Sometimes you don’t understand the motive of the filmmaker behind a film. Whether he or she was intending to shock you or give you sadist pleasure, you would never know. ‘Irreversible’ is one such film. Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold in reverse-chronological order as the beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass. Her boyfriend and ex-lover take matters into their own hands by hiring two criminals to help them find the rapist so that they can exact revenge.
I know it is a very disturbing film, but at the same time it is an experience that you will never forget. A simultaneously beautiful and terrible examination of the destructive nature of cause and effect, it is a film that shows how cruel time can be. Unsurprisingly, the film was loathed and criticized by several critics at the time of its release. Many of them labelled it as pornography. But it is, in my opinion, one of the most devastating, meaningful explorations of violence in cinema. It’s a film that forces us, as viewers, to confront the brutal realities surrounding our lives. With all that said now, we have tried to come up with a list of films similar to ‘Irreversible’ that are our recommendations. If you are interested, you might be able to stream some of these movies like ‘Irreversible’ on Netflix or Amazon Prime or even Hulu.
10. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
It chronicles the story of the sickening pleasures of the lords and how they exploit 18 young men and women in devious manners. The tale is narrated in an unflinching manner, making it highly intense. The brutal murders, rape for fun and sadism make it one of the most difficult films to watch. It is gory and hurts the viewer almost physically every time it is watched. Some of the scenes are so disturbing that it becomes a nightmare. The torture is unapologetic but poetic justice is served in the end.
‘Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom’ is one of the most divisive films ever made. Director Pier Paolo Pasolini had the nerve to challenge the viewers in ways they’ve never been before. And not surprisingly, most of them found it repulsive. The film infuriated several critics who found the movie to be lacking of any insights and deemed it way too self-indulgent. However, over the years, upon re-evaluation, the film’s stature increased significantly and it is now widely regarded as a path-breaking work of art. You might end up loving it or hating it, but ‘Salo’ is definitely one of those films that you must watch at least once in your lifetime.
9. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Ruggero Deodato’s 1980 take on cannibalism was originally supposed to be a question on who the cannibals actually are. To state it as raw would certainly be an understatement. ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ was unapologetically animalistic, with the director opting to show cruelty and vandalism in its naked form. The violence and rapes seemed uncannily real. The deaths were gruesome at best and the stark animal cruelty filmed didn’t help it out of the controversy pool.
8. The Human Centipede (2009)
A mad scientist kidnaps and mutilates a trio of tourists in order to reassemble them into a human centipede, created by stitching their mouths to each others’ rectums. Let me just confess out-front. I couldn’t bear the film for more than ten minutes. Not because it is disgusting, but more so because it is a horrible movie. And yet, I’m mentioning this movie only because I know this is possibly one of the most disturbing — even if bad — movies ever made.
7. A Serbian Film (2010)
An aging porn star agrees to participate in an “art film” in order to make a clean break from the business, only to discover that he has been drafted into making a pedophilia and necrophilia themed snuff film. I don’t think any film can be more disturbing that this one. It’s just sadistic on every level you can imagine. It is one film, I’ll never recommend to anyone. Not even my enemies.
6. I Spit on Your Grave (2010)
A woman seeking revenge on her assaulters seems like a pretty straightforward plot — which it is — but it is the manner in which she takes her revenge is what is going to disturb you. The fact that she herself was so brutally assaulted gives you a moral thread that you can hang on to, but let me be honest: that’s not going to be of much help.
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5. Martyrs (2008)
A young woman’s quest for revenge against the people who kidnapped and tormented her as a child leads her and a friend, who is also a victim of child abuse, on a terrifying journey into a living hell of depravity. There’s no question that ‘Martyrs’ is a brutally disturbing film to watch, but was it a necessary film to make? One can argue either ways, considering that the film can also be looked as a study of a psychologically damaged girl.
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4. Inside (2007)
Four months after the death of her husband, a woman on the brink of motherhood is tormented in her home by a strange woman who wants her unborn baby. It falls into the horror genre and of course there’s a lot of gore involved, but what makes it disturbing is the idea that a woman can go so far in her quest of revenge. One of the scariest films on the list.
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3. Aftermath (1994)
Starting off the list with a 32 minute short film, ‘Aftermath’ directed by Nacho Cerda. He is known for his Trilogy of Death, which started with ‘Awakening’ in 1990 about a boy who experiences an out-of-body phenomenon. This was followed by the controversial ‘Aftermath’, which featured the most horrific depiction of necrophilia. Most people consider death to be the end of the journey on this plane, and believe that the body is laid to rest while the spirit faces the consequences. Cerda destroys this very thought, and if death wasn’t scary enough, he frightens you with the horrific afterlife.
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2. Antichrist (2009)
A grieving couple retreat to their cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage. But nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse. When a genius like Lars von Trier — who I’m a big fan of — makes such a disturbing film, you do try to convince yourself that there must be something in it. And even though, it is not a bad film, there isn’t much to hang on to either. The opening scene is pure genius, and for the most part, the first half does well in crafting an atmosphere of horror and developing the characters. However, the narrative soon derails and the film veers towards self-indulgence. It has some of the most horrific scenes you’ll ever see in your life, but most of them lack any emotional depth, which is a shame because the film is extremely ambitious. While it continues to improve on repeat viewings, the film still doesn’t hold up to Von Trier’s greatest works. It is, without a doubt, one of the most controversial movies ever made.
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1. Funny Games (2007)
Two psychopathic young men take a family hostage in their cabin. A sadistic game of cruelty starts with the bet that the captives will not be able to sustain by next morning. You keep watching the movie with the hope that eventually someone will escape their murderous intentions. Alas! With a wink, they drown the last of their captives and again start looking for their next target. Don’t be surprised if you feel very angry after watching this film. When I first saw ‘Funny Games’, I was furious. But with time, it grew on me. More than the movie, it’s the idea behind it that strikes me every time I think about it. It’s the statement that the director makes that’s more important than the movie itself.
Only Michael Haneke could have come up with such an idea for a film. The master Austrian filmmaker teases, taunts, challenges and provokes viewers in ways you’ve never experienced before. The movie is so provocative that you’d be missing the point if you actually ended up loving it. Haneke explores how the media and mainstream American films in general have played a crucial part in desensitizing violence using a mockery of a plot that seems like a spoof of mainstream Hollywood thrillers. For any cinephile, watching ‘Funny Games’ would be an experience like no other.
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