In just a few more hours, 2020 will be in the books—and we’re guessing you’re not going to miss it. Actually, for the purposes of weird movie accounting, we put 2020 to bed last month. Our annual movie calendar ends on the last day of November, to allow 366 Weird Movies Yearbooks to go out in December. We’re not missing out on much; usually, December releases are limited to DC extended universe flops and Oscar bait dramas.
As always, there were hard cuts at the bottom of the top 10 list. Giles Edwards, in particular, fought tooth and claw for the inclusion of Cats; we had to give him a warm saucer of milk to calm him down. Lake Michigan Monster, the low, low-budget absurdist lakefaring comedy which arrived on Blu-ray in November, was endearing, but suffered from lack of exposure. The domestic horror satire Vivarium proved popular with our in-house voters, but just missed the cut. And of course, a couple of festival favorites bearing 2020 copyright dates—Labyrinth of Cinema, Nobuhiko Obayashi‘s epic final film, and #Shakespeare’s Shistorm, which may wind up being Lloyd Kaufman‘s gross-out swan song—haven’t been distributed yet and will have to wait until a future year for consideration.
I personally finalize this list. The staff here has input, but I set the voting rules, create the universe of candidates, and break all ties. Therefore, if you feel that it’s a crime that In Fabric comes in at a lousy #10 instead of the #7 any idiot can see it so obviously deserves, I am the idiot to blame. When ranking, I use 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 shuffle them into whatever arbitrary order I momentarily feel like without regard to any of that. As always, films are listed in random order—the weirdest of orders.
So, on to the official Weirdest Movies of 2020 List! May each successive year grow stranger and more challenging than the next… except in regard to deadly, super-infectious viruses. Screw those guys.
3. Deerskin: A middle-aged man (Jean Dujardin) becomes obsessed with his new deerskin jacket while posing as an independent filmmaker. Quentin Dupieux returns after a four-year hiatus with a new movie about movies (and jackets). Considering the manic maximalism of his last major outing—2014’s Reality, which seemed like it had about fifteen interweaving subplots in a dreams-inside-of-dreams structure—Deerskin is relatively restrained, focused on only two major characters and a single absurd conceit. Perhaps he’s calming down as he himself reaches middle age? At any rate, the mad Frenchman is already at it again, with his giant fly comedy Mandibles already making the rounds and Incroyable mais vrai [Incredible but True] currently filming.
8. She Dies Tomorrow: Amy ( Kate Lyn Sheil) is convinced that she will die tomorrow. If I were to assign a genre to She Dies Tomorrow, it would be “macabre drama.” Writer/director Amy Seimetz takes a simple irrational conceit—what if we were inalterably convinced that we would die tomorrow?—then it fully explores the dramatic ramifications. Also #7 on our mainstream top ten list.
1. The Wolf House: Experimental stop motion animation from Chile, telling the dark fairy tale story of a girl who flees a cult, finds an abandoned house in the woods, and raises two piglets as her children. Giles Edwards said co-creators “Cociña and León hand-assemble, hand-craft, and hand-paint a dark fairy tale amalgam that itself masks a far darker period in history.” As our official Weirdest Movie of 2020 (and Yearbook cover film), it automatically qualifies for Apocryphally Weird status, but it’s not just for weirdophiles; The Wolf House also placed #1 on our overall 2020 top 10 list and is appearing on many critics groups “best animated films” lists.
7. Chained for Life: A Herzogian director has gathered “freaks” together to make a movie; behind the scenes a beautiful actress (Jess Weixler) gets to know her co-star, Rosenthal (Adam Pearson), whose face is disfigured by neurofibromatosis. “Made as a rejoinder to the infamous Freaks (1932),” Giles Edwards explains, “Aaron Schimberg’s movie is non-exploitative, clever, funny, and professional.” We also interviewed writer/director Schimberg about the piece. A very late 2019 release that we reviewed then, but categorize as 2020 since it came out too late to make last year’s list.
9. We Are Little Zombies: After meeting at a funeral parlor, four emotionless, orphaned Japanese children run away and form a pop band. This movie bursts with energy and ideas that vibrantly contrast with the enervated performances of its living dead heroes. Little Zombies did even better on our mainstream top 10 list, where it came in at #6.
6. VHYes: We see the results when 12-year-old Ralph tapes late night 1987 cable television shows, and his own adolescent antics, over his parent’s old wedding tape. A breezy compendium of skewed nostalgia, the Groove Tube-style fragments are sometimes hilarious, sometimes weird, and, unexpectedly, sometimes touching. VHYes is a “little” film, but in the best sense: short, punchy, homemade, thoughtful in its unassuming way, and—like the ongoing saga of Hot Winter, an ecologically-aware 80s porno with the lesbian orgies edited out—innocent at heart.
10. In Fabric: What appear to be a coven of witches working at an upscale department store sell a cursed dress to a divorcee about to re-enter the dating scene; the “artery red” frock later passes to a washing machine repairman. Although most of the staff bought into In Fabric‘s stylish, schizophrenic surrealism, original reviewer Giles Edwards was a skeptic, deeming the whole “ill-fitting.” This was another 2019 film that arrived in theaters so late it made it onto our 2020 list instead.
5. The Twentieth Century: A surreal comedy about the rise of Canadian Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King, who clubs seals, sniffs boots, and deals with an ejaculating cactus on the way to fulfilling his mother’s prophecy that he will become Prime Minister of Canada. Giles fretted that The Twentieth Century was “drawing too much attention to the oddities instead of letting them play on the fringes,” but crowed that it “succeeds brilliantly in being funny, however, and that’s something to actually crow aboot.” I responded simply “The Twentieth Century has an ejaculating cactus. That should automatically make it a candidate as one of the weirdest films of all time.” We both agree it’s well worth your time.
4. I’m Thinking of Ending Things: A young woman goes on a trip to meet her new boyfriend’s parents at their farmhouse as a blizzard is brewing; the night grows increasingly unsettling as it becomes unclear what is real and what is imaginary. Charlie Kaufman directs a stellar cast (Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, and David Thewlis) in his latest mindbender. Another film that actually did better on our “mainstream” list, where it nabbed the #2 spot.
2. Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway: In his original review, Giles Edwards was so overwhelmed by Jesus that he could not come up with a coherent plot synopsis to capture its mix of CIA shenanigans, virtual reality, Cold War maneuverings, anachronistic computer technology, pizza cooking, Batfro, and Jesus. He did land an interview with writer/director Miguel Llansó, however, which may have cleared up a little of the confusion. A very, very weird movie, which I thought was astoundingly original enough to be worthy of the #3 position on my list of the best films of 2020.
4 thoughts on “TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2020”
I strongly feel that the final third of “In Fabric”, which tells the tale of a washing-machine technician’s encounter with the dress, should slip into the top five. The opening (dominant) narrative is very good, and well sets up the world the haunted dress inhabits, but it’s only as weird as the all-too-intermittent encounters at the freaky department store.
(As for “Cats”, I still maintain that in real life I encounter elements found in that movie less frequently than any of the others–except maybe “Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway”.)
As always, a great list and I’ve already watched Black Bear from the previous entry. The movie-within-a-move isn’t an original premise but it’s really well done. And kudos to Aubrey Plaza who chooses a lot of off kilter roles and Black Bear is no exception. Thanks to 366 Weird Movies for another year. I’ve turned so many people on to this site I’m gonna start charging a commission:)
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