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World Turns Upside Down: a Top 10 Weird Movies
by Luke Short

You know that feeling when you're in the middle of a great movie, and then all of a sudden the whole world turns upside down? Or when you stick in that flick that everyone's been raving about, and 20 minutes in, you're still enjoying it... but you have no idea at all what's actually going on? Well, I've worked hard at this list... I've limited myself to just one movie per director
(well let's be fair, otherwise you could have renamed this list 'A Top Ten David Lynch Movies'). There are a few notable absences, so sorry for the lack of: Prospero's Books, Requiem For A Dream, Cul-de-sac, Eraserhead, Altered States, Brazil, A Clockwork Orange, Delicatessen, Gothic, Heavenly Creatures, If..., Dark City, The Trial... Okay, I'll stop, but just to say this list (in reverse order) has been thought about!

eXistenZ director: David Cronenberg
Cronenberg... A master of the weird... eXistenZ is a real oddball of a movie, set in the not too distant future, and is centred on the release of a new game console. It takes another look at the whole Virtual Reality idea. There are elements in this movie that were arguably stolen from The Matrix, but Cronenberg always manages to make things that little bit darker, weirder, a little disgusting. The two leads (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law) are both sublime in this movie, there's a real energy between them and, even when the story really starts to lose the plot, when things start shooting off at tangents and you can't see any way this movie's gonna resolve itself, well, you take one look at Ted Pikul (Law), and you realise he's as scared about where this is going as you are.
   Weirdest moment: Ted involuntarily tucks into his plate of grotesque looking food, sucking slime from the carcasses of mutated animals. Chomping away, disgusted, but unable to stop, and gradually fitting the leftover bones together to create a... Nah, no spoilers here, just go watch the movie!

City Of Lost Children directors: Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Stolen dreams, kidnapped kids, midgets, narcolepsy, a circus strongman, cyborgs, Siamese twins and killer-fleas - this has all the makings of a full-on acid trip. This movie turns left, right and around in circles. The plot's a little hard to follow at times, but when confronted with some of the visual delights this movie offers up it all seems worthwhile. It combines the dark evil presence of Rosemary's Baby, with the overwhelming love and goodwill of Amélie. Having seen their earlier work, Delicatessen, I was expecting much of the same. Yes, it is still as weird, if not more so, but it also seemed a lot more complete to me. 'One' the strongman (Ron Perlman) is a fine performance. He comes across as slow, yet gentle, and merely ambles his way through this complex fairytale/nightmare (you choose). Though for my money, the star is Daniel Emilfork, as mad scientist Krank, with the bizarre ageing disorder for which his only relief is to feed on the dreams of young children.
   Weirdest moment: to be honest, there is no single moment... it's just a bloody weird movie.

Repulsion director: Roman Polanski
Along with Carrie, this is one of my all-time favourite horror flicks. It manages to do so much with so little. Carol (played by Catherine Deneuve) is a gorgeous, captivating yet somewhat disturbing young girl, home alone whilst her sister runs off on holiday with her fianc´┐Ż. Left with nothing but her fears and paranoia for company, she begins to crack. I always get the feeling that there's something in this movie that I can't touch. It's saying something, but I just can't grasp it. It's set in a seedy claustrophobic apartment, and tinged with a real uneasiness. I've found it compulsive watching every time. The use of sound, or rather the lack of it in places, is very unnerving. The cinematography is outstanding, and takes those Hitchcock angles, and twists them a few steps further. Definitely one to watch alone!
   Weirdest moment: the near silent rape scenes, or the constant reminders of how the decaying rabbit is doing throughout the movie.

Memento director: Christopher Nolan
This one really took me by surprise. I still feel it owes a lot to Fight Club but, that aside, it's a great idea for a movie. Guy Pearce plays Leonard, a man with no short-term memory. His goal is to find the man that raped and murdered his wife. He holds himself together by keeping notes, Polaroid snaps, and for the facts... tattoos. Waking every morning, not knowing where he is, and only discovering his objective when he confronts himself in the mirror, and reads the story of his life from his own body. It's a head-trip of a movie, and seems to almost run backwards. If you can, rent it or buy it on DVD, as there's a special version of the film that's been re-arranged into chronological order.
   Weirdest moment: the final scenes of the film, where everything reaches a new level of clarity.

Jacob's Ladder director: Adrian Lyne
You're taken into the world of Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins), a man on the edge of sanity. Just a regular Joe to begin with, but then things start getting strange with flashbacks to Vietnam, old loves, and his deceased son, along with strange creatures that seem to be lurking in the corners. You just catch the glimpse of a tail, as it hides itself under someone's trenchcoat then, without warning, you're pulled into a nightmare world that's not been topped many times since. A very frightening journey all in all, one of those where you can feel the panic as Jacob realises that he's really losing touch with reality.
   Weirdest moment: Jacob finds himself strapped to a operating table, and being wheeled through some kind of neglected, blood soaked hospital by facially deformed, nightmarish creatures.

After Hours director: Martin Scorsese
People say Scorsese, and you think Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Bringing Out The Dead... maybe even Kundun, but quite where After Hours came from, I don't know. It's not your average Scorsese fare by a long shot. The story centres on Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) who meets a girl, gets her number, and heads over to her place for a date. At this point, everything in his world turns pear shaped. It's one of those movies playing on the 'just when you think things couldn't get worse...' idea. It moves effortlessly from one bizarre character to another, all completely over the top, and the feelings of claustrophobia and paranoia that are welling up in Hackett become more and more extreme as the movie rolls on. It's a film where you really feel like it's you stuck in this intense world of black comedy and quirky characters. It'll have you giggling away like a loon.
   Weirdest moment: more a weird character - the, then unknown, Linda Fiorentino (Men In Black, Dogma) plays Kiki Bridges, a slightly mental sculptress. She's odd to say the least, and years after seeing the movie, Kiki and her sculptures will be the bits that stick the longest.

Dark Star director: John Carpenter
I remember my dad showed me this when I was a little kid. All in all, it's downright bloody strange. On seeing it again years later, it still sits there as possibly the most oddball sci-fi comedy I've ever seen. The huge beachball alien is just one of those images that scorches itself into your psyche, and refuses to ever leave. It's a very low-budget affair, which I think adds to the feel of the spaceship. There's a real magic to the writing, but that's what you'd expect when you're combining the genius of Dan O'Bannon and John Carpenter - two gods of the sci-fi genre. The script is sharp, and just about as black as a black comedy can get. At times you think that it might have just overstepped the mark, and gone that little bit too far, but then those little touches of extreme strangeness seem to sit in nicely with the rest of the film. There are few low-budget movies around that are quite this slick. The conversation with the sentient bomb, hell bent on detonating is fantastic!
   Weirdest moment: the entire movie is a bit of a freak show, but the full-on weird and scary moment has to be when the alien takes on one of the crew, and manages to trap him in an elevator shaft. Kinda creepy.

Fight Club director: David Fincher
I really didn't like Fincher's Se7en all that much, and held off for ages on seeing Fight Club. My reason? I really don't fancy watching Brad Pitt flexing his muscles and beating people up. God, how wrong was I! I've always thought the name crippled the film, but then maybe that's really what makes it! You enter the movie, thinking that you know what you're going to get. And, to begin with, things seem to be going along just as you'd expect. Then things get strange. The relationship between the three leads (Brad Pitt, Ed Norton and Helena Bonham Carter) is electric. I've seen it maybe 20 times now, and I've enjoyed it more each time round. To explain the plot would kill the film. Go into this one knowing nothing. It's a rollercoaster, it builds for the first half hour to an hour, then it lets rip - and you're on the shoulder of Ed Norton as he find his whole existence begin to crumble and reform around him. It's fantastic, ingenious, and a completely different movie the second time round!
   Weirdest moment: okay, so it's not that weird, but its weirdest moment is so intense, that you can feel your brain really straining to rework the entire movie when it hits it. When Norton has his moment of realisation, the film really opens up the throttle.

Pi director: Darren Aronofsky
I was scouring the video shop a couple years back, there was nothing interesting about, nothing that really grabbed me - then I hit upon Pi - a black box with the 'Pi' symbol and the tagline 'Faith in chaos'. I was sold. I never read the back, just rented it and experienced the psychosis for myself. It's from the same director as Requiem For A Dream, and has a lot of the same feel to it, only on a much cheaper budget. The whole film is shot in a very bleached out black and white. At times, it's hard to tell what's going on, the plot can get a little confusing in places, but it all comes together beautifully. The soundtrack, as with Requiem, stands out a mile, and is so intense, yet fits in with the movie to perfection. It's a story of mathematical equations. Maximillian Cohen (Sean Gullette) is on a crusade to find the 216-digit number that holds the answer to everything. It's a number that will enable him to decipher what was once passed off as chaos, and to make logic, and be able to accurately predict the past, present and future. It really twists you up in knots, this one, but I'll bet you hit the rewind button, then play it over again once you've finished it.
   Weirdest moment: the moment everything becomes clear, and the moment after, when it becomes too much too handle.

Lost Highway director: David Lynch
Lynch is, without a doubt, the most compelling, oddball, fucked-up writer and director I've ever happened across. I've been following his career for years now, and it was really tricky to narrow it down to one movie. But this one is just 100 percent genius. It'll have you lost from the opening scene till the closing credits. Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) and wife Renee (Patricia Arquette) start receiving intensely disturbing videotapes through the mail - grainy shots of the couple lying in bed, taken from within their house. This leads on via much weirdness to another video shot of Pullman having seemingly just committed a crime. He's then arrested and carted off to jail. Whilst in the cell, he somehow transforms into Balthazar Getty and, on seeing this, the guards decide to let him free. Getty turns out to be a skilled mechanic, working in an auto shop owned by Richard Prior... I could go on, but it'd really not get any clearer.
   Lost Highway is literally one of the darkest movies I've ever seen. Almost every scene has you adjusting the brightness to make sure your TV's not faulty. It's got enough symbolism and subplots to keep you locked up in a nice cosy padded cell for a year. At times it's terrifying, at others it's confusing, but it's always Lynch. If you made your way through Twin Peaks and managed to survive Eraserhead, if you've lurked in the closet through Blue Velvet and have just returned home from watching Mulholland Dr... then this is your final challenge.
   Weirdest moment: the conversation with the strange man at the party. He insists to Pullman that he's in his house, at the very same moment that he's talking to him. He then gets Pullman to phone home, whereupon the strange man answers the phone.

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