Sometimes we just need a mind vacation. A little getaway in our own living rooms. An escape into a visual story with challenges and mind-fuckery. Especially right now. I know I need a break for the 2020 real-life Horror. I’ve put together for your enjoyment, a list of some of my favorite mind-altering films of recent years, in no particular order.

There are many different sub-genres included throughout this list, so many Horror lovers can hopefully find something new, but if you’re looking for strictly Psychological Horror flicks, I’ve got a special list just for you. You’ll find many more than eight Parz-certified recommendations here, and I hope you find something to rock your Horror jollies, even if it’s just for a moment.

Chained (2012)

We follow a young kidnapped boy age and grow under extraordinary, violent circumstances. This little indie flick packs an unexpected dark and bloodied punch right to the chest. Not only does the premise cause internal conflict and go way more dark than anticipated, but you’ll be thinking about this story long after the final thought-inducing scene. The trailer doesn’t do Chained justice, just watch it.

If you’re into allegory or important messages given via the medium of film, you won’t want to miss this one. The storytelling is slightly unconventional, the acting surprisingly decent, and the passion of the creators is evident. Chained is a perfect example of a damn good horror story with a low budget. Lovers of the French film Raw (2016), or von Trier’s Melancholia (2011) should put this high on their watch list.

*Chained may prove irritating or bothersome to individuals triggered by or sensitive to violence against women, rape, and child abuse.

Swallow (2020)

This film broke me a little. Reality blows, and Swallow takes us on a dread-filled journey alongside a newly married and pregnant, culture-shocked, woman. The story’s sharp and brutal, but it’s a very slow burn, so it’s not for all horror fans. If you’re looking to have your mind blown, encounter a potential change in perspective or life outlook, or are a Body Horror fan, then watch this baby ASAP.

Taken by video capture of trailer from Charades, Logical Pictures, Stand Alone Productions, and Syncopated Films

Haley Bennett not only pulls off an extremely difficult role, but does so with such grace that I have to now see everything else this talent has been involved in or will be involved in. The film does deal with women’s experience issues, but this should not by any means stop other groups from consuming this flesh-eating master storytelling experience. If you’re looking to learn something about humans, start here. If you’ve seen this and are looking for something you may like just as much, check out Under the Shadow (2016).

*Swallow may prove irritating or bothersome to individuals triggered by or sensitive to pregnancy related issues or domestic violence.

M.O.M. (Mothers of Monsters) (2020)

Another little indie flick, but this one in the grain of home video type filming. We follow a mother who’s suspicious of her son’s behaviors and intentions in this freakishly honest tale. The suspense builds to a point the audience both anticipates and underestimates. M.O.M.’s a good creative piece with severe implications revolving around social context.

Taken by video capture of trailer from Austin Porter and Elaine White

The audience is broad, story’s easy to get into, and the horrifying implications make for good conversation, making this a good crowd-pleaser for groups or couples night. Fans of Summer of 84 (2018) or The Good Neighbor (2016) may find a new favorite with this one.

*Currently available on Amazon Prime

*M.O.M. (Mothers of Monsters) may prove irritating or bothersome to individuals triggered by or sensitive to depression/mental illness.

Ravenous (2017)

I don’t really do zombie movies lol…but this French Netflix film is one to googly-eye over. If you’re dying for a movie that’ll take you to Hell in a handbasket when you least expect it to, cut this one on. Keep the kids locked in their bedrooms or closets or wherever, as Ravenous is a French film, the gore rivaling the creations of Quentin Tarantino.

Ravenous starts hot and never lets up, giving the audience an unforgettable, realistic, devastating, horrific, and fun (for us Horror FREAKS!), ride. I watched this over a year ago and it’s still never far from my thoughts. If you watch this and need something else similar in action and gravity, try the Netflix Spanish film, The Platform (2019).

Krisha (2016)

Alright, alright, alright. I don’t want to get into any arguments on whether this film is Horror or not because it is. Very clearly, there are horrifying elements throughout the entire film. This is not just a Drama, but it is also a Drama. If this completely turns you off from checking this one out, so be it, but those of you who’re still reading, and you have families of your own who get together for the holidays and have devastating family happenings, don’t miss this.

Taken by video capture of trailer from Justin R. Chan, Chase Joliet, Trey Edward Shults, and Wilson Smith

Krisha follows a woman attempt to rejoin her family after time away due to either basic excommunication, or abandonment. You’ll learn which, if there’s a real difference, in the film. You’ll probably cry, and that’s okay, and the ending should leave you out of air and needing a joint or two. If you like this, try The Death of Dick Long (2019).

Anyone involved in family studies or human behavior should give this one a look, and anyone studying film should also put this on their list. Krisha is brought to us by the same people who gave us Hereditary (2018) and Midsommar (2019), A24.

Nymphomaniac: Volumes I and II (2013)

My Lars. He’s pretty laid back in this creation, but it’s still a masterpiece, nonetheless. Does this man make bad films? If you’ve seen Antichrist (2009), which also stars Willem Dafoe–hold up. If you haven’t seen Antichrist, I’d start there to see if you like von Trier’s style of storytelling. Anyway…

Yes, yes, yes, both volumes of this gorgeous and horrific story make up a runtime of over five hours. I get it. But! All hail Charlotte Gainsbourg! She’s da bomb, once again. Her talent alongside daddy Skarsgard makes for a dynamic, strategic duo, and an interesting relationship on screen. Art fanatics and empath intellectuals may find a home with the work of von Trier, you just gotta watch him alone. Give yourself completely to his will. What experiences he’ll try to give you.

You don’t have to watch both films, the first will stand alone, but the second half is very much worth your time, especially if you like the first half. I want to make sure to note this film is not intended for young viewers, in age or in maturity. If you’re looking for another film with the potential to change your outlook on life, check Nymphomaniac out. If you’ve been there, done that, with von Trier, try the little Shudder movie, Gwen (2019).

Although this is one of his more laid back films, von Trier doesn’t shy from controversial images or topics explored. I’ll be putting together a listy-list for von Trier’s work soon, so stay tuned for that if you’re a fan.

The Lighthouse (2019)

Willem Dafoe (yes…again…) and Robert Pattinson in an eerie black comedy with horrific existential implications? Yes flippin’ (that’s what the kids say, right?) please! The cinematography is well cared for, and Dafoe is on point, as usual. Robert Eggers directed this tale of questionable sanity in isolation. The Lighthouse is a black and white spiral, a static ride to “What the hell did I just watch?”

screenshot of Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse
Taken by video capture of trailer from A24, Regency Enterprises, and RT Features

P.S. Watch The Witch (2015) first, as The Lighthouse is it’s spiritual sequel. If you want your stories told in a straightforward manner and everything tied up nice with a bow at the end, stay away, very far away. If you’re looking to screw with your mind, have intrusive thoughts on the film’s meaning stay longer than anticipated, and find a film you can re-watch for multiple meanings, check this slow-burn allegorical piece out.

The Lighthouse is a little Sci-Fi-ish, but it’s not too wacked out for existentialists. Another in this category to try is a little film starring Jake Gyllenhaal, called Enemy (2013).

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

Loosely based on Greek Mythology, Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Barry Keoghan steer us through a tale bursting with dread. The Killing of a Sacred Deer gives a good psychological kick, as will certainly itch the scratch of those looking for a mind-twisty, screwed up, neck-snap of a film.

Yorgos Lanthimos, the director, has a serious eye for detail and this creation is no exception. Now, I want to be clear about the dialogue. It’s not…normal. Lanthimos is an absurdist, a fine one, at that. But if you can stick with it long enough, you’ll be roped in for the strangle, your psyche for the taking. Did you ever see that little movie called Dogtooth (2009)? If you enjoyed that one, The Killing of a Sacred Deer should be the next thing you watch. After this, check out the Netflix Spanish film, The Occupant (2020).

*The Killing of a Sacred Deer is currently available on Netflix, along with The Lobster (2015), another Lanthimos film.

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