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Mind-Bending Movies: A Look Back and Ahead!

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On September 30, 2011, Universal Studios brings us the newest offering in mind-bending thrills with the release of Dream House, directed by Jim Sheridan and starring Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz. It’s the tale of a family relocated from the bustle of New York City to a serene New England town. Once moved into their “perfect” home, the family soon see everything begin to come unraveled as the past comes back to haunt them.

Filled with mystery, murder and plot twists, Dream House is reminiscent of some of our favorite past movies where things were not exactly as they appeared. The intrigue of the mind-bending movie has long been an American favorite, as audiences seem to be thoroughly entertained by filmmakers toying with their perception of reality.

Mind Bending Movies - A Look Back and Ahead!

The director that first comes to mind when we think of trick of the brain plot twists is M. Night Shyamalan. And he was never better than in his breakout film, The Sixth Sense. Containing one of the greatest “oh shit!” moments in modern memory (you know the one, when Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) realizes that he is indeed among the dead people Cole (Haley Joel Osment) can see). As far as mind freaks go, Criss Angel has nothing on that scene.

The Sixth Sense transcended the casual movie-going crowd and made its way into the fabric of society with “I see dead people” becoming the “They’re heeere of the new millennium. Shyamalan would continue a trend of perception-twisting films with such offerings as Unbreakable, The Village and Signs, but it was his opening salvo that really wowed audiences.

In the same vein as The Sixth Sense was another ultra-creepy tale of spirits, The Others, a truly chilling look into a haunting; but just who was haunting whom? Nicole Kidman, who walks around every day with skin so pallid you’d expect her to get a call for every ghost story script, was brilliant in this 2001 film that toyed with every perception we had until eventually unveiling the secrets of the film in a final insane climax.

And speaking of insane climaxes, what could fit that description more accurately than a cross-dressing, serial killer wearing a police blanket like a shawl while giving a chilling glare into the camera?

Maybe today’s audiences don’t consider Psycho a real mind-freak, but that is unfair. And do you know why? Because there is no mystery behind the film anymore. In 1960 Alfred Hitchcock bent over backwards trying to be sure no one revealed the secret behind Psycho. The movie was amazing, but what made it legendary was the twist. Imagine sitting in that theater more than 50 years ago and seeing Norman come busting through that root cellar door in a housedress and wig, sporting that big ass kitchen knife. Yeah, it would have blown your mind, too. These audiences weren’t used to shocks like that. “The Dick Van Dyke Show” wouldn’t come out until 1961, a full year later, and Rob and Laura still couldn’t sleep in the same bed together. Imagine how Norman disturbed these people!

You want disturbing? How about a guy in a freaky looking giant bunny suit? That do anything for you? It did for Jake Gyllenhaal in the 2001 cult hit Donnie Darko. Although a flop at the box office, Donnie Darko picked up major steam on video when word of mouth spread about this incredibly unique and mysterious film. Audiences were mesmerized by the intriguing character, and the shocking puzzler of an ending gave viewers something to talk about.

Director Darren Aronofsky, although not solely known for the trippy, mind-bending film, has been behind some intriguingly twisted films. Once you’ve seen it, Requiem for a Dream is a film that will stay with you for a long time with its incredibly powerful situations and disturbing images. And, most recently, Aronofsky wowed audiences with the award-winning Black Swan. A picture nearly impossible to categorize, Black Swan is an amazingly surreal vision of jealousy, paranoia and self-destruction.

Another filmmaker who can make you question reality is the great Guillermo del Toro. Whether is be as a director (Pan’s Labyrinth) or producer (The Orphanage, Julia’s Eyes), del Toro has used our minds like his own personal playground on more than one occasion.

And the list of mind-bending thrillers and horror films goes on and on: Inception, Fight Club, Jacob’s Ladder, Martyrs, Memento, Total Recall and The Orphan are just a few notable ones that come to mind; and I’m sure our fine readers can name many more off the top of their heads. Whether it be trippy psychological imagery or an unexpected twist that changes your whole perception of the film, great moviemakers are masters at manipulating your mind. And on September 30th Dream House will look to take its place among the memorable, mind-bending shockers in film.

Tell us what flicks freaked you out in our comments section below!

Mind Bending Movies - A Look Back and Ahead!

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Scott Hallam