Five Quietly Disturbing Films


Please allow me to define “quietly disturbing”, so we are all on the same page, right away. What I mean by quietly disturbing is a movie that messes you up, but does so without being in-your-face. A movie that gets under your skin, but gets under it like an invisible parasite, burrowing, even though no one can see it. A movie that rolls in like an unannounced fog and sets an eerie energy over everything.

These are not films where people get gutted. These are not films with perverse close-ups of violence (for the most part). Yet, somehow, these films are far more disturbing than some movies that try way harder and only end up being half as effective. Here, for your consideration, five quietly disturbing films.


dogtooth (1)

Dogtooth is a movie about a family. A family quite unlike any you have ever seen on film.

I talked Dogtooth up quite a bit over at my site, but don’t think I have spoken of it at all here. Shame on me, my Unreality friends need to know about this film. Dogtooth is SO unassuming that if you walked into a room and someone was watching it, you could mistake it for an extremely dull film about a family. At times, it just seems like the same people, quietly talking in the same setting, and for a little bit, you don’t even understand what is going on. But once it begins to settle in what is going on, that is when the disturbing sets it, and it only comes on harder and harder by the minute, culminating with a breathtaking and heart breaking ending to a quiet and quite disturbing film.

But make no mistakes, there are some very sparse scenes of violence in this film. The growing sense of unease you get while watching Dogtooth is almost explainable, but it is definitely quiet, and it is definitely disturbing.

Time of the Wolf


Time of the Wolf is a post-apocalyptic survivor tale, in the vein of The Road.

First of all, this is Michael Haneke. Yes, of Funny Games and Amour fame. So you KNOW it will be upsetting and disturbing. But Time of the Wolf, for a post-apocalyptic film, is also very quiet. It is not your typical “the world has ended” film. There are no scenes of people getting chased by mutants. There are no scenes of mohawked madman, leading tribes of other madman with strange hair-dos. No, this is a film that makes an end-of-the-world scenario feel very real. It is always gray, and there is a growing sense of distrust among everyone.

I can also tell you, as I have told you once before, that Time of the Wolf has what I consider to be one of the most powerful endings to any movie ever made. You need to pay attention throughout the entirety of this film for the ending to make sense, but trust me when I say, it may be a quiet and disturbing, but it still hits you with a loud THUD as it all unfolds.

Picnic at Hanging Rock


Picnic at Hanging Rock is about a group of students and their professor who went on a school trip one day and vanished.

A classic I had heard so much about and only somehow got around to seeing recently, Picnic at Hanging Rock is one of those quiet movies that is so tense and foreboding, that it almost make you feel sick. Where modern horror is relentless in its visceral assault upon the audience’s sense, Picnic at Hanging Rock is the exact opposite of that. Feeling like The Wicker Man meets Lets Scare Jessica To Death, Picnic at Hanging Rock seems to derive true pleasure from asking more questions than it answers. But the film is quiet, and the growing sense of unknown dread accompanies the whole experience.

Rumors that it is based on a true story only help make the movie that much more unsettling, yet it needs none of the bells and whistles similar movies would employ for the same effect. Do yourself a favor, and see this movie if you haven’t. May expunge more upon this in a future Why Haven’t You Seen It column down the road.



Compliance is a movie about a prank phone call, a stupid boss, and the young girl caught in the middle .

Much like Dogtooth mentioned above, if you walk in on Compliance during any scene, it just looks like a slow indie movie filled with people talking. There is no climactic ending. There seems to be no visual clues as to just how quietly disturbing this film gets, but understand, unlike the other movies on the list, Compliance actually happened in real life. Is there a movie out there likely to make you more disgusted and angry as Compliance does, with very little noise and fuss? Not likely.

Like all the movies on this list, at the beginning, you will be affected, but by the end, you will be all fucked up and even angry. There is a growing sense of dread, feeling like you want to scream WHY at the TV screen. Yet none of this is conveyed with action, loud dialogue, or bloodshed.

Instead, it is just how quietly everything is going down that makes it all so disturbing.

Silent House

SILENT HOUSE  / Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Silent House is about a young girl and her Father returning to their old house to clean it out before it gets sold.

One  of my biggest regrets from my writing last year was saying this film was one of the worst horror films of the year. I actually ended up writing a follow up and expressing just how off I was. I needed to sit with Silent House for awhile before its impact was felt, but my God, was it felt. But make no mistakes about it, as it implies in the name, the movie is quiet and often times, rather slow. The film actually works like one giant slow-burn. I think I expected it to go in a different direction than it did, which is why I may not have liked it upon first watching, but upon second, all the details emerge, and present a brilliant, quiet, and truly disturbing film about how dangerous lies can be between family.

Also, as much as I hate remakes, I am in love with Elizabeth Olson, and find her utterly captivating. Dismiss the gimmick of this movie (it was all shot in one shot, kind of) and let the story and atmosphere sink in to your bones. Trust me, it will stay there for a long, long time.

Okay, now go read about another quietly disturbing film….

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  1. I look forward to seeking some of these out. Thank you also for reminding me about ‘the road’, a movie I had missed out on and would have forgotten about.

  2. A quick FYI, Compliance is based on a true story…
    Yes, people can be that stupid.
    Yes people will blindly do what others who assume authority will tell them to do…

  3. @Frothy Ham and @zsasz,
    Thanks for reading, guys!
    Sadly, I know, I went WAY TOO DEEPLY into the case after seeing the film. SO messed up.
    @Nick, I honestly believe that was the point. The director even said I wanted people to walk away from my movie with way more questions than answers.

  4. Sorry, but COMPLIANCE is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen put on film. From what I’ve been able to read about the real incident it was based on, it’s a gross over-dramatization of it, as well.

  5. Yeah, Compliance is not really disturbing as it is exasperating. It does linger in the memory for a little while, but that’s followed by heavy eye rolling. Dogtooth sounds interesting and I’ll definitely give it a go.

  6. thank you for this list. in the last week or so i have watched four of the five films listed here and very much so enjoyed them. dogtooth was very well done and compliance just left a sick, helpless, violated feeling in the pit of my stomach by the end. both great films. i watched ‘the silent house’ (which is the original) which scared the shite out of me (between the darkness and the up close and personal camera which felt very claustrophobic it had a very scary atmosphere) i did not, however enjoy the remake as much and found it quite redundant as not only is it merely a year after the original (which says to me it was made for audiences who cannot abide subtitles even though the original has about ten lines of dialogue in it) it did not live up to the atmosphere created by the original film and i noticed a disturbing lack of credit given to the original film makers. blatant plagiarism and a pretty poor job of it at that. all in all, though a great list would love to see another:)

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