Weird Movies to Watch
Weird Movies Don't Have to Be Bad
Different people have different ideas about what constitutes a "weird" movie. My wife, for example, thinks any movie that's not mainstream is strange. On the other hand, I have eclectic cinematic interests, and so a movie has to be surreal or offbeat in some way before I think it's "weird".
Quality matters to me. It's not enough for a movie to be strange; it has to be entertaining in all the normal ways, too. If it's a comedy, it should make me laugh. If it's a horror movie, then it should make me jump in my seat, or, even better, give me the creeps. Some directors would prefer to keep their film odd and disregard the other aspects of movie-making. Suspiria is an example of a movie that's legitimately weird and good, but Eraserhead is weird and un-watchable.
Some directors have made a name of themselves for directing weird movies. Even though I hated Eraserhead, I love David Lynch. He's a legitimate artist with a unique worldview that comes through in his art. Blue Velvet is one of the finest films I've ever seen, for example, and Dune is unjustly maligned.
On the other hand, Tim Burton is a one-note hack. He's made a few good movies, including Beetlejuice, Ed Wood, and Edward Scissorhands, but the bulk of his work is unimaginative repeats of movies he's already made. (I'm thinking about that awful Willy Wonka movie, and the countless other Johnny Depp vehicles that have essentially the same music and storyline...)
Blue Velvet Is One of My Favorite Movies
Blue Velvet Trailer
Surreal Films, Dreams, and Nightmares
When I think of weird movies, one of the defining aspects is surrealism. A movie that is surreal has a dreamlike, fantastic quality to it. Some of the plot elements might not make sense, just like some of the things that happen in your dreams don't make sense.
A good example is David Lynch's Lost Highway. At one point, a particular character becomes another, different character. This would make no sense in your typical Hollywood drama or thriller, but in a film that's meant to be a nightmare, it makes perfect sense. People become different people in your dreams all the time.
Barton Fink is another movie with a nightmarish quality. The John Goodman character is so surreal that I can't even imagine meeting someone like him in real life. And the music and cinematography add to that sense of heightened unreality.
And even though weird movies usually exhibit fantastic characteristics, not all fantasy movies are weird movies. Big, starring Tom Hanks, is a fantasy, but there's nothing weird about it. Lord of the Rings isn't weird either. Time Bandits, on the other hand, is a weird movie. Anyone who has seen all three will know what I mean.
Weird Horror Movies
One of the most common genres where you'll find strange cinema is the horror movie genre. Usually the best horror movies of the lot are the surreal, nightmarish horror movies. Below I've listed some of my favorite weird horror movies.
1. Repulsion - This 1965 Roman Polanski film is about a woman who fears men, and eventually her phobia shatters her mind. Creepy, disturbing, and not to be missed.
2. The Wicker Man - Be sure to see the 1973 original starring Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward. The Wicker Man has been called the Citizen Kane of horror films. It lacks the textural depth that Citizen Kane displays, but it's a fine horror movie, and The Wicker Man is definitely surreal.
3. Suspiria - Dario Argento is an Italian horror director, and Suspiria is one of his best-known and most celebrated films. Notice his use of primary colors, which give the entire film a sheen of unreality. Finding a copy might be tricky, as the DVD is out of print, but you can watch it on Netflix.
If you have suggestions for additional weird horror movies to include on the list, please let me know about them in the comments.
Screenshot from The Wicker Man (1973)
The Trailer for Pale Rider
One of my favorite movie genres is the "weird western." The weird west is a term used to describe movies (or other art forms) in which the wild west genre is melded with another genre--usually horror, fantasy, or science fiction. The Deadlands roleplaying game is the most notable example of this genre, but it's well-represented by some movies too. Some of those include:
1. Pale Rider - This Clint Eastwood film is a loose remake of the classic western Shane, but the strong implication is that the unnamed Eastwood character is supernatural in origin. Much of the movie is straight-up wild west action, but the little hint of the supernatural adds a depth to the film that many westerns lack.
2. High Plains Drifter - A drifter wanders into the town of Llago. He's hired by the town to protect them from some bad guys. The drifter turns out to be more mysterious than just a wandering gunfighter.
3. Jonah Hex - This one's more recent, and it's based on the DC Comics character. Jonah Hex is an antihero with a horribly scarred face. The movie's plot involves at least one reanimated corpse.