror.  The weird can disturb and challenge you, it leaves you with questions, maybe questions you do not want the answer to.

I think a lot of writers from the 40's through to the 70's wrote what could be described as weird stories because they wanted to challenge and raise questions about society and the direction of humanity.

But what about movies?  Has the weird tale made it's way onto the silver screen? I am not referring to films where art and expression have replaced a narrative plot, or films that are bizarre just for sake of it.  No, more films that have carried on the tradition of the weird tale into a new medium.  Here is a selection of a few films I think qualify.

1: Freaks

Tod Browning's compelling tale of love and betrayal in a travelling freak show. Disturbing but also full of empathy and compassion, Freaks does not make this list due to the nature of it's cast, but because of it's eerie finale.

2: Donnie Darko

The film that introduced the world to Jake Gyllenhaal,  Donnie Darko is a tale of a teenage angst, somnambulism, paradoxes, and Frank the strange Rabbit from the future. Wonderfully dark and haunting, Donnie Darko is, at it's heart, a strange love story, albeit a very weird one.

3: The Stepford Wives

The 1975 version with the beautiful Katherine Ross not the terrible remake. The very weird story of a couple moving into a quaint neighborhood where all the women are the "perfect" suburban housewife. Based on a novel by Ira Levin. The Stepford Wives is still a very creepy film.  

4: The City of Lost Children

One of my all time favorite films ever! A magnificent fairy tale of a sideshow strongman and a cynical sneak thief trying to rescue a little boy from a mad scientist who invades the dreams of stolen children to try and find his soul. 

5: Delicatessen

Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed this and my previous choice. Jeunet and Besson are two of my favorite French directors.  Delicatessen is a strange tale of Love, murder and sausages in a dystopian future where food is scarce. 

6: Pan's Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro's fable set in Spain in 1944. Many people I know easily write off the fantastic elements of this story to the delusions of a young and lonely girl. However if that is true how did Ofelia escape from the locked room?

7: In the Mouth of Madness

In any list of the weird you have to include John Carpenters homage to H.P. Lovecraft. 

8: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Gene Wilder's performance of this adaptation of Roald Dahls's book is wonderfully weird and creepy.  It is rumored that Dahl loathed this film, however there is evidence that this is just a Hollywood myth

9: The 5,000 fingers of Dr T.

Dr Suess on the big screen, a wonderful tale of a boy who hates learning the Piano. 

10: Dune 

No list would be complete without a film by David Lynch. With Sting, Giant Worms, Kyle Maclachlan and music by Toto this space Opera can still confuse and stimulate. "Now remember, walk without rhythm, and we won't attract the worm."

Obviously there are many more films which might or should be on this list. But these are the first ten I thought of. You might know of some others, let me know your favorites. 

1 comment:

  1. The City of Lost Children. I've been meaning to watch that one. I also remember watching 5000 fingers of dr t growing up.

    Not a fan of the sequel Dr T & the women though lol.