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The Bad Vibes Movie List
Let's talk about a bad time
While I know it’s not for everyone, sometimes there’s nothing better than firing up a movie that you know is gonna make you feel like complete shit when you’re done with it. As often discussed here, I like when a movie makes me feel things, even if that thing is “like a real piece of garbage” or “I will never feel happiness again.”
As we charge headlong into October and Halloween, I wanted to serve up a little appetizer to our annual scary movie recommendation list. A horror amuse bouche, if you will. Some of these movies are definitely horror movies, but I wouldn’t say all of them necessarily are. The have one main thing in common, which is the vibes coming off them are all putrid. A certified Bad Time.™️
I have watched and enjoyed(?) the movies on this list, but I don’t know if I necessarily recommend them. If you’re somebody who enjoys the bad vibe wave then you might be familiar with some of these movies. If you’re bad vibe curious, I really encourage you to check out some of these movies and really sit in the human condition and figure out who you are as a person. If you’re not interested in any of these movies, you’re probably honestly making the right choice.
I always want to treat the people that I’m writing for like the adults they are who can make their own decisions, but I will note that most, if not all, of these movies contain sequences that are very upsetting or the movie is just upsetting in general. I happen to enjoy that kind of thing (in small doses) but if you’re someone who is easily perturbed or has delicate sensibilities, do a little gut check with yourself. That said, I think movies like this are a great way to test your fortitude and get outside personal comfort zone for 90 minutes - 2 hours or so. It’s always good to challenge yourself.
Now, let’s have a bad time.
Where To Watch: MAX, Hulu
Vibe Check: Jake Gyllenhaal is so good at playing an insane guy and he’s at his bug-eyed best in this one. If you haven’t seen it, NIGHTCRAWLER follows Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal), a freelance videographer who begins going out at night, capturing violent footage in Los Angeles and selling it to local news stations. The more he captures, the more gruesome the footage he needs, forever seeking the money shot.
Bloom is a true sociopath and watching Gyllenhaal’s downward spiral is a trip. Riz Ahmed is also in this movie and plays Gyllenhaal’s unfortunate assistant who starts going out on his late night trips with him, which alters his life in awful ways. The last 20 minutes of this movie are an insane watch. Maybe one of the more enjoyable films on this list by all metrics but still not an easy hang.
Movie: The Vanishing (Spoorloos) (The 1988 Version)
Where To Watch: Rent wherever you rent (Prime, Apple)
Vibe Check: Absolutely atrocious vibes on this one, just really miserable stuff. Like a lot of people, I saw this movie for the first time in college when I was seeking out films that weren’t made in America and trying to expand my cinematic palate. It has stuck with me ever since. I’ve only revisited it a couple of times since, but each time it’s a little thrill because it really gets into the pit of your stomach.
I don’t want to give too much away about this one because there is something special about seeing it for the first time. A quick overview: a guy is on a summer roadtrip with his girlfriend. They stop at a gas station and she goes in to use the bathroom or buy a drink or something and doesn’t come back, just straight up vanishes. The guy spends the next 3 years trying to figure out what happened to her. Then he finds out.
The last scene of this movie is kind of famous, so you might have seen it out of context but it’s also a Sickos™️ movie, so you might have missed it. Even if you know how it ends, the lead up to it makes it worthwhile. If you haven’t seen the ending, hooo baby you are in for an (extremely fucked up) treat.
I think this movie is really interesting for a few reasons. It has, quite literally, a punishing ending. The desire for answers is the protagonist’s (and ultimately your) downfall. What it says about the thin line between impulse and action is truly haunting stuff. I think it’s absolutely worth watching, but it might be one of those “once is enough” movies.
Movie: The Killing of A Sacred Deer
Where To Watch: Hulu, Prime, Paramount+
Vibe Check: You could honestly pick any Yorgos Lanthimos film and it could fit on this list somehow (looking at you, DOGTOOTH!!!) but I’m choosing THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER because it’s got some truly crushing vibes and also an insanely stacked cast.
Longtime readers will know that I am a card carrying member of the Barry Keoghan Hive and this was the movie that really sold me on him. He plays a kid named Martin who's lost his father due to a heart condition, a condition that a surgeon named Steven, played by Colin Farrell, tried to fix. Steven talks with Martin and sort of takes him under his wing. Martin starts to engrain himself into Steven’s family and that begins to have disastrous consequences. Ultimately, Martin tell Steven he is going to have to make a choice, or things are going to get even worse somehow.
How Steven makes that choice is one of the most intense and upsetting sequences I’ve seen in a movie. Lanthimos does not let you look away and you’re involved the entire time. That is not exclusive to this movie, but it is particularly memorable.
Nicole Kidman and Alicia Silverstone are also in this movie, which is sick as hell.
Movie: The Innocents (1961)
Where To Watch: This one is kind of hard to find, but the Criterion Collection has it on DVD for $20. I am a big proponent of owning physical media.
Vibe Check: This is the oldest movie on this list, but hot damn does it hold up. It’s one of the true horror movies on this list. It’s kind of easy to think about older horror movies as not all that scary compared to some of today’s fare, but this one absolutely gets the job done.
THE INNOCENTS is a retelling of the famous gothic horror The Turn of The Screw and based on the stage play The Innocents by William Archibald with a cowrite from Truman Capote. A governess (fancy nanny) shows up to watch two kids at a big old house and quickly comes to believe the house is haunted and the kids are possessed by evil spirits.
While it takes place in a huge mansion, this is one of the most claustrophobic movies I’ve ever seen. Everything and everyone is enveloped in shadows. Everything feels suffocating and just a little off. The sound design and score create an incredibly tense atmosphere. There are 2 or 3 images that will stick with you long after the movie is over.
It’s mesmerizing, a truly enjoyable watch. I know it’s silly to ask someone to drop $20 and shipping on a DVD, but if you feel inclined to, I don’t think you’ll regret it. It’s one of my favorite Halloween time watches.
Movie: The Kill List
Where To Watch: Prime
Vibe Check: Absolutely rancid vibes on this one, gang. This is probably the grimmest entry I’ll put on this list. It is a wall-to-wall bummer. Just awful. It is shockingly violent and depressing as hell. I watched it again last week to get in the mood.
It features two former British soldiers (Jay and Gal) who have turned to lives as hitman. While it’s not mentioned specifically what happened, Jay is suffering from PTSD from a mission in Kiev that went disastrously wrong. Jay has been unable to find work and Gal comes to him with a new job. There are three targets they need to take out, so they get to work.
What follows is a depraved journey into the English criminal underworld that takes REAL hard pivot into horror towards the end. This movie is filled with violence and, like many other movies on the list, an absolutely insane ending that punches you in the face and then rolls the credits before you have the time to process what just happened and why our stomach feels like that.
Jay is played Neil Maskell, who recently starred in the completely awesome Apple TV series HIJACK and he’s terrific in this movie. It is not for the faint of heart. I immediately a few episodes of 30 Rock right after to wash the taste out of my mouth.
Where To Watch: like most A24 movies this one is on Showtime, which you can get as a channel on Prime, Paramount+ or Hulu.
Vibe Check: While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it or even want to do it I think MIDSOMMAR would make for a really interesting double feature with KILL LIST.
While I think HEREDITARY gets a lot of the recognition as Ari Aster’s best work (for good reason), I think the vibes in MIDSOMMAR are WAY worse. That first 10 minutes is some of the most depressing shit ever put to film and the rest of the movie isn’t much better. No one in this movie is a good person or even really all that likable, which is a different type of bad vibe, but one that’s more relatable, which in some ways makes it even worse. There’s no one to really root for, but it still doesn’t feel good when they meet their fates, which are all horrible.
And the setting! It’s well worn territory, but the whole movie taking place in the sunshine is just so off putting and you really feel its effects along with the characters. It makes the violence much more shocking because theres no way to hide from it. It’s also very funny in some places which makes the whiplash back to the grim stuff even more intense. If you can track it down on Apple, the directors cut of this movie adds some really good stuff in. That’s the version to watch, although the theatrical version is definitely fine too.
Where To Watch: Paramount+, Prime
Vibe Check: Feels both cliché to have this on this list and contrarian to not have it, so here we are. Darren Aronofsky is the king of bad vibes and her certainly delivers the um, goods here.
This movie was certainly polarizing when it came out and I know a lot of people don’t like it. I’m hit or miss on Aronofsky, but I did. Stunning visually and some really great performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem.
Some really haunting imagery in this one, another one I’d say is not for the faint of heart. The allegorical stuff really worked for me. If you grew up in the Church or especially if you grew up Catholic, I think you’ll find this particularly effective.
Movie: Under The Skin
Where To Watch: MAX, Hulu, Prime
Vibe Check: I missed this movie when it first came out but I watched it during C*VID times and let me tell you this one is a BUMMER (complimentary). The super basic gist of it is that Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who has come to earth and seduces and kills men.
Like MOTHER!, this movie is a polarizing one, but there’s a lot to like about it. Scarlett Johansson is awesome in this and I think’s it’s insanely cool that she made this while in the middle of her run as Black Widow in the MCU. It changes up the POV to the alien’s instead of the human’s she’s interacting with and we watch her learn about and ultimately experience empathy. It’s also an interesting study in rape culture; the film creates the inverse of what we expect. It’s the men who need to worry about their safety walking home at night.
A lot of this movie was shot with hidden cameras and a lot of the cast had little or no acting experience. It adds to the jarring and disjointed feel to the movie and creates a sense of unease that only grows as the movie progresses. I never felt like I was ever able to settle in to this movie. It didn’t let me and that really amplifies the bad vibes being produced by the action of the film itself. It’s a potent combo.
Movie: Holmes & Watson
Where To Watch: Don’t
Vibe Check: This is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Negative vibes somehow.
There are a bunch more movies I wanted to include on this list, but I’ll probably just do a part 2 and there will be several featured on next week’s annual scary movie recommendation list.
A special thank you to my good friends and fellow Movie Sluts™️ Steph Mill and James Lockhart for texting with me over the last few days to help me dial in some truly bad vibes.
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See you next week for Scary Movies For People Who Hate Scary Movies!