Yellow CAUTION tape--it's a suggestion. There's nothing except one's assumption that there's something hazardous on the other side of the thin, plastic barrier preventing a person from yanking it loose and proceeding through at will. We're conditioned to obey the suggestion of the tape because it's there for our own good. Sometimes we tear the tape and walk down the recommended-against steps and discover a spiffy shortcut that shaves minutes off our daily commute. Other times, we put our foot on a rickety step and take a tumble for the worse, hopefully not resulting in a brain injury that leaves us with a deeply embarrassing mental condition that makes us spew foul language during conference calls.
Pretty much the entire world of films that I enjoy is cordoned off with CAUTION tape, to the point where I've pondered adding a TRIGGER WARNING to the top of each review I write. "CAUTION: This review contains frank conversations about rape, mutilation, dreadful haircuts, and disco." But I'm not nearly that responsible, and honestly I believe that all human beings are, at this point, using a browser with a "Close" function and a computer fully equipped with an "Off" switch.
I'll confess--I don't find myself reaching for the "Off" switch very frequently, but there are a few films that I've very deliberately avoided. As I've mentioned before, I don't believe that genre film enjoyment turns on an axis of ENDURANCE, and while over-the-top offensive material and splatstick can be fun in their own right, there are some titles that go directly to my Pit Of Ignore. Not because I believe that these movies are "bad" or that they "go too far"--language that bothers me because it's the language of censorship--but because I know that watching these movies would be like growing a pair of testicles simply for the purpose of being kicked in them, just so I know what it feels like.
I like elements of fantasy and surrealism in my movies--I can deal with quite a bit of graphic and shocking imagery if it's within this context. In looking at other lists of disturbing films, I was struck by the fact that "El Topo" made it onto several of them. While there are certainly over-the-top elements in this movie (OK, the WHOLE MOVIE is over the top--that's a fair point), I'm too enchanted by its magical weirdness to be upset by the contents. When the entire purpose of a movie's existence is to show depictions of horrible real-life situations or to assault the viewer with nauseating material in a naturalistic-if-grotesque setting, that's generally when I lose interest. I'm just not particularly interested in being HARDCORE for the sake of being HARDCORE.
Pretend that you're asking yourself "Gee, Tenebrous--what titles DO disturb you?" so I can act like I'm humoring you by listing a few of them below. I will punctuate this post with images of adorable pets and amusing stuff as a sort of the "spoonful of sugar" technique to help the medicine of general unpleasantness go down. You're welcome. Doubly thank me for specifically finding image-free reviews of the movies below. *mwah*
1) "Cannibal Holocaust." The great-granddaddy of found footage horror movies, this exploration of savagery and man's inhumanity to man is a gore-filled odyssey through the Amazon Rainforest told through film shot by a missing American documentary crew. I really enjoy reading about this movie because it elicits such impassioned responses from viewers. It also sounds like one of the worst things I could assault my eyeballs with--a graphically violent movie driven by cruelty and a true meanness of spirit. I've never had anyone tell me that it doesn't earn its reputation as one of the most soberingly hideous things ever committed to film. I'll take your collective word for it, folks!
2) "Nekromantik 2." Just in case Jörg Buttgereit's jaw-dropping "Nekromantik" didn't scar me enough, allow me to RETURN to the corpse-fucking concept, this time with a female lead. I'm sure this is a work of twisted genius and all that, but I could barely handle its predecessor, let alone watch something with superior FX technology and production values. I will confess I adore its sometimes-used title "Nekromantik 2: Return of the Loving Dead."
3) "Grace." Awesome. Let me invest 85 minutes I will never get back watching a movie that reinforces my conclusion that contemporary American culture has flipped its collective wig with Baby Madness. I'm sure that to a person who... you know... experiences any kind of normative reproductive urges, this story has resonance, and the movie has been VERY well-received by other horror fans. I have no doubt that it's quite well-made and that other people will enjoy it (as much as anyone can be said to "enjoy" a movie about an undead, bloodthirsty infant), but I'm decidedly NOT part of this film's target audience.
4) "Requiem for a Dream." I am convinced that this descent into the horribleness of drug addiction is exquisitely well-crafted. I am also convinced that Real Actual Life is full enough of horribleness that I can skip this film. I don't like the idea of having to emotionally recover from watching the harrowing destruction of make-believe strangers.
5) Anything with the words "August Underground" in its title. This trilogy, put out by the folks at ToeTag Pictures, is the very distillation of Endurance Cinema--to the point where filmmaker Fred Vogel was detained in a Canadian jail while crossing the border so authorities could further investigate whether or not they wanted to allow his films into the country. I feel kind of guilty putting this on the list, because it's a little like saying "I don't enjoy watching porn that doesn't cater to my sexual orientation"--these movies were created specifically to be prurient, and by golly do they sound successful. Just check out the description of "August Underground's Mordum" at IGN in their Top 10 Sickest Movies list. That's an itch even *I* am unlikely to scratch. YIKES.