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The Courier: 30 days of film – day 28

Written by Film

From gory horrors to tasteless flicks, here are the films that make us uncomfortable… whether in a good or a bad way.

Kids (1995)

CW: sexual assault, abuse

Kids is so disgustingly grim I feel like I need to go and wash my hands ten times over just writing about it – not that it’s even worth being written about.

It tells the story of a group of teenagers in 90’s New York, focusing on one gross boy who is trying to ‘sleep with as many virgins as possible’. But the whole façade of a ‘raw’, ‘honest’ coming-of-age story seems in place so that horribly, overly graphic scenes of sexual assault and misogynistic, homophobic, and racist abuse can be given screen-time in the most exploitative way possible.

While most of the characters (ie: the boys) are extremely unlikeable, films can portray ‘bad people’ in a way that makes them at the very least watchable; but Kids does none of that, not once appearing to condemn or even question their behaviour, and leaving its victims of rape and abuse discarded and literally voiceless.

Some may argue that a feeling of being uncomfortable or disgusted is a sign of good filmmaking, or that controversy always surrounds a truly excellent film. Good films can often be about bad things. But that is not remotely the case for this horrendous film, that is basically unwatchable in its genuinely bad filmmaking, awful morals, and exploitative, dragging, appalling story.

The only thing really worth saying is that Kids should never be watched by anyone ever again.

Leonie Bellini

Teeth (2007)

What other film makes me as uncomfortable as one that looks through the eyes of Dawn, a young woman growing up in a sexually prohibitive society who happens to have teeth in her vagina. Teeth is a low-budget horror flick that will make you cringe, make you hate your own skin, make you deeply deeply uncomfortable. Why? Because you’re watching penis’ being chopped off here there and everywhere. Even if the men did deserve it, we are constantly given disgusting close-ups of practical gore and for someone who hates blood, it made me sick.

Besides the obvious uncomfortable scenes of teeth, vagina, dick…not necessarily in that order, this film is also uncomfortable to watch due to its hypocritical and background social progressiveness. Every single male character in the film is a rapist. While trying to encourage healthy sexual habits, and depict a ‘coming of age’ story, the film goes wrong with its complete lack of empathy and violent rape scenes. Dawn literally gets sexually assaulted by SEVEN different men during the film’s run time, one of whom is a fucking gynaecologist. The only man she doesn’t get raped by is her father and frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t even go there. I genuinely don’t know what the film’s intended message is: “don’t rape a woman because she’ll bite your dick off”? “rape is morally reprehensible?”

Also, I hate how many people label this film feminism. My understanding of feminism is women wanting to be treated as equals to men. So how is mutilating and killing guys feminist? This film is exploitative, covering its tracks with faux-feminism and it’s awful, disgusting, disturbing, fucked up, uncomfortable…I do not recommend.

Lucy Lillystone

Raw (2016)

Sometimes you will watch a film and really enjoy it, but never ever want to watch it again. For me, Raw is one such film. Because while it was great, I felt myself cringing and crying throughout the film. Not something I want to repeat anytime soon.

This Julia Ducournau directed French Horror film follows vegetarian Justine who after disturbing initiations and wanting to fit in, goes against her morals and eats meat for the first time ever unleashing a dark side of her. And dark does it get because sweet Jesus this film is fucked.

Hannibal Lecter may be the president of the Cannibal Society (Coming to Newcastle University next year don’t worry) but fortunately we don’t get to see any human sized snacking in too much detail beyond a few nose munches as most is implied expertly. Raw doesn’t give the audience such mercy and it certainly gets graphic to the point where I had to turn away from the screen sometimes. But then at the same time it’s not overly gory like the Saw films, instead using these scenes masterfully to build on the horror of the film. And make me gag.

I am not well versed in horror films but I definitely enjoyed (not sure if enjoy is the right word) this film and is one of my favourites of the genre, even if the list of ones I have watched it short. But that definitely doesn’t mean I will be watching it again anytime soon though.

George Bell

Cats (2019)

I’ve seen this film three times out of my own free will and I genuinely have no idea why. It isn’t a ‘so bad it’s good’ film, it’s literally terrible in every aspect. I think I subconsciously (and probably quite rightly) deserve some punishment for my general existence, and Cats is my own personal hellzone in terms of musicals (alongside Love Never Dies, holy Christ that is bad).

This film makes me uncomfortable in every aspect. It isn’t a good film, nor is it a good adaptation of the musical itself. Every single scene is frightening, and every time I watch it I find something new to make me uncomfortable. For instance, all of the non-CGI’d hands, their frightening hovering above the CGI floor and some cats wearing trainers that weren’t taken out in post-production. The cockroaches. The mice children. The fact that the mice children are too small in proportion to the cats. In general, all the portions are off as that the cats are too small for all of the CGI sets (especially the scene where Victoria sneaks into a human’s house with Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser). This film is genuinely uncomfortable to watch, but I think the most unsettling part is that I can never find Idris Elba attractive again after seeing his furry, chiselled cat body.

However, its biggest sin is that it isn’t even really worth watching at all. It’s visually uncomfortable, but the story itself is bland, so there’s no real payoff for it. Even at the moments that should evoke some kind of emotion, like ‘Memories’, they ruin it by interjecting their own original song ‘Beautiful Ghosts’ in the middle of it. Except, of course, it isn’t boring if you manage to make it to the end of the movie and Judi Dench stares at the camera trying to tell you the moral behind Cats for three and a half minutes straight (we timed it).

The film definitely makes you uncomfortable, but the best part about Cats is watching people’s faces as they witness the horror infront of them. If you’re uncomfortable, at least you can laugh at how uncomfortable it makes everyone else feel as well.

Sophie Hicks

Gummo (1997)

You only need watch the trailer to get an uneasy feeling in your stomach. This film is the pinnacle of grim nihilism and centres around some very disturbing subjects everything is pushed a little too far, leaving you squirming. Harmony Korine the director is better known for Kids a film around child sexuality and drug use, Gummo in my opinion though is more controversial. The ability of this film to lose any kind of narrative plot and never shying away from animal abuse or the exploitation of the disabled characters is only scratching the surface of why this film made me so uncomfortable. It’s the emersion into the dystopia of Gummo is what elevates it to the status of the one of the most disturbing film of all time. You practically make eye contact with the characters as they live out their lives making you feel like one of them.

Eve Ducker

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Based on the book by Hubert Selby Jr., Requiem for a Dream is nothing if not an intense watch. Darren Aronofsky’s psychological drama follows four drug addicts as they become disillusioned with the American Dream and the impact of their addiction on their mental state.

At the centre of the film is Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), a lonely widow who spends her time watching TV before becoming addicted to amphetamines. Sara’s son Harry (Jared Leto) is a heroin addict and drug trafficker alongside his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connolly) and friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). Each character gradually declines into a state of desperation as their addiction takes control of their lives. You can also see how immersed the actors are in their roles, particularly Leto, with the extent of their weight loss bordering on the extreme. Requiem for a Dream becomes even more uncomfortable once you see how far the characters will go for a hit, resulting in situations such as prostitution and limb amputation.

Requiem for a Dream is a gripping watch but its subject matter can, at times, be stomach-churning as we watch the protagonists destroy their lives and those around them all because of their uncontrollable addiction.

Kate Dunkerton

American Beauty (1999)

Oh, Kevin Spacey? Playing a paedophile? Method acting is a real art form, huh?

Let’s start with the deliberate stuff. The erotic, Lolita-esque relationship between Lester and Angela is, obviously, supposed to make us feel uncomfortable, as does the controlling relationship between Jane and Ricky. It is one of the marvels of American Beauty that is manages to show the disintegration of a family, through lust and impulses, and normal human mistakes.

But this film is uncomfortable today for a whole new series of reasons. The exposure of Spacey’s illicit activities for one, the sight of him playing a paedophile is delightfully creepy, especially his closing narration on the presence of beauty in the world. But also, for darker reasons. A sixteen-year-old female actor, in a bathtub, being leered over by an older man? We can’t pretend that if Mena Suvari had been uncomfortable with any scene, she would have been able to say so, due to pressures she may have been under. It’s also strange how such an inappropriate relationship is kind of accepted as part of a midlife crisis, as if it’s just okay, and Lester remains a somewhat sympathetic character.

The film is supposed to be creepy. But, looking back on Hollywood in the 1990s…urgh. American Beauty will send shivers up your spine.

Alex Walker

The Platform (2019)

I generally don’t like writing about films if I haven’t seen them. The Platform is the exception that rule because whilst I have around 30 minutes left, I honestly don’t want to go back and watch them. It was too uncomfortable – and I don’t have enough pillows to hide behind.

Seeing a lot of stuff online about how creepy and bizarre it was wouldn’t put me off apparently. A dystopian-style vertical prison where food comes down through the middle and each prisoner has two minutes to eat their share, before going down to the lower levels where there’ll hardly be anything left for them? Sounds interesting. They prisoners switch levels once a month so they could be on level 2 and eat loads one month, but starve on level 150 the next? I want to know what happens!

No, as it turns out, I did not want to know what happened. As you might’ve guessed (and apparently I’m daft enough not to have), there’s a fair bit of violence, some cannibalism and a lot of people eating loudly. Which I hate. I’m fairly okay with some blood and gore but not in The Platform. I just want to know how many bottles of ketchup they went through for fake blood, because there was a lot of it…

I really didn’t think this through, did I?

Harriet Metcalfe

Upstream Color (2013)

TW/CW: blood, worms, needles

It was called Upstream Color. I was 15 and had been listening to a podcast with my parents. We really liked the podcast, my dad got in touch with the producers and gave them a recommendation of some sort, and they replied that we should watch this…”art film.” I think that’s what it is supposed to be. The plot is simple: A bunch of people get infected with worms (maggots?) that make them do strange things, and the main characters are trying to solve the mystery of how this came to be. There are a lot of close-up shots of worms in skin, blood, and also needles, if I remember correctly. It was certainly creative and I like films with strange concepts, but I could not get past this aspect of the film.

Elizabeth Meade

12 Years A Slave (2013)

There are only a small number of films that have made me uncomfortable, Teeth (2007) and Trainspotting (1996) being the ones that stick in my mind the most. But one film that made me physically feel sick and really uncomfortable was 12 Years A Slave.

I went and saw 12 Years A Slave in the cinema when it first came out and for the majority of the first part I was enjoying the film (in the sense of it being a good film, obviously the context of the film isn’t something to enjoy but the film is very well made!). However, then it came to the scenes when Patsey has a Whiskey decanter thrown at her head by Epps’ wife and when she is tied up and whipped. Throughout those scenes, I couldn’t sit back and comfortably watch it so I had to look away.

From the graphic scenes of torture and abuse to the heartbreaking scenes where Solomon Northup is kidnapped, I could not sit still in the cinema. The abuse scenes were so graphic that I felt physically sick and thought I might need to leave. And even though the film was incredibly well made and is needed to show the true cruelties of oppression and the horror that was American slavery, if I watched the film again now I don’t think I’d be able to sit through the scenes where Patsey is abused and whipped.

12 Years a Slave is a biographical period-drama film and is based on the 1853 memoir Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup. The film follows Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free African-American man, who was sold into slavery after being kidnapped in Washington, D.C. by two conmen.

Amy Harris

Last modified: 12th May 2020

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