Out this weekend is Tyrannosaur, the amazing directorial debut of Paddy Considine. Peter Mullan plays Joseph, a rage-consumed alcoholic who forms an unlikely friendship with a kindly Christian charity shop worker (Peep Show’s Olivia Coleman in a heartbreaking, career-best performance). Her caring upbeat exterior masks a world of horrors endured behind closed doors at the hands of her sadistic husband.
The film is fantastic and you should definitely definitely try to see it. That said, it’s not exactly the most cheerful of stories. It begins with Joseph kicking his beloved pet dog to death and gets progressively bleaker from there on in. After the screening, I basically had to watch back-to-back Disney films for the next 18 hours to avoid a catatonic breakdown.
It’s interesting how these types of films often seem to come from Britain. Is there something in our national DNA that means we enjoy wallowing in harrowing tales of poverty and despair? OR maybe we’re drawn to Misery-Porn because it secretly makes us feel better about ourselves by comparison…. “Yeah sure, my life is pretty terrible, but at least I don’t spend my evenings pretending to be asleep while my abusive husband urinates on me.”
Or maybe it’s because of the weather.
Anyway, to celebrate the release of Tyrannosaur – and while I wait for this massive barbiturates overdose to take effect – let’s look at some other memorable moments of movie misery…
In my whole life, I never thought I’d find the garishly colourful carpets in the foyer of an Odeon such a warm and comforting sight. Then I went to see The Road, John Hillcoat’s harrowing, haunting and (h)brilliant adaptation of the celebrated Cormac McCarthy novel, and endured 111 minutes of its relentlessly bleak, hopeless landscapes bleached of any colour save the occasional splattering of dark red blood.
Viggo Mortensen stars as ‘The Man’, a survivor of an unspecified cataclysm that has wiped out most of humanity. Together with his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), he journeys through ruined forests and derelict cities, pushing their scant possessions in a rusty supermarket trolley like shoppers in a massive, apocalyptically desolate Sainsbury’s (or normal Morrisons).
The most depressing and terrifying thing about the film is its damning indictment of a human civilisation that has largely descended into cannibalism and murder in its desperate cling to survival. In one horrifying scene, Viggo and son stumble upon a seemingly welcoming middle-class townhouse that, it turns out, is home to a family of cannibals with a basement full of live human ready-meals hung up on meat hooks.
Makes you wonder really, what kind of people will end up like that? Are they the ones who are evil already? Is it just the people who write angry comments on the Guardian website or work in investment banking who’ll seamlessly transition into cannibalistic child-rapists? Or, given an ecological disaster of sufficient magnitude, could that happen to any of us? I guess in about 15 years or so we’ll find out..
Dead Man’s Shoes
Paddy Considine himself stars in this gritty revenge tragedy directed by Shane Meadows. In the a way, the film is like an inversion of the classic Hollywood teen slasher convention and could alternatively be known as “I know what you did last summer… you bullied my developmentally disabled brother so badly he did something unspeakable so now I’m going to hunt you down and butcher you.”
It’s also set in Derbyshire and it rains a lot. Bleak.
Depending on who you believe, Lars Von Trier’s 2009 film is a poignant psychological masterpiece, a torture-porn abomination, or a critic-baiting satirical piss-take. Anyone owning a set of genitalia (male or female) will want to approach this with extreme caution.
Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsburg star as a couple in mourning after the death of their infant son, who retreat to an isolated wood-cabin to work through the psychological impact of their loss. Needless to say, it doesn’t go all that well..
The film has quite a lot of massively explicit sex in it, which is obviously a plus, but the unremittingly bleak atmosphere and sickeningly graphic acts of violence mean it would take a tenacious masturbator indeed to try and tug himself off to this.
In fact, that would’ve been quite a cool Special Feature for the Blu-Ray release… you could have a little man in the corner of the screen (like when they do signing for the Deaf) attempting a realtime wankalong to the film. He’d never make it.
Anything with Ray Winstone
Before he became the jowly affable “Bet in play, naaaaah” geezer we know and love today, Ray Winstone was a reliable guarantor of some seriously bleak shit.
Things that may happen in a Ray Winstone movie:
- Intergenerational incest (The War Zone)
- Prison rape leading to a lonely suicide (Scum)
- A heavily pregnant wife being beaten so badly she loses the baby (Nil by Mouth)
On the other hand, he does play a jovial beaver in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe so, swings and roundabouts…
Requiem for a Dream
Pretty much the most effective anti-drugs advert ever produced, Darren Aronofsky’s 2000 cult tale of four New Yorkers succumbing to their various devastating addictions also takes the prize for the most depressing film in history (IMHO).
I’m not quite sure which bit I found the most disturbing… Jared Leto injecting heroin into the gruesomely infected wound on his soon-to-be amputated arm? His amphetamine-addled mother being carted odd for electromagnetic shock therapy screaming “I just wanted to be on television”? Or maybe it was the sleazy New Yoik pimp chanting “Ass ta Ass” as Jennifer Connolly tearfully performs in a sex show? Very grim.
And that’s it. Sorry to put a bit of a downer on things. Don’t worry about it too much though old friend - they’re only films. Everything will be ok really. Why not cheer yourself up with a nice long relaxing bath?