2017 saw a decrease in the number of truly great weird films released. Maybe it was because the year’s political climate was so bizarre that no surrealist could outweird reality: what screenwriter could come up with a character as absurd as “the Mooch“? Whatever the reason, we only saw two 2017 releases (so far, at least) attain the coveted “Certified Weird” status, versus five laureates in 2016. On the other hand, it was an excellent year for re-releases, with the Oedipal transvestites of Funeral Parade of Roses once again tramping across arthouse screens, and ‘s chicken-centric giallo Death Laid an Egg getting a clucking good restoration and subsequent Blu-ray debut. And any year which sees new films from a particularly fervid , a relatively restrained , and a steadily strange Yorgos Lanthimos can be called a loser—and that’s not even mentioning return to the small screen with the absolutely bizarre “Twin Peaks: The Return.” So let’s pay tribute to the weirdness of 2017 past: the eel transfusions, killer mermaid musicals, and rectum-faced women that strangened our screens, while we look forward to the oddness certain to come in this weird year of our Lord 2018.
As for the choice of movies, as always, I personally pick them using a secret proprietary formula that accounts for cinematic craftsmanship, the degree of surrealism/weirdness, and the perceived prestige in the weird movie community based on buzz and reader feedback, then I rank them in whatever arbitrary order I momentarily feel like without regard to any of that. As always, we list the films in random order—the weirdest of orders.
7. Slack Bay – Unexplained disappearances plague a seaside resort frequented by an odd bourgeois family. Slack Bay finds writer/director carrying over a number of themes and tropes from his hit television miniseries Lil’ Quinquin: the resort setting, bumbling gendarmes, and a mixture of absurdist comedy and dark metaphysical mystery. Our mused “The film goes all in on the oddness, contrasting over-the-top dramatics with an aggressively blasé attitude toward the more salacious elements of its story. Writer/director Bruno Dumont wants very badly to put you off your guard, mixing in livewire topics like cannibalism, incest, and gender confusion with characters who are carefully calculated to be ridiculous.”
1. The Lure [Córki Dancingu] – Certified weird! We’ve been waiting for two years for ‘s 2015 Polish debut The Lure to finally officially make it to America’s shores, which it did with a vengeance in 2017 (earning both a theatrical and a release). puts it as simply as possible: “if you aren’t completely entranced by a lush, synth-driven musical about killer mermaids, then I don’t know how to help you.”
6. Endless Poetry – The second installment of bizarre film legend ‘s biographical project that began with 2013’s The Dance of Reality, Poetry focuses on the Chilean polymath’s immersion in bohemian circles in 1950s Santiago. writes that “While representing some of the most accessible and straightforward storytelling that the author has ever conjured, Endless Poetry is still very distinctively a vision from Jodorowsky, a result of his passionate and eccentric sensibility full of personal symbolism and mystical allusions, bizarre occurrences, and self-aware theatricality.” Every Jodorowsky movie is an event. Next up: Jodorowosky goes to Paris to become a bold Surrealist.
4. The Killing of a Sacred Deer – A cardiologist’s odd relationship with a teenage boy reveals a secret about his past, and will lead him to a terrible dilemma in the future. Again collaborating with male lead , two-time Certified Weird director Yorgos Lanthimos‘ first official stab at a horror movie is every bit as disturbing as you might hope—which is to say, every bit as disturbing as his comedies and dramas.
9. The Bad Batch – ‘s followup to her celebrated “Iranian vampire western” A Girl Walks Home at Night went in a completely unexpected direction: a movie about a dystopian future populated by redneck cannibals. signed up, but critics and audiences were baffled. But Amirpour impressed 366’s , who raved, “its eccentricities and meaty characters leave us with something fresh and delicious to chew on.”
10. We Are the Flesh – A teenage brother and sister wandering a post-apocalyptic world find their way to the lair of a hermit, who seduces them into acting out increasingly depraved, increasingly hallucinatory scenarios. With its explicit sex and psychological sadism, this Mexican provocation is not for the timid—it’s a bit much even for us. Though not exactly deep or transcendent, it’s noteworthy for its visuals and its rare, poetic praise of perversion that goes “all the way.”
3. mother! – Certified weird! A poet with writer’s block and his younger wife live alone in a remote house until their domestic tranquility is interrupted by an ever-increasing number of guests, leading to a surreal, apocalyptic finale. Like most of ‘s ambitious efforts, it’s ragged and indeed a bit pretentious, but ultimately thought-provoking and rewarding in its audacity. Jennifer Lawrence deserves credit for taking on such a dangerous role, which makes Natalie Portman‘s turn in Black Swan seem relatively sane and reserved.
5. A Cure for Wellness – A young executive ( ) goes to a remote spa planning to recover his company’s CEO, who appears to have gone insane and joined a “wellness” cult; circumstances lead him to become a patient as he investigates the place and learns its dark secrets. creates powerful imagery with nightmarish eels and a cringeworthy scene of dental torture. The knock on the movie is that it can’t decide if it wants to be a psychological thriller, a black-hearted satire, a surrealist dream-film, or a straight-up horror movie, resulting in it being none of the above.
8. Buster’s Mal Heart – Three iterations of Buster: in one, he’s a mountain man living off-the-grid, breaking into people’s vacation homes. In another, he’s adrift at sea in a rowboat. In a third, he’s a night-shift hotel clerk. All these Buster’s are concerned about the coming “Inversion,” as described by a prophet calling himself “the Last Free Man.” Alex Kittle explains that it’s “an exercise in nonlinear, enigmatic storytelling. Each scene is a flashback, a flash forward, or a flash-sideways, with seeming revelations about the protagonist often resulting in more questions, wrong turns, or dead ends.” Weird.
2. Skins [Pieles] – The lives of a reluctant pedophile, an eyeless prostitute, a wannabe amputee, a pregnant dwarf actress, a burn victim, a rectum-faced girl, and other people deformed both inside and out intersect in this grotesque black comedy. Safe to say you have never seen anything quite like this before; often unpleasant, but the intricate plotting, aggressive stylization, all-pink palette, and oscillation of cruelty and compassion make this more than just a freak show. Now buried in the bowels of Netflix, where it stuns and disgusts unsuspecting browsers, it was a big deal in its native Spain. Eduardo Casanova’s audacious debut film deserves to be better known elsewhere.