In just a few more hours, 2019 will be in the books. Actually, for the purposes of weird movie monitoring, we put 2019 to bed last month; from now on we’ll be ending our personal movie calendar on the last day of November, to allow our future 366 Weird Movies Yearbooks to go out in December. We’re not missing out on much; usually, December releases are limited to Star Wars sequels and Oscar bait dramas. (Although we do regret not being able to fit the animated severed hand romance I Lost My Body into 2019, a review will keep until early 2020. And, of course, we regret not considering December’s Cats, the Andrew Lloyd Webber adaptation that divided the furry community).
As always, there were hard cuts at the bottom of the top 10 list. After all, 2019 saw Between Worlds. And speaking of speaking with the dead, who can forget Holy Trinity, about a dominatrix who develops necromantic abilities after huffing cans of new age air freshener? Well, you can’t forget what you never saw, and that one, along with Alien Crystal Palace, the French sex film that casts the Egyptian god Horus as a mad scientist, and Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway, wherein the messiah and an Ethiopian President/superhero figure into a social media virus plot, have so far proven too weird to be picked up by distributors. Maybe 2020 will bring these gems to wider audiences.and (as the homeless guy Wiseau bef(r)iends) renew their onscreen chemistry in the sprawling two-part epic Best F(r)iends. gave us another gonzo performance as a truck driver whose dead wife’s spirit possesses the body of his new girlfriend’s hot jailbait daughter in
As for the choice of movies: 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. (This year, I actually solicited second opinions for each of the nominees, but I’ll still take all the blame if you want to complain that The Forest of Love should have been the fifth weirdest film of the year, not the sixth). As always, films are listed in random order—the weirdest of orders.
So, on to the official Weirdest Movies of 2019 List! May each successive year grow stranger and more challenging than the next…
7. Diamantino: A right-wing political party tricks a simpleminded, empathetic Portuguese soccer star into becoming its spokesman. With visions of puppies, an adopted refugee who’s actually a government spy, and hermaphroditic side effects of a cloning project, this political satire gets pretty wild by the final act. As explains, “[t]he film’s delightfully crazy sense of humor and surreally satirized reality, contrasted with the sincerity with which it treats its main character, makes for a definite achievement.”
1. Under the Silver Lake: A Los Angeles slacker becomes obsessed with the disappearance of his hot blonde neighbor; his investigations uncover increasingly bizarre conspiracies involving a serial dog murderer, hidden messages in songs by the hip new band “Jesus and the Brides of Dracula,” and secret death cults. “The narrative starts at ‘odd’ and stacks on odder and odder,” explains Giles Edwards. Also #9 on our top 10 mainstream movie list. Our official Weirdest Movie of 2019, which automatically qualifies it for Apocryphally Weird status! (I.e., it would have made the official list of 366 had it been released in time).
8. Umbilical World: A remixed collection of David Firth’s absurdist flash animation cartoons, like “Salad Fingers” and “Health Reminder,” assembled into a stream-of-consciousness feature with some new material. The art is upgraded, but this assembly goes darker than his popular YouTube infomercial spoofs, going from black comedy into nihilistic animation that plays out “like a collaboration between between , , and a serial killer.” Released straight to DVD and VOD at the very beginning of 2019.
9. Luz: A doctor meets a woman in a bar who tells him about her friend, the taxi driver Luz; the scenario that develops involves possession, hypnotic regression, and an occult ritual. Short (only 70 minutes long) yet (deliberately) hard to follow; if you can sort through the fog, it’s a worthwhile lesson on how to make an intriguing fantastic film with almost no money. Giles sez Luz is a “tightly packed little nightmare bursts at the seams with dark visions, psychological overlaps, and camera work that stays on the deeply menacing side of surreal.”
4. Climax: A modern dance troupe goes crazy when someone spikes their sangria with a heavy dose of LSD. I’m becoming convinced Gaspar Noe has no idea what he wants to say, but knows exactly how he wants to say it; this bad trip is equal parts pointlessness and wicked fun. Literal drug trip movies don’t come along very often, but ones that focus on the peculiar psychology of hallucinogens rather than simplistic psychedelic visuals are even rarer.
10. Possum: A loner with a perpetual frown skulks around like a sex offender trying to dispose of his demonic spider puppet, which returns to his room every morning. Many people will think this is too slow and uneventful—essentially the same scenario repeats, with hallucinatory variations, for the first hour—but it has a real creepiness to it, and gives you an icy feeling like you’ve spent time living inside a genuine madman’s skull. “Little Possum, black as sin…”
5. Greener Grass: Soccer mom Jill has a perfect suburban life, until one day she gives her baby away to a friend out of politeness, then decides wants her back when her other child turns into a dog. A lot of this suburban satire plays like it was the last sketch cut from an SNL episode for being too experimental and peculiar. “Piles the golf carts, dental perfection, tight-femme-mom-chic pinks, and non-sequitur Valley Girl dialogue high on a teetering mound of absurdity, satire, comedy, and dystopia,” effused Giles Edwards. Expanded from a 15-minute short that you can watch here.
6. The Forest of Love: A group of young filmmakers make a movie about a con-man they suspect of being a serial killer, but he turns the tables on them when he offers to produce the film, then turns the crew into a sadomasochistic cult of killers. ‘s latest is full of references to other Sion Sono movies; it’s a masturbatory, obscene, ugly, beautiful, and fascinating ordeal. It’s also exclusive to Netflix, which unfortunately limits its exposure.
3. Koko-di, Koko-da: Camping in the woods four years after the tragic death of their daughter, a squabbling couple finds themselves repeatedly killed by three fairy-tale psychopaths. As a horror metaphor for the treadmill of grief, it’s cruel and obvious, but it still retains a significant degree of mystery, and even a ray of hope. “For those of you who click with this bad dream, there is the reward of intoxicating relief and exhilaration,” Giles Edwards wrote immediately after seeing it at the Fantasia Festival. This one made our list despite not getting a 2019 theatrical release; it debuted at Sundance and played other festivals during the year, but a planned November release was pushed back to 2020. Look for it. We also have a short interview with director Johannes Nyholm.
2. The Lighthouse: Ephraim Winslow attempts to escape his past and earn good money tending a remote lighthouse for a month under ex-sea captain Thomas Wake; things get desperate when they are not relieved on schedule. “Right after it ended, a viewer queried loudly, ‘What the fuck was that?’ I have to admit that that is a fair question,” relates Giles Edwards. Also at #3 (or 2B) on our top 10 mainstream movie list.