what makes a disturbing movie

The movie Cloverfield completely devastated me.

Images of it have been haunting me since I first watched it. Sometimes, I remember some detail and sink back into the dark place that the movie took me to. This is, by far, one of the worst movies ever (emotionally speaking).

Tonight I uncovered the reason why this movie has caused me so much harm. It’s one simple fact:

Everyone that I — the viewer —  associated with eventually died.

This has to be the single worst ingredient in a movie. There’s no lack of horrible movies, or apocalyptic movies. But how harsh a movie is depends not on how many people die in the movie, but rather on who dies in the movie.

For a movie to disturb you, it has to kill people that you associate with. Weak movies kill the hero’s friends or family — leaving you with the hero to take you through the movie. Mild movies kill the hero, predictably, but leave main characters as survivors; characters you’ve associated with due to their proximity or relationship with the hero. Characters of importance/consequence in the movie.

But a horrible, devastating movie is one that kills off everyone that you’ve associated with throughout the movie. Cloverfield does that. Each and every one of the main characters dies, and no one is left alive. And the worst part is, as each one of the main characters (or the only characters, in this case) dies, you, the viewer, hold on to the next one to guide you through the movie.

Maybe this guy won’t die. Maybe he will survive.

But he dies.

So you jump to his friend. The friend dies. One more friend? One more friend dies. All the characters seem equally important at this point. You need someone, anyone, you can depend on to make it to the end of the movie and survive! At this point, you need someone to survive for the sake of your well-being.

And then the final scene… the last two people — people you were praying to god would survive because you don’t wanna come out of this movie feeling like ultimate shit — die together, facing the hand-held camera documenting the horror, whispering “I love you” to each other.

Then the credits.

Then the trouble breathing.

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