Rumor has it Possession was once described as “a movie about a woman who fucks an octopus.” With similarly blunt energy, Hellraiser could be summed up as “the lengths one woman will go for a good screw.” Sure, on paper Clive Barker’s directorial debut is about a nefarious Rubik’s Cube that can summon a gaggle of leather-clad, extra-dimensional sadomasochists, but really, Hellraiser is a film about a wildly horny woman (Claire Higgins) trapped in an unsatisfying marriage who lures men to her murder room to reconstitute the body of her more experienced lover. Is this girl power? Who’s to say. In any case, both films dabble in a horrifyingly bloody form of eroticism. So if you want to curate an especially debauched double bill… you have all the tools you need.
Available to stream on Shudder.
The Vanishing (1988)
Perhaps the best feel bad movie of all time, The Vanishing is a film that gets under your skin and burrows deep. One of Possession’s greatest strengths is how it immediately creates the impression that there’s something off. Even before the other shoe drops on who these characters are, we can sense that there is something deeply wrong lurking just off-screen. And The Vanishing doubles down on this uneasy quality. After a young woman mysteriously disappears, her boyfriend resolves to find out what happened to her, by any means necessary. While the premise sounds like a Dutch riff on Taken, the film is anything but. In actuality, it’s arguably the most terrifying film ever made in addition to being utterly unique. If Possession is just a little bit too light for you, The Vanishing is the way to go.
Available to stream the Criterion Channel.
Trouble Every Day (2001)
Claire Denis is the reigning queen of ingeniously disorienting cinema, and her first horror movie throws us into the deep end without a flotation device in sight. Following an American couple who journeys to Paris for their honeymoon, Trouble Every Day doesn’t take long before the husband’s ulterior motives emerge. He has developed an affliction that causes a hunger for human flesh, and he’s eager to get in touch with a former colleague to understand how to control his desire. The film is at times starkly cold and at others, aggressively brutal. Though it offers few clues in terms of exposition or context, it’s clear that the plot is secondary. The focus here is far more sensory. This is a film that you feel, deeply, no matter how hard you might wish you didn’t.
Available to stream on Hoopla.
When it comes to horror movies about marriages in disarray, absolutely no one has Lars von Trier beat. In Antichrist, the film that kicked off his aptly titled “Depression Trilogy,” Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe star as a married couple who retreat to a cabin in the woods following the death of their young child. Once there, talking foxes and sadomasochism begin to blur distinctions between what is real and what isn’t. Though allegorized through fantasy and horror, the film delves into everything from theology to trauma with peering insight and an unflinching gaze. With body horror and hysteria on full display, the film is, at times, a painful experience. But to suggest that von Trier should have shirked away from showing violence, in a film that is very much about the nature of violence, would be a disservice to both film and viewer.
Available to stream on the Criterion Channel.
A primal scream of violent faith, uncomfortable motherhood, and irksome self-destruction, Lukas Feigelfeld’s feature-film debut is an absolute must-watch for anyone drawn to Possession. Hagazussa follows Albrun (Aleksandra Cwen), a solitary goat-herder who lives on the outskirts of her village in the Alps, shunned for her strangeness and the local suspicions that she may be a witch. But look, maybe people would give Albrun a break if she stopped saying things like “my baby has no father.” Just a thought! Hagazussa offers a compelling and ultimately devastating twist on the folk horror genre by dramatizing the nightmarish conditions of the weird, isolated women who historically found themselves on the receiving end of superstition. Eerie and sickeningly sumptuous, Hagazussa feels like a bad dream and a bad trip rolled into one. In other words: we love it.
Available to stream on Shudder.
Related Topics: Beat The Algorithm, Horror, Possession