The “mind-fuck” film is exactly what it sounds like. This is a type of movie that messes with your head the entire length of the film. When the mind-fuck film is done right, it makes your jaw drop and you wind up sitting in your chair as the credits roll in a state of disbelief at what you just witnessed. I’ve been a fan of this sub-genre since seeing Jacob’s Ladder back in 1990.
What makes Jacob’s Ladder such a great mind-fuck flick is that it’s not just the ending that fucks with you; the entire movie, every second of it, keeps poking at your brain, daring you to try to understand what’s going on. When you think you’ve figured out what’s happening, BAM, the movie shifts gears and fucks with you even more.
Many people confuse a mind-fuck movie with a film that simply offers a twist ending. This isn’t the same thing. The Sixth Sense, for example, is a great film with an ending that knocks your socks off, but this isn’t a mind-fuck film. The majority of The Sixth Sense is a standard flick about a doctor trying to help a young boy.
Below is my list (in no particular order) of some of the best mind-fuck films. You can watch these over and over again and each time get something new out of it.
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
There’s not a weak element in this film. From the acting to the script to the special effects, Jacob’s Ladder is a damn near perfect film. Director Adrian Lyne masterfully controls the material here and keeps the audience wondering what the hell is happening. If you haven’t seen this film, don’t look it up and don’t read anyone’s reviews of it. Just go buy the DVD and watch it. It’ll blow your fucking socks off.
The Attic Expeditions (2001)
Seth Green, Jeffrey Combs, Ted Raimi, and Alice Cooper all star in a movie helmed by the guy who directed the 2007 Wizard of Gore remake, Jeremy Kasten??!!? A man is sentenced to a mental hospital for killing his girlfriend but starts to question whether he actually killed her or if he’s just a pawn in some strange brainwashing experiment. This one keeps you scratching your head and wondering what the fuck’s going on. Repeated viewings are recommended.
I may be stretching the definition of what a mind-fuck film is by including Videodrome on this list, but if you’ve seen the film, you know why I’m including it. A sleazy cable TV station owner (James Woods) becomes obsessed with tracking down a television show titled “Videodrome.” This show has no script, no plot, and, as one character observes, “no recurring guest stars.” Oh, but there’s a whole lot more going on in this movie. This movie really messes with your head. Videodrome isn’t just my favorite David Cronenberg flick, it’s one of my favorite films, period.
Donnie Darko (2001)
Time travel? A near death experience? A large rabbit predicting the end of the world? What the hell is going on here?!? You may never know, but it sure is a fun ride. Donnie Darko became an instance cult classic, and after you watch it a few times, you’ll understand why.
Angel Heart (1987)
I love this film! I remember the first time I saw it: I was living in a shitty little apartment in Ottawa, Canada, and had no cable. I only got three channels, and one Saturday night Angel Heart came on at around one in the morning. I was mesmerized by Mickey Rourke’s portrayal as Harry Angel, a private detective hired by a mysterious man to find another guy called Johnny Favorite. Just sit back and enjoy all the twists and turns this one takes. And just wait until you see Robert De Niro peel that goddamn hard-boiled egg!!!
Head Trauma (2006)
A man returns home after being away for twenty years to settle his dead grandmother’s estate. As he cleans the house, he gets hit in the hea,d and this triggers a series of very vivid nightmares and waking visions. Soon the line blurs between what is real and what is “unreal.” Directed by Lance Weiler (one-half of the directing team behind 1998’s The Last Broadcast), this one keeps you on edge the entire time.
Don’t Look Now (1973)
A classic from the 70’s. Donnie Sutherland and Julie Christie recently lost their young daughter. Sutherland takes them to Venice on business, and there they meet a psychic who claims to “see” the spirit of their dead daughter. But there’s so much more going on here. This film is heavy in atmosphere and drips gloom. After watching this one, you’ll feel that there’s no hope in the universe. And just wait until you see that ending!
Chasing Sleep (2000)
This is a little known gem starring Jeff Daniels as a professor who wakes up one morning to find his wife never came home the night before. As he searches to find out what happened to her, he is stricken with insomnia. As his sleep deprivation gets worse and worse, reality and hallucinations merge together. Writer-director Michael Walker fucks around with the viewer until we get a great reveal at the end. I was way impressed with Daniels’ performance; I didn’t know he had it in him.
These are some of my favorite “mind-fuck” flicks. I know this is an incomplete list so tell me your favorites… I wanna hear from you all!