In light of the pending pandemic, Hallmark just announced they were going to release and marathon some of their Christmas movies to lighten the mood. That’s adorable. That’s the last freaking thing I think I can handle right now.
To posit an alternative, let me introduce you to one of my favorite things. I’m a big fan of a very special genre I like to call “stupid-dark.” (I’m also guilty of being a fan of faux-documentary horror movies, so do with that what you will). Movies that show the less cute side of humans and/or have 5th grade creative writing level plots. There’s lots of good dark movies and shows, but the majesty of reaching a stupid-dark is unparalleled. Unexpected, bizarre, outlandish, and most importantly, distracting. That’s the stupid-dark way.
This is what I need in these trying times. I can barely handle cute Christmas Hallmark movies during the holiday season, and there’s a possibility that you’re the same way. Come join me on an adventure into Stupid-Dark. Best part, these are all on Netflix right now! Yippie!
1. Tiger King (2020)
This is brand new on Netflix and I binged it in a day (yesterday was not productive to say the least, but I, along with Joe Exotic and a plethora of weirdos of big cat breeding did very good on scrabble go while watching this so that’s something). This leans more towards Dark/Weird than truly Stupid-Dark – because it’s not stupid, it’s an incredible documentary – but there’s some things that happen that make you go “Oh god, that was stupid,” so I’m including it here. This deep dive into the lives of the big cat breeders and traders into the United States, including a Libertarian presidential campaign, accidental suicide, a man leading a harem of women tiger keepers, a potential murder plot and of course a butt ton of baby tigers and lions, is so bizarre and gripping.
2. 2012 (2009, weird right?)
You want stupid? You got it!
I remember when this first came out (in 2009, weirdly enough), and I thought it was a serious movie. Sure, the concept is serious; it’s the end of the world, scientists trying to build massive boats to save all the living species, a man trying to save his family. But boy howdy I don’t know what happened between concept and conclusion, but this is so stupid. It’s so good-stupid I cannot help but love it.
Listen, there’s car stunts in a limousine, a plethora of ‘good for 2009’ special effects of natural disasters that didn’t age well, Tibetan monks, a tsunami throwing a aircraft carrier into the White House, the Randy’s Donut donut rolling through a scene. It’s brilliant. Have a few beers, watch this with loved ones and don’t take it too seriously and I guarantee you you’ll be distracted from the ever-present looming threat of biological doom. There’s pretty much zero blood and gore for a movie where most of humanity dies. Not too shabby. It’s implied blood and gore but it’s action first and foremost.
Also, the dog lives!
3. Don’t Fuck With Cats (2019)
Another documentary (I’m a nerdy documentary fan, it’s true. Maybe I should make those instead of trying to get my screenwriting career off the ground); this one is definitely dark. It’s less stupid, but the entire premise – a group on the internet trying to gather information about a man committing murder after he started by killing cats on video – is wild. It’s a true story, because, if nothing else, if someone had pitched this as a feature they’d be laughed out if the room. There’s no way a person could make this up.
It’s gripping as hell is all I can say; the ‘cast’ is charming in their quirkiness and the bad guy is a straight up villain. It’s also a brilliant portrait of the evolution of psychopathy; truly incredible all around.
4. Dark Tourist (2018)
Last documentary, I promise, though this is more reality show than anything else. This series centers around host David Farrier who travels around the globe visiting the darker tourist attractions such as Varosha, Famagusta (the abandoned ghost city in Turkey/Cyprus), (he doesn’t make it in there), Milwaukee for a tour of Dahmer murder sites, and Medellín where he studies Pablo Escobar’s legacy.
It’s fun. The series only lasted one season sadly, but it’s really eye opening; there’s so much weird stuff on this planet, and the melange of cultures most of us are never even exposed to is just amazing. And the thread of stupid? This guy goes to the nuclear reactor accident in Japan. There’s a little bit of danger in some of what he does, which is half the fun I suppose. It’s dark, and it’s just a little stupid. But definitely passes the time.
5. 47 Meters Down (2017)
This is on a Buzzfeed list of movies that are so bad they’re good, and they’re not wrong. This entire movie is one dumb choice after the other. It’s scary as hell sometimes, but the entire time you’re thinking “Why would you think that’s a good idea?!” and you’re just so offended as a person with common sense that the jump scares feel like a reprieve. Furthermore, there is a definite abuse of the fact that these are two conventionally attractive women wet and in swimsuits. I see what you did there, Mr. Shark Movie Man.
This is a very stupid, avoidable situation. And underwater is dark. Hence ‘stupid-dark’.
6. The Ring (2002)
This movie hasn’t exactly aged well, and thus has moved from actually scary to stupid-dark. When I saw this (probably too young), I thought it was the worst thing to happen to me. But the I rewatched it again recently and I was less than impressed. There are way too many unanswered questions and the grey/black palate is just melodramatic instead of the intended striking. To be fair, I haven’t seen the original Japanese version, which I can only hope is better than this. The imagery is scary and dark, and the concept is kind of solid if not dated (although I imagine there’s plenty of kids watching now wondering about VHSes versus streaming… because I’m imagining the same thing), but the landing just doesn’t stick for me anymore. Dark and just kinda stupid.
8. Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil (2010)
This is the best movie. This is basically too good to be in the ‘stupid-dark’ genre, even though it is both stupid and dark. If you haven’t seen this, watch it; it’s laughing to the point of pain funny.
It’s obviously taking the hillbillies/cabin in the woods trope and flipping it on its gory head. This is actually one of those films that is so well written, so spot-on funny, and so surprisingly charming that it almost makes me mad. I would be attacked by a swarm of bees while holding a chainsaw to write something this good.