Despite the sombre tone set by many movies with mental health at their core, they do tend to be the best and most memorable. What makes these movies so chilling is because unlike many other films, these events could in effect actually happen.
Whether it’s Kathy Bates going for your legs with a sledgehammer, or Bette Davis giving you a dead pet for lunch, these films create harrowing and distressing moments, but they’re often peppered with incredibly dark humour and irony.
Darlings, here is my personal top 5 list. Obviously this is riddled with spoilers; avert your eyes if you’ve not seen the film in question. Or read it anyway. No one’s stopping you.
5. Black Swan
“It was perfect”
This film was exceedingly creepy. Natalie Portman was sensational in this film, earning a well-deserved Oscar. The tone is set from the very beginning. The way Portman seems to doubt herself throughout. Obviously Mila Kunis is rather brilliant as the alluring temptress. Vincent Cassel as the slightly perverse and creepy “Thomas”. Every actor brings some different element of “f***ed up” to the table, with Wynonna Rider taking centre stage as she continually stabs her own face with a metal nail file. The whole “it was Portman all along” was admittedly rather predictable, although the protagonist becoming the antagonist aspect was very well crafted.
4. Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows
“It’s lonely and cold on the top… lonely and cold”
Strictly speaking this isn’t actually a film. It’s a made for television movie. It’s packed with stars, with Hugh Laurie, Jonathon Benjamin Hickey, Victor Garbor and Judy Davis playing Garland.
This film is brilliant. The acting is top notch. It gives you Judy Garland’s entire life story, and it is spectacular. Judy had a really troubling life, despite her fame, wealth and army of adoring fans. She was utterly reliant on booze, pills and had a lifelong desperation to be loved and her outbursts make for some real spine-chilling moments. She was obviously mentally unstable, kept on her feet only by constantly taking speed, she was a ticking time bomb. Plagued with personal demons, she fought to the end. Judy Davis looks, sounds and acts just like Judy, the music, sets and periods are all beautifully recreated. This is not to be missed.
3. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
“But Y’are Blanche, Y’are in chair!”
This film just excels in everything. It’s brilliantly funny (For all the wrong reasons) Bette Davis as the crazed child star “Baby Jane” is well worth seeing. Yet at the same time, it’s really sinister and tense. The violent exchanges between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford make the film, making you laugh uncomfortably. Baby Jane (Davis) crippled her more famous sister Blanche (Crawford) in a rather pathetic wannabe hit and run. Now they are both “has been” stars living in their Hollywood retreat and cruelty, bitterness and violence seem to just radiate from Davis, who strives to make Crawford’s life a living hell.
“I’m your number one fan”
Kathy Bates scares me to this day. Her portrayal of the obsessive Annie Wilkes is truly chilling. The wholesome, Christian, innocent farm lady turns out to be more than she seems. I’m sure you’ve seen it, and she just evokes a sense of dread. Subjecting her “hero” to an absolute nightmarish existence. James Caan plays the author trapped both physically and mentally in the chilling grip of his “number one fan”. This movie is a must see.
1. Sunset Boulevard
“I’m ready for my close up Mr DeMille”
Norma Desmond is the personification of insane. A ‘has been’ movie star, she lives in her Hollywood mansion. Gloria Swanson’s portrayal of the terrifying Norma is really disturbing. The plot follows a young writer who is essentially blackmailed into living with her, she is desperate for love and recognition, and she has neither… as a result she is unhinged, emotionally distressed and dangerous. Convinced she is still the toast of showbiz, Norma goes to great lengths to stay at the top, even though her career has long since died. My personal favourite film ever, this depiction of mental instability, delusional movie stars and murder really is something to see.