The 10 Most Disturbing Movie Scenes of 2018

Toni Collette Hereditary interview

We’re nearly a month into the new year, but before we let 2019 rejuvenate our motivations, why not take one last stroll down 2018’s memory lane? More appropriately, the thorn-lined backroad of memory lane where there is no light – only torment and pain. Fun!

Let’s face the darkness from 2018’s cinematic slate as a means of pushing forward. Movie moments that “went there” or invaded our nightmares. These won’t all be horror movie references, mind you. Oscar hopefuls and genre demons both produced their fair share of fuck-you-up depravity. Why not run down some of the year’s most disturbing moments in film, because it’s me, Mr. Kill Ya Good Vibes! Always on brand, never to disappoint.

christian bale in vice

10. The Heart Transplant Montage (Vice)

Adam McKay’s Vice – honored by the Golden Globes as a “comedy” – is a provocateur’s biographical glimpse into America’s at-odds political landscape with Dick Cheney as central focus. A portrait of a “mastermind,” satire of power, and exposure to manipulation from within. Washington D.C.’s silent puppetmaster pulled strings that forever shaped the progress – or regression – of our United States to its current “greatness.” If you’ve seen The Big Short, you know McKay has no problem voicing his opinions without holding back. At the end of Vice, this truth remains more self-evident than ever.

The events that spiral out of control in Vice – Cheney’s steamroll over multiple government figures, foreign war declarations, chess game pawn sacrifices – culminate with footage from tragedies that befell our nation under Cheney’s tenure sprinkled between his Senate hopeful daughter’s denouncement of gay marriage (despite her sister being a lesbian). In Hollywoodized form – as Christian Bale schlubs around eating danishes with sticky fingers – McKay toys with bait-and-hook fishing metaphors while overplaying Cheney’s actions as abrasive political humor. Two hours of heart attack interruptions and “W’s” cowboy antics, until we’re reminded how it all ties back into our government’s – for lack of better phrasing – business model. The winding of unfathomable motivations into realities we’re forced to live once again and, well, it’s *a lot* to digest.

This is even before Bale – as Cheney – breaks the fourth wall and defends himself for being the ruthless decider our country so desperately needed, followed by a left vs. right focus group scuffle that encapsulates the height of “fake news” outrage. One nation, under corruption, with liberty for all but justice only for some.

vox lux trailer new

9. Opening With a Bang (Vox Lux)

“An unusual set of circumstances brings unexpected success to a pop star.” The description for Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux flaunts ambiguity as to shock and paralyze with the film’s gutting open. The event – a nightmare for adults and children alike – is a school shooting. Said circumstances resonate today’s problematic gun control debates and rising death tolls. Immediate thoughts of Parkland and Santa Fe and too many similar headlines flood like a burst dam, kickstarting Corbet’s cultural commentary on celebrity culture with a devastating tone.

As someone who avoids trailers whenever possible, going into Vox Lux suspiciously blind made for one of 2018’s most sobering beginnings. Everyone’s story starts somewhere, and for Natalie Portman’s Celeste, it’s inside a classroom next to cowering classmates forced to stare down a shooter who’s about to open fire. Blood sprays. Celeste – despite injuries – survives. Her first vault into stardom births from hospital recuperation and a future memorial vigil performance. That opening – shots fired at a deafening volume – plants audiences inside America’s most horrifying domestic forms of attack on the rise. An experience that’s impossible to shake, comprehend, and certainly forget.

8. Reliving the Past (BlacKkKlansman)

For roughly 120 minutes, BlacKkKlansman balances Ron Stallworth’s Ku Klux Klan infiltration with a lighter jive that loses no importance – but doesn’t register as seismically bleak given the circumstances. Spike Lee entertains, teaches, and brings to life an unbelievable story, fully aware of the cyclical horrors that await right before credits hit. Stallworth, now off his undercover beat, stares down a flaming cross in his final scene to showcase how when pressures to subdue racism are lifted, injustice’s ugly head rears right back up. Although, that’s not even the shot I want to discuss.

After Stallworth’s glazed over face glides towards the camera, Lee hits us with inescapable truth.

Out of nowhere, Lee launches into news footage pulled from race relations coverage of today. Tiki torch marches, government officials defending white supremacists, hateful 2018 rhetoric that repeats the same values Ron Stallworth fought against – all after we’ve been sweetened by lead actor John David Washington’s charms. We’re taken back to Charlottesville’s Unite the Right rally, and watch a car plow through a group of protesters condemning the far-right’s march. Heather Danielle Heyer’s dedication appears on screen – the event’s tragic casualty – and that’s when structure comes tumbling down. Backcountry racist yokels, Adam Driver’s transformation, Stallworth’s calls with David Duke (Topher Grace). Everything we’ve watched leads to history repeating itself, and how aligned the actions of 1970s civil rights movements are the *same* fights we’re battling today. It shakes, rattles, and strips all armor, chills straight to your core.

Lee’s ace-up-his-sleeve held so angrily through gritted teeth throughout BlacKkKlansman’s entirety.

7. Chewin’ For the Likes (Like Me)

Disclaimer: I don’t do well with vomit. Enter Robert Mockler’s Like Me, a warning of social media overconsumption in our digital age. How better to represent too much of something that can rot away your insides, cause internal discomfort, and project – literally – an adverse reaction? Stuffing your face with comfort foods until they come spewing out.

At first, Mockler’s artistic eye focuses close-up on Addison Timlin’s mouth as her hopeful insta-famous experimental photographer mashes gummies or pizza or other unhealthy treats between her teeth. Neon-died fructose sugars chomped and gnawed by pearly whites. Then Larry Fessenden introduces himself into the fold – a model victim of sorts at Timlin’s mercy. He’s the one stuffed full of cheese puffs, milk, and junk snacks until the point of nausea – where Timlin’s begins to press against his tummy. You can assume where this goes as a gross-out metaphor full of bile.

mowgli netflix

6. Trophy Case (Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle)

Andy Serkis’ adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s famous jungle adventures is one of the year’s most grisly surprises. Forget the war-scarred characters and festering wounds, even. We focus here on a runt albino wolf child named Bhoot – voiced by Serkis’ son Louis Ashbourne Serkis – and his demise. Bhoot confuses pack bullying with playful jests, exudes boundless optimism through cheek-to-cheek smiles, then vanish for some time after Mowgli (Rohan Chand) – his only friend – lays a mean-spirited verbal attack on thick as molasses. How sad an exit, only outdone by Bhoot’s return as a TAXEDERMIED HEAD IN HUNSTMAN LOCKWOOD’S (Matthew Rhys) TROPHY COLLECTION.

The emotional sledgehammer of having Bhoot’s final moments be a psychological dismantling by his most loyal brother worsens Mowgli’s discovery of his wolf brethren’s decapitated, STILL HAPPY-GO-LUCKY SMILIN’ HEAD – holy shit. The Jungle Book: Dark. DCU, eat your heart out.

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