Join 3,434 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Mindf**k Movies
February 12, 2009 7:14 AM   Subscribe

16 Mindf**k Movies. There’s a certain brand of movie that I most enjoy. Some people call them “Puzzle Movies.” Others call them “Brain Burners.” Each has, at some point or another, been referred to as “that flick I watched while I was baked out of my mind.”
posted by billysumday (132 comments total) 118 users marked this as a favorite

 
Notably absent: many worthy films from the 1960s/70s.
posted by billysumday at 7:15 AM on February 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Jacob's Ladder is on the list, which is good. Missing: Naked Lunch. I watched those two back to back for the first time when I was 15. Toss in Serpent and the Rainbow for the triple feature, and your brain won't forgive you for a long while. Bonus points for odd dreams.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:25 AM on February 12, 2009


Alot of my favorites there. I've had Primer in my Netflix queue for awhile now. Guess I'll have to give it a watch...
posted by Hutch at 7:26 AM on February 12, 2009


Pretty pedestrian list, meaning I've seen all but one of them.

Also, there are far, FAR greater mindfucks to be found in Japanese cinema than Rashômon. If that blew your mind, your brain needs better fuses.
posted by Dr-Baa at 7:27 AM on February 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


no eraserhead? - i'm not even sure david lynch knows what that's about
posted by pyramid termite at 7:28 AM on February 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


there are far, FAR greater mindfucks to be found in Japanese cinema

Tetsuo springs instantly to mind. And let's not even start on the sequel.
posted by ninebelow at 7:30 AM on February 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Great reviews. The writer is funny and knows when to stop talking.
posted by DU at 7:31 AM on February 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


Mulholland Dr. is very accessible compared to Lynch's other work. Lost Highway, INLAND EMPIRE and Eraserhead are far, far more obtuse and symbolically charged. It's weird that they included that particular film as its the most 'mainstream' mindfuck movie by Lynch while they have no problems throwing in the original (and sublime) Solyaris.

An odd list. The criteria seem to make less sense than the movies it attempts to catalogue.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:31 AM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


My favorite from this list: Solyaris. That movie is sublime. And the 4 minute clip posted is really making me want to see it again.
posted by billysumday at 7:31 AM on February 12, 2009


Woah, we both said Solyaris is sublime at the same time. Slimepuppy, are you fucking with my neutrinos?
posted by billysumday at 7:32 AM on February 12, 2009


Cube? Really? I watched that with an ex-boyfriend because it was on the el-cheapo rental rack and we were bored. I don't think we could even finish it.

Anyway, House of Games is my favorite "wait, what the fuck?" movie.
posted by desjardins at 7:32 AM on February 12, 2009


Tetsuo for sure. And what about El Topo?
posted by mds35 at 7:33 AM on February 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Performance, Don't Look Now, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Altered States, Vertigo (I mean, if Spellbound is on there...), Angel Heart, Lost Highway, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Inland Empire, Holy Mountain, etc etc

I don't know about "mindfuck" as a label (because surely he WOULD then mean solely movies like Sixth Sense, Jacob's Ladder, Angel Heart), it's more like... expressionistic films... that maybe the viewer didn't expect to be as subconscious exploring and expressionistic as they expected?
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 7:35 AM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Blue Velvet."
posted by blucevalo at 7:38 AM on February 12, 2009


I missed the criteria / description in his post about "mindfuck" movies making love to your mind - now that I can get behind!
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 7:38 AM on February 12, 2009


"The Game" did not belong on that list. All it does is sell the "WTF?" experience to a mass audience while delivering nothing.
posted by deanc at 7:40 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd throw in a bit of Saul Bass Phase IV awesomeness too.

Billysumday, sublime is the perfect word to describe Solyaris. And yes, I'm fucking with your neutrons, but that's just coincidence.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:41 AM on February 12, 2009


Great reviews. The writer is funny and knows when to stop talking.

I disagree. He should have stopped much sooner, or had someone to edit his thoughts. Most anything could be a “Brain Burner” if you were sufficiently baked out of your mind. Substance use already negates any validity to claiming something as a mindfuck (for me). And then he goes on to state "Mindfuckers aren’t just Dadaism by another name" - Dada is not about "mindfucks" at all.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:43 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


We need a SLMB tag.

And obligatory 'missing from' mention:
"French Lieutenant's Woman" (screenplay by H.Pinter!)
posted by From Bklyn at 7:44 AM on February 12, 2009


This list is crap. Where's Shaft? Dolemite? Petey Wheatstraw, The Devil's Son-In-law? Those are real mindfunk movies.

Wait, what?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:46 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was doing ok until I saw "cube" on the list, at which point I broke into tears. Maybe I'm just a wimp, but I didn't sleep for a week after I saw that movie - no joke - I woke up screaming several days in a row. Freaked me the fuck out. I think I was 18 when I saw it, though, which might explain it, for me anyways.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:49 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Cube doesn't belong on any list of "best" or "most" anything. It's like someone who played a lot of 80s/early 90s adventure games on their computer decided to make a movie based on what they knew, but forgot to give it a decent plot or really anything interesting going on. It's like the prototype for those stupid-ass Saw movies.

Where is Alejandro Jodorowsky on this list? No such list could be complete without him, every film he's ever made is a "mindfuck". I'd suggest The Holy Mountain.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:49 AM on February 12, 2009


I originally omitted Donnie Darko from this list but then I realized I would get hate mail if I omitted Donnie Darko from this list so I put Donnie Darko on this list.

I can at least get behind this part. Donnie Darko was just not a very good movie. It was a clusterfuck of stupid, disconnected, poorly written scenes, that apparently require explanation and elaboration from outside sources to understand. If a movie can't stand on its own merits, it's a bad movie.

I think it gets its reputation from the same people who had their minds blown by The Matrix, or thought that Fight Club was deep.
posted by explosion at 7:51 AM on February 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


AskMeFi has a waaay better list.
posted by naju at 7:52 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Caché: A film by Michael Haneke, which I liked a lot more than Funny Games, which he recently remade for American audiences. Caché works as a standard thriller, but underneath there questions about what is really going on and what the film is really about.

La Moustache: Everyone else that I've shown this film totally hated it, but I thought it was effective as a study in cognitive disonance and marital problems. I also salute the director for deciding to make a film that is mostly a guy being upset about a moustache.

Suicide Club: I just saw this a week ago thanks to the Asian Horror post. I still don't know what the heck was going on through most of the film, and it's worth watching for the scene on the roof of the school alone.

eXistenZ: Another weird one from Cronenberg. Similar to Videodrome, in that it's strange technogical social commentary, and not as good in my opinion. But it has more odd twists and altered reality moments than a Phillip K Dick novel.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:59 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not to snark, but what exactly qualifies as a "mindfuck" movie? Saying that it's a movie you watch "stoned out of your mind" sets the bar pretty low. Any Peter Greenaway movie (I'm thinking of Murder By Numbers) could be on this list.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:01 AM on February 12, 2009


Jacob's Ladder was such a freaky, disturbing movie. I saw it years ago, and still get creeped out thinking about certain scenes. The hellish hospital. The party scene with the demon-tail. Yeesh! So this post reminded me of it and I looked it up to see who directed it, thinking it must be some indie-genius of psychological horror. It's Adrian Lyne. The guy that made Flashdance.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:02 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


2001: Here’s another fun fact: The title sequence makes you feel like you can punch through walls!

true.true.
posted by stbalbach at 8:02 AM on February 12, 2009


Sorry, that should have been Drowning By Numbers
posted by KokuRyu at 8:04 AM on February 12, 2009


Seconding Caché

Also, The Double Life of Veronique, which sucks but definitely has that WTF quality.
posted by desjardins at 8:07 AM on February 12, 2009


I'd throw in a bit of Saul Bass Phase IV awesomeness too.

Ooh! Yes. I torrented that not long ago and watched it again. Seeing it now, the plot made more sense but it was every bit as nightmarish and atmospheric as my childhood memories of it.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:07 AM on February 12, 2009


there are far, FAR greater mindfucks to be found in Japanese cinema

Indeed. I don't even want to mention titles. Films that stick with you for life like a smelly bacterial infection.
posted by stbalbach at 8:11 AM on February 12, 2009


Donnie Darko was just not a very good movie. It was a clusterfuck of stupid, disconnected, poorly written scenes, that apparently require explanation and elaboration from outside sources to understand.

I think that's a better description of Southland Tales, which took all of the worst aspects of Donnie Darko and turned it into one of the most incomprehensible and stupid films of all time.

Not to snark, but what exactly qualifies as a "mindfuck" movie?

Here's the tvtropes description (along with some examples). The simplest description I can think of is that it's a film that doesn't make sense on a literal level.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:13 AM on February 12, 2009


Cache is hella good. That scene at the end [SPOILER]...

...where the two kids are meeting with each other? WTF?
posted by billysumday at 8:15 AM on February 12, 2009


Jacob's Ladder ... The hellish hospital.

That's one of the most terrifying scenes in any movie I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of 'em. The whole bit with Jacob being wheeled on the gurney and what he sees is bad enough, but then after that... his girlfriend in the "real" world shows up as a demonic nurse, he pleads with her to "get me out of here, I want to go home", the "doctor" replies "This IS your home. You're dead." THAT'S how you do scary.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:15 AM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Caché works as a standard thriller, but underneath there questions about what is really going on and what the film is really about.

Yeah, the total absence of Haneke on the list annoyed me a bit (I have seen 15 of the 16 here, and any of the Haneke films I have seen beats most of these).

For those who have not yet seen Caché, I envy your future discovery. Just as Funny Games is a pitch-black look at American movies' depiction of violence, Caché addresses the whole post-Shyamalan "final-reel twist that changes everything." I urge future viewers to watch to the very end, very closely: Haneke subtly rewrites the whole frame of reference with a single offhanded image.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:16 AM on February 12, 2009


The list is by MeFi's Own, by the way. Yeah, it's kind of a mixed bag, but I think he does a pretty good job. I like the inclusion of The Game, frankly. My favorite moment in that movie is when Michael Douglas' character is desperately trying to get help from a friend and Douglas knocks on the friend's door late at night. While he waits for them to answer, a siren is heard in the distance and Douglas instantly spins around, his ears pricking up to hear what fresh hell this siren must be bringing him, but really, it's just an ambulance somewhere, of no import. That really gave me a sense of the terror and paranoia he must have been feeling at that moment.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:17 AM on February 12, 2009


Oh, and it's worth mentioning that the entire Silent Hill series of video games was directly and heavily inspired by Jacob's Ladder, the hospital scene in particular.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:18 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


These are pretty much all mainstream movies. I only saw it once and yeah, I was baked, but 200 Motels is a complete mind fuck.
posted by ob at 8:19 AM on February 12, 2009


Very good mindfuck movies that aren't on the list:

Vanishing Point

Blow Up

Exotica

I only saw the last by an odd set of circumstances. One of my friends saw the title, noted that it took place in a strip club, and thought "great, boobs!". He and a mutual friend rented it, and the "great boobs" guy fell asleep and the mutual friend was mindfucked and got me to watch it. It manages not only to be one of those movies where absolutely nothing makes sense until the last 10 seconds, but to be entertaining and engrossing before those last ten seconds tie everything together.

As for Blow Up and Vanishing Point, they're good enough and getting old enough you might be able to call them "classic" without sounding pretentious.
posted by sotonohito at 8:24 AM on February 12, 2009


Not that I've ever understood "decency standards", but I think what I'm supposed to get from this post is that it's OK to refer to drug use, as long as you asterisk out the word "fuck".
posted by 7segment at 8:25 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Solyaris. That movie is sublime. And the 4 minute clip posted is really making me want to see it again.

According to the commentary by Vida Johnson and Graham Petrie on the Criterion edition of Solaris, the four-minutes of driving around, which has little to do with the plot, was shot on the highways of Japan. Tarkovsky wanted to travel, and shooting a foreign location was the only way to convince the government to let him go.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:28 AM on February 12, 2009


Solaris: fell asleep

El Topo: made it 20 minutes before hitting "Stop"

Holy Mountain: now that's a little more like it

Jacob's Ladder: hell yeah

Mulholland Dr.: I once tried to explain it to my 72-year-old stepmother and failed miserably. The best I could do was "Lynch films dreams."

And where's Pi?
posted by scratch at 8:31 AM on February 12, 2009


I think "mindfuck" should refer to a movie that very physically and viscerally divorces you from the underpinnings of reality. I'm thinking Jodorowksy. Maybe we need a new word for movies that are less aggressively weird - I suggest "mindsnuggle."
posted by naju at 8:34 AM on February 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


If one is seeking a mindf*ck, I would definitely add L'année dernière à Marienbad to the list.
posted by jim in austin at 8:38 AM on February 12, 2009 [3 favorites]



Oh, and it's worth mentioning that the entire Silent Hill series of video games was directly and heavily inspired by Jacob's Ladder, the hospital scene in particular.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:18 AM on February 12 [+] [!]


Thanks for the warning, DecemberBoy!

...off to play DigDug...
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:43 AM on February 12, 2009


What? No Ernest Goes to Jail on that list?
posted by puckupdate at 8:48 AM on February 12, 2009


Jacob's Ladder

Is he suffering from PTSD? Did he inhale some verboten chemical on the fields of war? Has he started traveling through time, Slaughterhouse-Five style? Or is he just plain nuts?


It's a (very good) modern update on Ambrose Bierce's An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. I honestly thought that was pretty well known by fans of the film.

On the whole, I like his list, but I sort of feel like it's missing Closet Land, which is one of the first films I saw that made me realize how much you could do with virtually nothing.

(“Hard science-fiction” is defined as “stories in which Han Solo does not saunter around the surface of an asteroid wearing only an oxygen mask and a leather jacket”).

Pfft! Han Solo never walks on the surface of an asteroid! He is standing in the throat of the giant space worm clearly capable of producing its own atmosphere. What a n00b!

posted by quin at 8:52 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


How about Motorama? Or is that merely strange.
posted by inthe80s at 8:53 AM on February 12, 2009


200 Motels is a complete mind fuck.

"Centerville, a real great place to raise your kids up!"

Nah, if a "mindfuck" is defined as a movie that doesn't make sense on a literal level but somehow does on a subconscious level, 200 Motels would be something different. 200 Motels is a movie that doesn't make sense on any level, doesn't even try to, and revels in the fact. It's one of the few films that's totally masturbatory, but in a good way. I love it and wish there were more movies like it.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:59 AM on February 12, 2009


Je t'aime, je t'aime (1968), yo.
posted by defenestration at 9:01 AM on February 12, 2009


I am a big fan of this type of flick. And by the way, "Mulholland Drive" could have been replaced with "Any Film By David Lynch".

But the real meat is here in the discussion. Thanks for the inspiration, Mefi! Now to find all these movies...
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:01 AM on February 12, 2009


Of all these, he liked Primer the best? Really? While I admired the filmmakers' ambitions (and their thriftiness), I thought the execution just didn't live up to what was a fairly nifty twist on a fairly tired idea.
posted by Rangeboy at 9:08 AM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


A lot of these are available online in varying levels of quality if you want to give them a glance before renting:

Spellbound
Rashomon
La Jetee
2001
Solyaris (click "CC" button for subtitles)
The Quiet Earth (part 1 of 11)
The Game (1, 2, 3)
Abre los Ojos
Cube
Dark City
Memento (1, 2, 3)
Mulholland Drive
Donnie Darko
Primer

(No Jacob's Ladder or Videodrome, though.)

Also, if you enjoy the premise of The Quiet Earth and can't find the book it was based on (which is virtually impossible to track down), I recommend picking up a copy of Night Work by Thomas Glavinic instead. It's got much the same idea to it, but is much heavier on the pyschological horror and lighter on the cheesy sci-fi explanations.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:11 AM on February 12, 2009 [13 favorites]


Agree with Rangeboy.

Somehow, everyone who talks about how much they liked Primer inevitably mentions the fact that it cost five bucks and was made by a guy who never held a camera before in his life. While I'm certainly impressed by this, it doesn't make a boring movie any less boring.

That said, I like the rest of this list. Thanks.
posted by hifiparasol at 9:14 AM on February 12, 2009


quin: It's a (very good) modern update on Ambrose Bierce's An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. I honestly thought that was pretty well known by fans of the film.

Sure, heh, heh, I knew that (runs home to impress wife with new, self-evident insight into one of our favorite movies).
posted by No Robots at 9:25 AM on February 12, 2009


I think it would be safe to say that this is a genre that I am particularly fond of. I would agree that this list seems a bit tame as I have seen most of the films without actively seeking them out. I think the Japanese certainly use 'mindfuck' techniques and subjects much more commonly than Hollywood.

On the other hand, I don't really have any time for the 'twist' movies which seem to have been popular in recent years.

Personally, I like Cube very much. I think it has a lot to say and does so quite effectively. Perhaps as instructive about group dynamics as TF2 is? (Bold claim indeed!)

Unfortunately, they made a sequel. That was a mistake.
posted by asok at 9:29 AM on February 12, 2009


Just in case I haven't mentioned it enough, see Taxidermia, which is great.

Whether it is a mindfuck film I couldn't say. Is Pan's Labyrinth? Dusk Till Dawn? The Usual Suspects Etc.
posted by asok at 9:33 AM on February 12, 2009


Nah, if a "mindfuck" is defined as a movie that doesn't make sense on a literal level but somehow does on a subconscious level, 200 Motels would be something different. 200 Motels is a movie that doesn't make sense on any level, doesn't even try to, and revels in the fact.

Yeah, that's true.
posted by ob at 9:34 AM on February 12, 2009


Audition? Oldboy? Hello?
posted by gottabefunky at 9:37 AM on February 12, 2009


That Taxidermia trailer link (NSFW or anyone eating soup) in full. Score by Metafilter favourite Amon Tobin.
posted by asok at 9:39 AM on February 12, 2009


Dr. Caligari(1989)
Lisztomania
posted by Sailormom at 9:42 AM on February 12, 2009


Santa Sangre is one film that messed me up for days. So I love this film since.
posted by lone_one at 9:45 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny that he put Mulholland Dr. and Donnie Darko next to each other (yeah, ok, chronological). My interpretation of the former informed my interpretation of the latter (I think central mindfuck element is the same in each).
posted by troybob at 9:49 AM on February 12, 2009


Dude, Santa Sangre is so fucking crazy...
posted by Mister_A at 9:50 AM on February 12, 2009


The Holy Mountain is crazier. On first viewing I went through these stages:

This is interesting. Very visually rich. I am strapped in for the usual Jodorowsky ride.

Ooooo..kay. this is not the usual ride.

This is getting stranger than I expected.

what

WHAT

I don't even understand what I'm looking at anymore.

HFJjufyqwri7ifieh... ocelot tits?
posted by louche mustachio at 10:13 AM on February 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hi all, author of the article here. Thanks for the link.

Lists of these sort inevitably generate a lot of "how could he have forgotten ______?!" commentary, and I knew this would be no different. But, you know, I had to draw the line somewhere. A few notes on my section criteria.

First, this list was intended to be an introduction to the genre. If you've seen 15 of the 16 on the list then it's fair to say that you're already a fan.

I decided early to not include more than one film per director. eXistenZ and Scanners are missing because Videodrome is there; Mulholland Dr. precludes Lost Highway, Eraserhead, etc.

There were a fair number of other movies that I skipped because of the "premillennium problem"--that is, the huge spate of remarkably similar films released just prior to the year 2000.

The Game is on there because it perfectly fit the criteria I set out in the introduction. My least favorite on the list, but it won on a technicality. It's also worthy of inclusion because it sort of forecasts the rise of ARGs, but I somehow neglected to mention that in my review.

I was genuinely unimpressed with Donnie Darko. I was genuinely blown away by Primer.

Oldboy should have been on there, in retrospect.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 10:14 AM on February 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


Primer sounds more and more interesting everytime I see it mentioned. Glad to see Videodrome on here. Put me right off TV for a few years.
posted by mwhybark at 10:17 AM on February 12, 2009


Personally, I like Cube very much. I think it has a lot to say and does so quite effectively

Could you mention what, exactly, it has to say? There are a lot of movies like "The Picnic at Hanging Rock" which are, in their own way, supposed to "say" something, but end up being a bit too obscure by half.

I remember making a list that contained movies like eXistenZ and Dark City. I classified them as "Identity Crisis Science Fiction Movies."
posted by deanc at 10:19 AM on February 12, 2009


I did get the impression that the list was a primer for those not quite ready for a full on bat country mindblowing.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:24 AM on February 12, 2009


Is he suffering from PTSD? Did he inhale some verboten chemical on the fields of war? Has he started traveling through time, Slaughterhouse-Five style? Or is he just plain nuts?

For a second, this and the post above it blurred together for me, and I thought this was a radical reinterpretation of Ernest Goes to Jail.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:25 AM on February 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


I find Primer works precisely because it is so "boring". this is actually the second time people have been talking about it recently in here -- and I stand by my statement that for me, the "sci-fi" movies that feature a lot of CGI and special effects and mood lighting and music serve only to remind me that "ah, but this is just a movie, see," but with Primer the very "boring-ness" came across almost as "whoa, this is, like, a documentary, almost. ...Wait, IS this real? Whoa, hang on..."

No, I'm not saying that I really thought itwas a documentary, only that its very subtlety let me suspend my disbelief further than it ever had done.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:25 AM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think my main objection to The Game is that its entire conceit is to have a structure of, "and then, there's a twist! ... and then another twist! ... but wait, that twist isn't what you thought it was, because here's a twist!" and so on, until it has any sufficiently jaded member of the audience drumming his fingers once he's realized that the movie is pretty much an implementation of a shtick and wondering whether the shtick will unwrap itself or whether it will continue in its shtick-ness for the sole purpose of leaving the more dull-witted members of the audience saying to themselves. "Whoah, that was, like, so deep."
posted by deanc at 10:26 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Ninth Configuration is a very solid entry in the genre.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 10:36 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is a fine list, Shadowkeeper.
posted by Mister_A at 10:38 AM on February 12, 2009


I saw The Spanish Prisoner in the theatre on acid. It was far out. Then again, so was the trailer for Polish Wedding.
posted by anazgnos at 10:44 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]




Hausu
, Japanese from 1977 , is..... mind melting.
posted by Liquidwolf at 10:49 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a very willing participant in suspension of disbelief, so I find it easy to get by some of the more practical criticisms in order to be taken in. I remember being out of sorts for about an hour after first seeing Existenz in the theater; I kept waiting for some random somebody to show up and do something fucked up. I thought Primer created an interesting mood (I haven't seen it in a while, but my recollection is that it had a lot do with the lighting and the soundtrack), but it struck me as the kind of thing meant to appeal to geek narcissism. Cube was a (possibly literal) bridge to nowhere. I thought The Game was fun in that it plays with your expectations of how far a Hollywood movie can push it and still have a Hollywood ending.

Did anybody else see Mail-Order Wife? I don't mention it to friends, because it might very well be not very good, so I don't want to overplay it, but at the same time I don't want to give it away for someone who hasn't seen it. Anyway, I took it on certain terms that merited later self-reproach.
posted by troybob at 11:01 AM on February 12, 2009


Congratulations, you defective yeti, the hivey mind of MetaFilter has written "Mindfuck Movies II: The Sequel" (or Son of, Bride of, Return of, This Time It's Personal, Electric Boogaloo or Contractual Obligation) for you without posting an AskMe question.
posted by wendell at 11:05 AM on February 12, 2009


I think an important question to ask is "what mindfuck?" In Cube the characters are clearly being tortured and mindfucked, but the movie itself is just a straightforward, linear depiction of events. Not a mindfuck of the viewer at all. It's interesting to watch, but not particularly a stretch.

Now many of the David Lynch movies, and Donnie Darko, and some others on this list, require more than suspension of disbelief. They require the viewer to take an active role in dissembling and reassembling the puzzle that is the movie. It's like a puzzle, but with no right answer. The shapes of the pieces change with every viewer's experiences, so nobody sees the same movie, and in fact, you can't watch the same movie twice. Thats' what I call a mindfuck movie.

A really good mindfuck movie is one that you want to see again and again so you can explore the various layers, and eventually have an "aha" experience, an epiphany. That realization may or may not be what the filmmakers intend, and the interpretation can be different from person to person, but no less real to anyone. Like schizophrenia, the delusions make perfectly good sense to the sufferer, and much of the frustration is that other people cannot see what is so obvious.
posted by Xoebe at 11:16 AM on February 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Liquid Sky anyone...anyone?
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:20 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I liked Oldboy, dunno if it was that hard to see coming though.
Audition on the other hand is a WTF? right up there with Jacob’s Ladder.
The Cube works. Matter of taste if one likes it or not really. But it does make a solid statement on the nature of less broad minded thinking and apathy vs. empathy. The whole my problem vs. your problem thing. One may or may not be responsible in the greater sense for one’s own actions and contributions to an evil organization (in this case an arbitrarially evil machine) but that doesn’t matter to whether it will torment and destroy you or not.
Some other related minor themes that riff on character. But that’s the general gist.
The idea and novelty of presentation were enough for me to like it and ignore the flaws.

Although Dante did the same thing in the Divine Comedy - the Inferno in particular. The genius of that is that he tells you beforehand (in each case actually, as well as purgatory and paradise) how the structure is related to the theme.
In Cube the structure is physical torture as well. And a distraction (as Dante says) in spectacle from the theme(s). And Virgil tells him not to pity the people he meets, but he does. And later he gets into the torture and roots for them to suffer. As viewers might do later in Cube (rooting for the bully to die). But again, the traps themselves are just spectacle.
Not that Cube matches that genius of course, just, y’know, similar in certain forms and it’s been done before. So it’s not just arbitary footage, there is a somewhat timeless statement there. Whether you like the movie or not. And without addressing whether the execution of it in Cube was worthwhile or not.


I’d like to do a Dada film. It’d consist of 15 minutes* of stock footage of giraffes cavorting except a shadowy figure in the background keeps coming into focus, just enough to seem ominous, then you pull back and see it’s a densely packed urban area, but the dark man appears, then suddenly, the audiance is projected on the screen via video and the house lights come up.

Then one of the exit doors opens and someone (it’s not the dark man) throws in a bunch of small pinapple shaped objects and yells “Granade!” Then the granades explode. And suddenly a herd of goats run through the isles and a marching band begins playing the Col. Bogey March and interfering with the paramedics trying to save people from bleeding to death.
Interview someone in the hospital after that, you want to talk about mindfucked.

*just long enough for the massive doses of mescaline in the popcorn, drinks and candy to take effect.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:25 AM on February 12, 2009


The problem with Oldboy is not the content, but how it's pitched. If your friends are gearing you up, talking about how screwed up the story is and how surprising the plot twist is, it's not too hard to put two and two together. If you choose to recommend Oldboy to your friends, just say it's this nifty Korean revenge drama. If you read this post and are planning to see Oldboy, I suggest you go out of your way to forget this post.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:33 AM on February 12, 2009


Jacob's Ladder manages to combine the genius of An Occurence At Owl Creek Bridge, the visuals of Francis Bacon, and the beautiful (and, for many people, alien) spiritual narrative of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

That's a pretty incredible and terrifying feat right there.
posted by billypilgrim at 11:50 AM on February 12, 2009


How about the original version of "The Vanishing"? I mean if by mindfuck we're talking about movies that 'trouble' you long after initial viewing then that one really needs to be up for inclusion.
Banality of evil, etc.
posted by Wrick at 11:57 AM on February 12, 2009


Interesting note about Jacob's Ladder: I had just watched it again a week or two ago, and did some digging. **SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE IN THE TWENTY YEARS SINCE IT CAME OUT!**




At the closing, when it indicates that most of what was going on was the extended delusory result of dosage with a weaponized hallucinogen referred to as BZ. The wrapup screen mentions that there were allegations of BZ actually being developed for use in Vietnam, and the Pentagon has denied any involvement. Well, twenty years is a long time for FOIA to dig up documents... it turns out BZ is the abbreviated name for 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, "an odorless military incapacitating agent. Its NATO code is BZ. The Iraqi incapacitating agent Agent 15 is believed either to be the same as or similar to BZ." Here is an interview with Dr. James Ketchum (Chief of Clinical Research at the Army Chemical Center at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, back in the late 60s) detailing exactly the sort of work that sprang from projects such as MK ULTRA during that period. Long story short: yes, we were doing exactly the sort of shit that Jacob's Ladder alleges.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:06 PM on February 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


How about The Offense?
posted by stinkycheese at 12:15 PM on February 12, 2009


let me just add my support to anyone above who name-checked cache.
posted by barrett caulk at 12:20 PM on February 12, 2009


I remember thinking that the last shot of Jacob's Ladder would be even more disconcerting if we heard a gun fire (with silencer attached) once the figure disappears at the top of the stairs. But it's been a long time since I've seen it so, you know, I could be completely off.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:21 PM on February 12, 2009


Legend Of The Overfiend. I saw that one 17 years ago and I'm still getting over it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:26 PM on February 12, 2009


I'd say it's a fine list, Shadowkeeper, and personally I always laugh a little bit in discussions of these things when people say stuff like, "Bullshit! How could he have forgotten [obscure Thai short-film from '72 that me and maybe two dozen other people have seen]? That's SO much better than [mainstream popular, legitimately worthwhile film]!

Not saying that popularity and quality are linked, of course. Not at all. I'm just saying that there's no direct relationship nor inverse relationship either. Something can be obscure because it was too outre to ever get a wide release, no matter how good it is. Something can be well-known because it is, in fact, exemplary despite not being standard popcorn fare.

Anyway, in defense of some of the films on this list (even the ones Shadowkeeper doesn't like that much...)

The Game: (SPOILER ALERT) To me, the secret of why this movie works so well for me came in some discussion Fincher had about Panic Room, where he said that he wanted to tell a very simple story in a very complicated manner, just as with The Game he told a very complicated story in a very straight-forward and simple manner. As far as I can tell (I haven't seen Zodiac) it's by far the least "showy" of Fincher's movies, but it's every bit as technical as the rest of them. It's just that here the technical elements are working on a sublimely subtle level. Rocksteady already mentioned the great, throwaway siren moment, but throughout the whole movie, every single shot and sound effect are designed to make you follow along experiencing things exactly as Michael Douglas's character does. Seeing the clown first in the reflection in the t.v., for instance, and not as a jumping shock, but rather as the reaction attuned to a man who knows something weird is coming, but doesn't know when or where. And then, perhaps mind-fuckingest of all to me, is the ending, not because of the twist, but because when you think about it even a little bit, the big party is all of his friends and colleagues who had all just spent the last however long time intentionally driving him to suicide, and were waiting to pop champagne once he actually did. That's messed up, to me, and gives the whole "happy" ending a feeling of intense disquiet.

Donnie Darko is just solid, in my humble opinion - the type of movie where I just kind of feel sorry for those who don't get into it. I guess what I like about it so much is how the twistedness of the plot - which almost, but not quite, defies sensible explanation - meshes up completely with the nostalgic feeling of being a teenager, and that the second is handled in an honest and accurate way instead of just filling the screen with wangst and hoping the result comes across as edgy. There's as much earned humor as there is teen melodrama, and often the two are one in the same. Also, Mary McDonnell gets to do more with her few scenes here than she even has in her entire run as Roslin on BSG. Just watch the "sparkle motion" clip, not for the now-famous title line, but for how McDonnell stay juuuuuuuussst on this side of outright mockery with the line, "And now, you can't go." The movie's full of shit like that.

And nobody's mentioning La Jetee, but hell, just go watch someLa Jetee.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:34 PM on February 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's not quite as mindfuck-y as most on the list but I agree with asok that El Laberinto del fauno / Pan's Labyrinth deserves mention.

(Also, here I am trying to remember the details of Cache having watched it several years ago...)
posted by Rhomboid at 1:10 PM on February 12, 2009


Re: 2001...
"Yes, it’s a meticulously crafted and imminently rational three-course meal of a film. For the first two hours, anyhow. And then, in the final 30 minutes, it serves up a steaming bowl of WTF for dessert."

Heh. Describes it perfectly. That said, it's one of my all-time favorites.
posted by slogger at 1:15 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


For better or worse, Jacob's Ladder is the only movie that's ever scared the shit out of me. Somehow he got imagery directly from my dreams and put it in a movie (minus the giant talking M&M's I'm terrified by when I have a fever).
I just tried to watch the clip from the article and couldn't make it through. I think I need to go out in the sun now.
posted by smartyboots at 1:17 PM on February 12, 2009


I'll go ahead and third Pan's Labyrinth as well, even if it doesn't quite seem like a "mindfuck" per se. Aside from how goddanm gorgeous the whole thing is, I just love the idea of taking the Pelle the Conqueror conceit (i.e. that horrible adult actions can be softened a bit if viewed indirectly through the inexperienced eyes of a child) and turning it completely on it's head by reminding us that for a child, these events are much more confusing and terrifying, and that what kids can come up with to fill in the blanks beats anything adults can think of right in the pants. Fucking amazing film.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:19 PM on February 12, 2009



Sorry, that should have been Drowning By Numbers

Drowning By Numbers has nothing on The Falls.
posted by juv3nal at 1:25 PM on February 12, 2009


I'll go ahead and third Pan's Labyrinth as well, even if it doesn't quite seem like a "mindfuck" per se.

Except for the scene with the bottle. In the midst of all the supernatural beauty and splendor, that was pretty mindfucktastic.
posted by quin at 1:31 PM on February 12, 2009


I'll second Liquid Sky, as I did in our previous post about weird movies (already mentioned).

And I'll add Brain Candy (Kids In The Hall) and The Monkeys psychedelic film Head. Them's some seriously bizarre shit, man.
posted by elendil71 at 1:48 PM on February 12, 2009


I'm going to second The Spanish Prisoner, and add another Steve Martin film, Novocaine. I don't think anyone's mentioned City of Lost Children or Delicatessen, and what about Costa Gavras' Missing? I also think, maybe, Scanners should be here. Probably, Pi too.
posted by anoirmarie at 1:51 PM on February 12, 2009


. Missing: Naked Lunch.... your brain won't forgive you for a long while.

You know, a lot of people's reaction to these movies is not, "my brain is melted and won't forgive me for what I put it through" but rather, "well, that was a waste of time." I think a lot of people find the appeal of a movie in the "look at the pretty pictures" aspect. For them, the experience of a movie is trying to absorb everything they've seen and make sense of it, while lots of people will simply get annoyed that the story didn't go anywhere: for the latter group, the images on the screen don't provoke any involuntary reactions that the brain demands to be made sense of.
posted by deanc at 1:53 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Could you mention what, exactly, [Cube] has to say?

Okay. We're in a place. We have no idea how we got here. Maybe whoever put us here has a plan for us; maybe not. The idea that there's a plan we don't know is frightening; the idea that maybe there isn't a plan, maybe no one's even watching, is even worse.

The only things we know for sure is that this place has many hazards, and there are other people here in the same position we're in. This place seems to have rules of its own, and if we work together and use our heads we can puzzle out what they are. What happens to you after you leave this place? Well, no one knows that for sure, either.

All we have here is each other. If we cooperate, if we help each other, we might survive.

The horror is not in any of the indifferent hazards. The horror is that we don't.

.... That's just the movie; we don't really live in that place. Our world is a sphere, not a cube. But besides that -- it's not much different.
posted by webmutant at 2:18 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


With all the Haneke love, I'm surprised no one mentioned Benny's Video. I'll admit it's not as out there as Funny Games or Cache, but it has its share of WTF.
posted by owtytrof at 2:24 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just to add my "Wait, why isn't X here?" comment: No one has mentioned Begotten yet. Some-a-time, the MetaFilter, she depress-a-me!
posted by Avelwood at 2:25 PM on February 12, 2009


Has he started traveling through time, Slaughterhouse-Five style? Or is he just plain nuts?

Aren't these the same thing?
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 2:32 PM on February 12, 2009


I was home, sick and feverish, when I watched Ciao! Manhattan, and I don't know how much of the mindfuck was the movie and how much was me, but I refuse to watch it again.

But I've been searching for a copy of a 1973 TV movie called A Cold Night's Death, any help would be verymuch appreciated.
posted by Restless Day at 2:32 PM on February 12, 2009


Jacob's Ladder was yet another movie we watched in American History that had only superficial relevance to the course (ostensibly, we were watching it to understand how the '80s came to grips with the legacy of Vietnam, but really, it was just so that our teacher could sob at her desk and answer any and all questions with, "Do you want a fucking test? I can give you a fucking test that lasts all hour!").
posted by klangklangston at 2:51 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


No one has mentioned Begotten yet

Whoa, good call. That's some messed up shit right there. I showed it once when I was VJing. The DJ asked me, very quietly,

"What was that you were playing?


Please don't do it again."
posted by louche mustachio at 3:17 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Stalker
posted by hellbient at 4:10 PM on February 12, 2009


Empress, I agree with your overall take on actual SF vs. "setting" SF in modern movies. There's no question in my mind that Primer is a more pure expression of SF than most of the movies that are set aboard spaceships or in the future or whatever.

I still didn't like it one little bit.
posted by hifiparasol at 4:10 PM on February 12, 2009


OK, Empress, I just re-read your comment and I see even more clearly where you're coming from. Certainly the fact that this movie could have taken place in the same neighborhood as say, Office Space lent it a credibility that could have made it a lot scarier.

I'll shut up now and stop being so negative
posted by hifiparasol at 4:15 PM on February 12, 2009


And it looks like Primer in fact did take place in the same neighborhood as Office Space (i.e. industrial office parks and housing tracts of Dallas.)
posted by Navelgazer at 4:22 PM on February 12, 2009


I didn't find Primer boring at all, I was totally sucked in to it within minutes. I didn't really get it the first time and ever after two more viewings I'm still a little hazy on the third act but I didn't find it even slightly boring. Even if you don't get the plot, the film looks great. I really what he did with color and lighting in that movie and he has some really interesting framing in there, I'd love to see what he can do with an actual budget if he ever makes another film.
posted by octothorpe at 4:48 PM on February 12, 2009


> Each has, at some point or another, been referred to as “that flick I watched while I was baked out of my mind.”

Oh, in that case add Good Burger and The Country Bears to my list.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:50 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


After my dad told me mullholland drive had the "hottest lesbo scene" he'd ever seen and it was "even better than porno" it sort of traumatized me from ever seeing it.
posted by lazlo_80 at 5:53 PM on February 12, 2009


For me, going back to Jacob's Ladder, it was a hell of a lot more freaky simply because I missed the opening scene, set in Vietnam, so I had no idea what had happened there or

Spoilers? For a movie this old?


that he'd been shot, setting up the idea that it was him dying throughout the film. When I got to the ending of the movie, I was kind of "huh, what?! He's been dying the whole time? fifteen years ago? huh!?

I'd argue that's not a bad way to watch the film for the first time.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:03 PM on February 12, 2009


Someone mentioned Audition upthread -- I would go further and recommend any of Takashi Miike's better (he's made a lot) movies, if you can stand the ultraviolence.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:15 PM on February 12, 2009


The problem with Oldboy is not the content, but how it's pitched. If your friends are gearing you up, talking about how screwed up the story is and how surprising the plot twist is, it's not too hard to put two and two together. If you choose to recommend Oldboy to your friends, just say it's this nifty Korean revenge drama.

My problem with all of Park Chan-wook's work is that, even from a viewpoint internal to Korean culture, the actions and decisions of his characters just don't make emotional sense. From outside, even less so, I think. They all seem like clumsy cardboard cutouts pushed around in order to clumsily make points about human nature that are kind of sophomoric in their insight to start with.

Which, given the genre domain of his movies, may not be such a bad thing, but the effusive praise his movies receive make me expect a little more.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:21 PM on February 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


What is it about Primer that was not to get? The guys discover a form of time travel and traipse through its paradoxes, and the film wraps it in enough obscurity and jargon to avoid explaining it and thus drawing criticism from science geeks likely to twitter from the theater during closing credits on how implausible it is.

It's entirely possible I'm not smart enough to really get it, though.
posted by troybob at 6:37 PM on February 12, 2009


...again, not to say I didn't admire aspects of the film...
posted by troybob at 6:39 PM on February 12, 2009


Time Bandits. Less twisty, sure, but I've watched the shit out of that thing. I was 8 the first time I saw it, and it colored my view of things ever since. It probably had a bigger impact on me than the Star Wars movies did. It's definitely one of my favorite movies.

And pretty much the whole Gilliam shebang. Maybe not Brothers Grimm, but it was still kinda cute. Tideland I hated until about a day or two after I watched it, then I realized that as ugly and unpleasant as it is, it's kinda sweet, too.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:27 PM on February 12, 2009


Unfortunately, they made a sequel. That was a mistake.

Don't forget the prequel!
posted by hambone at 8:08 PM on February 12, 2009


I Stand Alone.

Funny Games/Cache/Code Unknown

Session 9.

Peeping Tom.

Happiness.

That is all. Good night.
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:46 PM on February 12, 2009


...The Machinist.

That movie did take me out of my comfort zone. There are no pretty pictures or lesbian shit or aliens to get in the way, just messed up, boring, pedestrian psychoses and obsessions. Everything is only slightly implausible, but the horror noir background takes you deep into the headspace of crazy people, and makes you feel the astonishment->disbelief->incredulity->fury<>helplessness that victims of mental illness must go through. I loved it and still enjoy it after multiple watchings.
posted by saysthis at 10:08 PM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I see Gilliam mentioned here, so it's probably worth pointing out, in case anyone who cares doesn't know yet, that La Jetee was the inspiration for Twelve Monkeys.
posted by baf at 10:30 PM on February 12, 2009


Brazil! Cinematic Rape.

(SPOILER)
The first time I watched it I was with Sam the whole way. I audibly cheered when he finally got it on with Jill in his mothers apartment. Then was punched in the face when their tryst is interrupted.

(Side note: I LOVE his line when he sees Jill in the wig. "You don't exist anymore". She doesn't, shes gone from Dream Girl to real girl and he's about to be punished for it.)

I Didn't notice the shift in mood after Tuttle rescues him so I was cheering again when Jill rocked up out of nowhere and they drove off into the sunset.

The - the "proper" ending left me slack-jawed, stock-still and silent, subway 6-inch falling apart in my hands, for a good 15 minutes.

It took me days to get the Brazil tune out of my head.

I love headfuck movies.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 10:35 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is it about Primer that was not to get? The guys discover a form of time travel and traipse through its paradoxes, and the film wraps it in enough obscurity and jargon to avoid explaining it and thus drawing criticism from science geeks likely to twitter from the theater during closing credits on how implausible it is.

(spoilers)

First of all, claiming a time travel film is implausible on a technical level is kind of a cheap shot, since of course the method that the two guys use to build a time machine in their garage wouldn't work.

Up until the last twenty minutes or so, the film is very easy to understand. Two guys work on a project to build some kind of new technology, one guy figures out that it's a time machine, he tells the other guy and they use it to make money on the stock market.

But then everything starts to go wrong. We found out that their are multiple copies of most of the main characters, one of the time travelers reveals a secret fail safe time machine to go back and re-do everything, the time travel seems to have strange effects on people, etc. Although it never mentions it directly, it seems to be fairly clear that using the time machine somehow creates an alternate universe. With that in mind it's possible to somewhat map out what happened in parallel universes before and after the events shown in the film (such as this timeline).

What makes Primer unique is that it shows what happens in a parallel universe after the "main" time traveler uses the time machines to leave and go onto the next one. One of the doubles decides to make sure their original doubles never find out about time travel to begin with, and the other one starts work on a time machine the size of a building. While most time travel films focus on a specific set of events that form a relatively simple narrative, Primer points out how many odd possibilities would come out of such a simple scenario, which can serve as a kind of Pandora's Box message.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:38 AM on February 13, 2009


Thanks hambone, I didn't know about that. Where 'thanks' means 'I was better of not knowing that'. Sounds like it would be as good as Terminator 3, which is to say not very good at all.

deanc, my feelings about Cube are summed up by the words of Smedleyman and webmutant.
posted by asok at 8:28 AM on February 13, 2009


OK, burnmp3s, you've convinced me to re-evaluate it. Not that that's what you were necessarily trying to do, but there you are. Thanks. :)
posted by hifiparasol at 9:18 AM on February 13, 2009


Le Nèg: what the hell happened last night?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:19 PM on February 13, 2009


Now there's a shitload of movies I have to watch and a bunch I need to watch again.

Cheers, metafilter.
posted by saul wright at 5:19 AM on February 14, 2009


The Ninth Configuration is a very solid entry in the genre.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 10:36 AM on February 12 [1 favorite +] [!]


Beat me to it. "Solid entry" is an understatement...
posted by rleamon at 10:59 AM on February 14, 2009


Let me tell you all about the time that I stopped by a friends house as the kick off to a weekend of raving, and instead ended up watching a David Cronenberg marathon while on LSD and ketamine.

Actually, cancel that, I'm pretty sure I don't want to really think about it.

I'll just share one particular moment.

I had been setting on an easy chair for a few hours watching the movies, and kind of right in the middle of Existenz, the people that I had been waiting to show up so we could go to the club wandered in to the apartment, during the Chinese Restaurant scene, and one of them said to me, just as this sequence was starting, -- 'empath, it's time to go'. So I stood up, exactly at the same time the character in the movie stood up and said "Existenz is paused!". And it kind of echoed around in my head for a while, and I looked around and nobody was moving. It kind of freaked out for a little bit, and eventually I think I said, quietly, "Will somebody please move?"

Somebody did eventually, and we left, and good times were had. But seriously, I've never been able to watch a Cronenberg movie since then. In fact, I had a hard time even going through youtube looking for that clip again just now.

So, yeah, that's my #1 mindfuck movie of all time, but I don't know how much of that had to do with the movie.
posted by empath at 5:12 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


« Older Thought For The World is an alternative to the BBC...  |  An utterly bizarre Joaquin Pho... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments