SHOCK’s Kalyn Corrigan examines 14 anti-Valentine films that aim to tear your heart out.
Looking for something a little edgier to watch this Valentine’s Day?
Do your tastes in film rebel against the norm, causing you to cast out THE NOTEBOOK, in favor of some sicker, more sinister sentimental viewing?
If that’s the case, you’re in luck, because the list that follows contains some of the most unusual, morally corrupt, immoral erotic cinematic material ever captured on film. From a woman seeking to rid the demon inside of her through onslaughts of vicious sex, to an underground group of deviants getting off to old pictures of famous people dying in car crashes, to a man murdering innocent women in the hopes of bottling their scent, one thing’s for sure — there are no happy endings guaranteed when these credits roll. Read on, and discover what horrible debauchery lies in wait for those brave enough to bear witness to these films.
For those who can’t handle the sickly nature of these wicked little features, there’s always the option to check out and go see Sparks’ latest at a theater nearby. However, for those who wish to bask in the unholy glory of toxic relationships and warped love, there’s no better way to spend the most romantic day of the year, than by watching these romantically-charged repugnant explorations of the macabre, and the grotesquely beautiful.
PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was rid of his innocence the moment he was born. His poverty-stricken mother, who worked long, thankless hours in the Parisian fish market, had given birth to several of her children in the same muddy spot that she sold fish in, only to kick them under her table when the moment had passed, and leave them there to die. Jean-Baptiste was to receive the same treatment, but his superior olfactory sense caused him to cry out from the horrible smell surrounding him, thereby unintentionally sending his own mother to the gallows, as she was executed for being a child murderer. Little Grenuoille was given both a curse and a gift with his unusual talent, spending the rest of his life alienated from society, but creating breathtaking fragrances at the same time. His few moments of happiness are found in the citrus aroma of a batch of lemons, or in the whiff of a woman’s hair as she saunters past. One night, Grenuoille discovers an arousing scent in the air, and traces it to the body of a beautiful redheaded woman. As he attempts to sniff this crimson-haired beauty, he startles her, and in the act of silencing her, accidentally suffocates the only person he’s ever loved. From that point on, Grenuoille spends the rest of his life trying to recreate the smell of his beloved, by murdering women who possess a trace his redheaded beauty’s scent, and using the method of enfleurage to preserve their fragrances. According a perfumer he meets along his journey, there’s a table of twelve scents that combine to create every perfume on the market, with an optional thirteenth place. Grenuoille is determined to find the twelve fitting women and steal from them their essence, and use them to create the perfect perfume, so that he may one day, if he’s fortunate enough, smell his sweet cherub, and be reunited with her, once more.
MANIAC The love of Frank Zito’s life was his mother, and she just died in a car accident. An abusive parent and a prostitute, Frank’s mother sold her body in the room next to him while Frank slept, as he grew up in a house devoid of love or morality. As an adult, the only thing that kept Frank sane was his mother’s comfort, and now, she’s gone forever…or is she? Frank thinks he’s found a way to preserve his mom, so he can keep her at his side, always. He sees her face on the body of every beautiful woman that he kills in the dark alleys of New York City, and by taking a piece of them home with him, he’s slowly bringing his mother home, too. Frank collects mannequins and glues the scalps of his victims to their heads as he tries to recreate his old mom, but they all disappoint him, so he goes out again, night after night, hunting down the perfect imitation. His killing spree comes to a swift halt when he meets the gorgeous and highly intelligent photographer Anna D’Antoni, but will she able to truly change him? Has Frank finally found the soul of his mother inside the body of a living person? Can he rest now? Can a broken person who looks for fulfillment in the bloody defamation of pretty women ever restore his rotten humanity, and learn to love and engage in a healthy, normal relationship? Probably not.
LO From time to time, Justin and April would dabble in the dark arts, but they never thought their innocent curiosity would lead to this. April has been kidnapped by demons, and Justin is at a loss for what course of action to take next. After rifling through her things, Justin finds an ancient book which includes readings of the demon Lo, and how to contact him. Following his only lead, Justin summons the demon Lo, and demands that he help him search the fiery pits for his beloved, but favors always come at a price, and Lo has a few requests of his own. Despite the fact that this film clearly has a low budget, it works well as a sort of stage play brought to the screen, in a strange but deeply moving mash up of horror, comedy, music, and drama. With extremely witty dialogue, morbidly fascinating soul searching, and relatable characters, Lo is triumphant as a Hellraiser-inspired deep sea dive into the abyss of relationships, and the complete and total acceptance of another person that makes them so challenging.
SIGHTSEERS Tina and Chris are having a lovely caravan holiday together in the beautiful countryside of rural Britain, when suddenly, things take a turn for the worst. The couple is walking their dog on a bright sunny day, when all of a sudden, a stranger grows furious at the sight of their pup defecation, and demands that Tina pick it up and dispose of it. Tina refuses, and after the man throws a fit and storms off, saying over his shoulder that he’ll be reporting her to the National Trust, Chris proceeds to pick up a large stick and beat the stranger to death with it. It’s a shame, really, that their quaint little vacation had to be so violently disrupted, but every trip is prone to some turbulence, so the two tread on, laughing and shagging and taking out anyone who tries to interfere with their good time. In the 2012 dark comedy Sightseers, director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High Rise) crafts one of the most hysterical, disturbing, and touching accounts of two lunatics, who happened to find each other, and fall in love. This play on the typical rom com is a brilliant exercise in manipulation, as the film bounces back and forth effortlessly not only in tone, but in perception of evil, and who truly is the most wicked person in the room. Love is complicated for everyone, even psychopaths.
ANTICHRIST One of the greatest things about Lars Von Trier’s directing style is his ability to take his hands off of the wheel and let his actors wreak havoc on the set. Trier writes the words, sets the scene, and then stands back and allows his cast to unleash their innermost primal instincts. That’s why his 2009 wickedly sinister drama Antichrist is overflowing with raw emotion, because stars Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe are completely exposing themselves, in every way, to the camera. Their performances as grief-ridden parents who recently lost their child and are trying desperately to move on are so incredibly moving because no one involved is holding back. This film is not only an exploration of the complex and constantly-changing dynamic of marriage, as well as love, but also of a person’s humanity, and what lies at the bottom of the barrel of our souls. Primal instincts are often associated with positive gut-reactions to situations, like survival, but through the film, Trier investigates the darker set of innate urges that people possess. Sex, lust, and violence are just as primal as the more virtuous fundamentals that people like to associate with instincts. The sinning lies in one’s willingness to give in. The decision to act on these impulses is what leads one toward damnation, and in Antichrist, there isn’t a wrong path left unexplored.
David Cronenberg’s CRASH Most people whoa are unlucky enough to be involved in a horrific car accident struggle to ever get in a car again, let alone drive comfortably. The sense of control that was once present while they were behind the wheel has vanished completely, resulting in a shaky person who’d rather not drive. But what if a different feeling arose after such a traumatic event? What if, instead of loathing the feeling of being overpowered, and dreading any further collisions, the victim actually found some cathartic pleasure in his or her near death experience? Enter James Ballard, a man who rambles through his mundane life as a TV scientist, looking for excitement in random sexual encounters, but never quite reaching the fulfillment he seeks. That is, until the night he crashes his car head on into an oncoming vehicle, and lands in the hospital, badly mutilated, but not, surprisingly, totally devastated. The thrill of having his life flash before his eyes provided James with a massive adrenaline rush, and the crash itself felt like a satisfying release for all of his pent up frustration; all channeled into one moment of electrifying bliss. James wants to experience that sensation again, so he chases the dragon, and joins an underground sex club centered around symphorophilia, or the arousal one feels when witnessing, or being involved in, a catastrophe. As he explores this deeply twisted uncharted territory, James finds new meaning in his latest sexual conquests, but his plunge down the rabbit hole is not braced with a safety net, and the loss of control he seeks in the bedroom soon comes to encompass every aspect of his entire life.
DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE Francesco Dellamorte is the watchman of the Buffalora Cemetery, which in his case, means more than just making sure the dead aren’t disturbed — he makes sure the dead don’t disturb the living. For some strange, unexplained reason, certain corpses, after they are buried, reanimate and try to walk out of the graveyard. These bodies, or “returners” as Francesco likes to call them, can be put down with a shot to the head, and he has yet to allow a single cadaver to wander past the gates. A man with a degree in biology, Francesco grows bored of his work, and above all else, lonely for companionship. He then begins a search to find the woman of his dreams, but as much as he tries to stray from the chains that bind him to the cemetery, all he finds in his quest for love is more death and disappointment. This peculiar account of a man avoiding interaction or excitement of any kind, but who can’t help but run into rousing obstacles at every turn, is a very unique genre mashup. While its firmly rooted in gross-out horror comedy, its stunning visuals and no-holds-barred approach to romance make it as cinematically engaging as it is funny, while, all at the same time, acting as a dreary account of unrequited romance.
POSSESSION An international spy, Mark returns home to his flat in Berlin once he’s completed his mission, where he finds his wife, Anna, asking for a divorce. Shocked by the sudden request, Mark reluctantly agrees and moves out, but soon finds himself lonely and obsessing over Anna, calling her repeatedly, but to no avail. Finally, Mark makes his way over to Anna’s apartment to discuss why she hasn’t been answering his calls, but all he finds is his young son Bob unruly and alone, with Anna nowhere in sight. Anna eventually returns, but Mark is so bothered that he insists on sticking by Anna’s side, to watch over Bob, and perhaps her, as well. Anna refuses to tell Mark why she’s leaving him, but swears that it’s not for another man. Despite their confrontation, Anna’s strange, distracted behavior continues, as she leaves for long hours in the middle of the night, and seems a million miles away, even when she’s standing in the same room. As Anna descends into hellish, depraved madness, Mark, too, stumbles into dangerous psychological territory; driving himself insane as he tries to care for his wife, and attempts to repair their broken marriage. This intense study of the dissolution of matrimony carries an air of rigid ferocity that’s so ever-present that it makes the viewers feel as if they’re going just as insane as the couple onscreen. Anna and Mark may be dealing with exaggerated circumstances, but the desperate sadness that they exhibit over the breakdown of their union is palpable, and extremely relatable, even for people who can’t blame demonic activity for ending their relationship.
CHRISTINE Arnie Cunningham never used to talk back to his parents, or steal the girl his best friend is carrying a torch for, or lash out against those who bullied him — not until he met Christine. After Arnie started seeing Christine, everything changed. Arnie stopped wearing glasses, he started staying out late, his twitchy mannerisms smoothed out, he began dating one of the coolest girls in town, and people started turning up dead. Most of these personality changes may seem like the normal stages of teenage angst, which often occurs when a young person becomes involved in their first semi-serious relationship in high school. This would explain why Arnie started acting so strangely after he was introduced to Christine. The only problem is, Christine isn’t a person, but a cherry red, two-door, 1958 Plymouth Fury. She may be just a car, but Christine is just as much of a girlfriend as any other manipulative significant other who tries to change their partner to his or her liking. Every single moment of Arnie’s life revolves around Chrsitine, whether he’s repairing her from damage, working at the local garage to buy her parts, waxing her hood, changing her oil, or leaving his best friend in the hospital to rot in favor of taking his girl for rides. Even if he’s not with her, Arnie spends every second talking about Christine as if she were a real person, and sometimes, he even actually talks to her, like she might open up and talk back. It’s spooky being around them; the man and his darling machine, but his friends’ suspicions about his odd behavior are fully confirmed when the thugs who have been terrorizing Arnie and his aluminum lady suddenly start kicking the bucket. His friends try their best to reach him, but like any person in a toxic relationship, Arnie is too infatuated with his sweetheart to that he’s drowning, and even if he could, by this point, he’d probably choose to self-destruct, as long as it were behind the wheel of his car.
MOEBIUS Moebius has a complete run-time of one hour and twenty-nine minutes, and during that, not a single word of dialogue is spoken. There are grunts and sighs, moans and screams, but the rest of the plot is shown only through body language, stern looks, and graphic violence. This setup alone is reason enough to see this massively impressive gem, which plays like a modern day silent film, but what really makes the movie is the unabashed exploration of sexual stimulation, much of which is derived from physical pain. When a man cheats on his girlfriend, and continues to do so, even after she confronts him, she has no choice but to meet his stubborn nature with sharp objects and blood-soaked revenge. After she trails and fails to separate her lover’s manhood from his body, she moves on to his son, and successfully severs and destroys his virgin member. Without a leg to stand on, the boy tries to adjust to life as an incomplete man, occasionally shooting his father angry glances, who can only look away in shame. His father then, after googling answers on the internet, discovers a method of arousal for amputee victims who no longer have access to their instruments, which includes torturing oneself until that pain turns to pleasure. Through his father’s suggestion, the boy finds that he still has the chance to attain a relationship with a woman, although finding a girl who is willing to hurt her partner in the name of an orgasm may be even more challenging than bringing himself to climax.
NEKROMANTIK Originally intended as a simple rebellious act towards the German film rating system, Jorg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik came to be one of the most controversial films of all time, attaining cult classic status, while enraging many squeamish viewers at the same time. Following necrophiliac couple Robert and Betty as they engage in some seriously deviant sexual activity, the film shows how Robert is able to sneak home some human artifacts from his job, where he works as a roadside sweeper who cleans up after vicious accidents. He gathers random body parts from crime scenes here and there, but one day, Robert comes home with a full corpse, much to Betty’s delight. The three of them begin an ongoing excursion through the depths of sexual hedonistic debauchery, but their good time is cut short when Robert is fired from his job on account of his odd behavior freaking out his coworkers. Upon hearing the news of his termination, Betty immediately leaves Robert behind, and he spends the rest of the movie trying to cope with his great loss; finding comfort in the carcasses of stiff animals and the like. In the midst of his wallowing, Robert plunges into even more sadistic territory; from the depths of which he might never return.
BIRTH Anna’s husband Sean died ten years ago, but she still can’t allow herself to move on from his memory. She’s finally opened herself up to the idea of a new relationship, and is currently engaged to a sweet man named Joseph, but all of her positive progress is promptly tossed aside when a little boy shows up, claiming to be the reincarnation of her late husband. Of course, at first, Anna dismisses the boy’s statement with a laugh, but as time goes on, and the boy grows more and more persistent, she finds herself putting her walls down, and slowly accepting the fact that this crazed theory may actually hold some legitimacy. Could Anna, a fully grown woman, learn to love a young man who has yet to hit puberty? And aside from the ghastly reputation that Anna would acquire if she chooses to engage in this statutory act, could she ever live with herself, knowing that she might be wrong? Could romance blossom within an age gap that is large enough to actually constitute the span of an individual’s life? Visionary director Jonathan Glazer brilliantly and tastefully investigates these taboo ideas with curious intrusion and unabating tension, resulting in a beautiful, philosophically-charged exercise in the weird and the forbidden. Birth is a fascinating example of how grief will drive even the most logical people to bend their belief system to include something they hope to be true, but it’s also at its heart, a plain old (albeit excruciatingly uncomfortable) love story, between two people who believe they’ve met before, in a past life.
DEADGIRL On the surface, Deadgirl is a horrific reminder that sexual assault does not birth from lust, but from a need to control, while also acting as a a gruesome warning about what happens when one takes advantage of vulnerable women. However, on a deeper level, it’s a platonic love story between shy and good-natured Rickie, and deceptive and ill-tempered JT. Rickie and JT have been best friends since early childhood, but now, as they wade their way through the terrors of high school, they encounter the same thing that many adolescent friends do: an obstacle that causes them to slowly grow apart. Like many young boys, the root of their feuds can be traced to a girl, but in their case, that girl is chained up in a basement, devoid of clothes, or a pulse. JT has always leaned towards a darker nature, and with a new opportunity for malice at hand, he hopes that will Rickie join him in his destruction, and cement their twisted relationship, which seems to have been slightly fading as of late. When Rickie declines JT’s invitation to take part in his warped sexual fantasies, he takes the rejection to heart. JT begins acting out, skipping school, spending nights in the basement with the girl, and even inviting a third party to join in on their mayhem; hoping that eventually Rickie will grow jealous and agree to participate in their debauchery. As the situation spirals out of control, Rickie wrestles with his inner turmoil, as he’s torn between doing the right thing and going to the police, and his feelings for his best friend JT, who he couldn’t bear to sentence to a life behind bars. No matter how low JT sinks, the fact is, as with all deeply rich relationships, Rickie just can’t leave him alone.
THIRST All of his life, Priest Sang-hyeon denied himself any sense of pleasure. Seduction leads to pleasure, and pleasure leads to sinning, and the Priest was too good and pure to commit such heinous acts – not with god watching. It’s not until his life is stolen from him that he truly begins to live. While trying to help cure a deadly blood disease during his time at a humanitarian organization, Priest Sang-hyeon finds that he has actually become infected. Terminally ill, the Priest receives a blood infusion that magically heals him, but he soon finds that the reason for this miracle isn’t prayer, but an undead donor. Cursed to live an eternity in the shadows, Sang-hyeon at first thinks himself damned, but soon, he starts to experience…cravings. It starts with blood, but grows to be more, as he begins to break his commandments one by one, murdering innocents, and lusting after his neighbor’s wife, Tae-ju. Tae-ju is married to a horrible little man named Kang-woo who treats her like an indentured servant, but it’s not long until Sang-hyeon swoops in and saves her from her torment. Together, Sang-hyeon and Tae-ju get rid of Kang-woo, bury the body, and join hands in an eternal embrace, as Sang-hyeon passes on his gift to lover, and the two vampires live happily ever after. Or at least, that’s how it should have ended, were it not for Tae-ju’s going mad with power. Tae-ju begins killing at random, not caring if her massacres are properly covered, and talks down to Sang-hyeon whenever he tries to wrangle her in, laughing and calling him weak. Sang-hyeon thought if he gained an immortal partner, he could find some sense of normalcy in his new life as a reanimated corpse, but as he soon starts to realize, the only place for a dead body is six feet under.