Matt’s Top 10 Non-Horror Films That Will Haunt You.
Horror films are the ones we always associate with giving us nightmares and severe cases of anxiety during a two-hour period. But, there are those films where the subject matter is too intense or a certain scene frightens you or something about the film leaves a sour feeling in the pit of your stomach. Those are the kinds of films I’m talking about today. The ones that literally haunt your conscience and leave an anxious imprint, making you never watch it again or only letting yourself watch it once a year.
Before the list begins, let me just say that I love every single one of these films. In no way am I saying they are bad because of their effects on me. It’s a form of applause from me towards the filmmakers for doing their job and captivating my emotions.
10. “Alpha Dog”
For the most part, this film actually surprises you with its inner-heart and honestly portrayed characters, including an excellent performance by Justin Timberlake. The basic synopsis is a California drug kingpin, Johnny Truelove, kidnaps a rival’s brother and threatens to kill him if the rival doesn’t pay his dues. During this time, Frankie (Timberlake) and the kidnapped Zack (Anton Yelchin) build a relationship off of Frankie’s promise that Truelove won’t really kill him. The rest of the film is a decent coming-of-age story for Zack, but it comes to a haunting halt when Truelove orders Frankie to kill Zack. You know the scene is going to be emotional and you hope Frankie doesn’t do it, but what you get is something truly disturbing and unforgettable. Seeing Zack bound by duck-tape and screaming for his life while his good friend Frankie kills him with an Uzi always lights a strange flare in my stomach. It’s a scene that makes me look away from the screen or pull out my phone, and not because it’s boring or irrelevant. It’s simply so unexpectedly haunting that it keeps me from watching the film during my leisure time.
9. “Mystic River”
“Mystic River” is an emotional roller coaster. I can’t watch it more than twice a year because I feel absolutely depressed afterwards. The heartbreaking ending and the performances are so genius and wonderful that I’m left worrying about my own family’s safety at the end. Yes, I grew up in a very different neighborhood than these guys, but the themes and situations presented in the film occur around the world every day. It’s a scary thing, and this film illustrates it better than most news stations. Pure vengeance, kidnapping, molestation and murder, all wrapped beautifully in a haunting film, make it stay inside my collection and out of my Blu-ray player for most of the year.
8. “Battle Royale”
The novel for which this film is based on also inspired the now popular “The Hunger Games” franchise. With the same premise of a fight-to-the-death tournament that is filmed and presented as a television show, the film doesn’t hold back with its violent deaths and chaotic situations. There have been plenty of films with the same levels of violence, and even more so, but “Battle Royale” deals entirely with children. Watching children kill each other with guns, arrows, bombs, knives and swords flickers the anxiety in my conscience and leaves the film for infrequent viewing.
7. “The Pianist”
Holocaust films are never fun to watch, but they are important because of their stories about brave human beings living through one of the most disturbing time periods in history. “The Pianist” is my favorite Roman Polanksi film and has my favorite performance by Adrien Brody, but it’s an emotional roller coaster done in realistic fashion, making me feel ill and sorrowful the entire time. A heartbreaking moment is when Wladyslaw Szpillman (Brody) attempts to save a child who is trying to escape from Nazi Soldiers. While Szpillman pulls the child through a space under a wall, Nazi soldiers find the child’s legs sticking out and proceed to beat him, making Szpillman watch the child die a horrible death. It’s one of those scenes that stick with you, and this film is full of them.
“The Pianist” might’ve been realistic, but “Restrepo” is the real deal. Documentary filmmakers follow a military unit during their days at a United States outpost in one of the most dangerous places on earth. Real soldiers. Real bullets. Real emotion. Real death. This documentary is not for the faint of heart as you walk with these brave men through hell, hearing their stories and witnessing the torment that wages on their psyches. It is a harrowing experience and makes you respect the bravery the soldiers in the armed forces have to demonstrate every day. There isn’t one particular moment that sticks out to me; the entire film lets you see how real war is and how close it is to home. This film will haunt you.