Well, guys, winter is officially in full swing, leaving us snowed in, cold, and with a serious case of cabin fever. Hopefully you all have stocked up on the hot chocolate, adult (or children’s) coloring books, mystery novels, and are current on your Netflix subscription. But if you exhausted all of these avenues by the time the first snow even hit and you need something a little extra to tantalize your noggin, you’re in luck, because today is National Puzzle Day. Last year we celebrated by providing five film suggestions for your cerebral viewing pleasure, and this year I bring you five more of the same. Our previous list spanned decades, throwing it back to some classic favorite whodunnits, so this time around I decided to focus on some of the more recent releases that left us baffled and bewildered.
James Ward Byrkit filmed this criminally under-seen movie out of his own home with no crew or script, managing to use the claustrophobic nature of the concept to his advantage, only making the viewer feel suffocated when it serves the purpose of the narrative. During a dinner party, some strange anomalies begin to occur due to a rare passing comet. What follows is a taut, fast paced, tightly shot and largely improvised journey as these friends try to discover an explanation for the mind bending phenomena they experience. I can’t say any more without getting spoilery, but I promise this one will stick with you.
I will openly admit up front that I am not this film’s biggest cheerleader, but there’s something to be said for the attention Enemy received during the months following its release. Jake Gyllenhaal has churned out some of the best male performances of the last five years, and those outside of the cinephile circle likely missed this dark, bizarre film when it was first released, which is worth a viewing just to see Gyllenhaall in his dual roles. Don’t perform a Google search of this one before you give it a watch, lest you be tempted to click on one of the many articles full of forums and essays discussing the meaning behind its peculiar and particularly disturbing ending.
Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss star in this film about a couple struggling to repair their strained marriage who take a weekend getaway to a secluded house on the advice of their therapist. The One I Love sits with you for days after a first watch, and Duplass and Moss’s performances are beautifully understated and haunting. The seed of suspicion and doubt plants itself in this movie and burrows deeper as the explanation behind this couple’s experience unfolds. Although once the film’s premise is actually revealed, the conclusion feels a tad rushed, the concept is entirely fresh and uniquely unsettling, with a conclusion that’s nearly impossible to predict.
Based on a short story by Robert A. Heinlein entitled “All You Zombies,” Predestination is a smart and disturbing science fiction thriller that explores time travel in an intelligent, albeit unorthodox context. This one, more so than any other film on this list, deserves repeat viewings. I was hard on Predestination upon the first watch, but since then my appreciation for its concept and execution has grown infinitely as the awareness of the conclusion improves the viewing experience rather than diluting it. The Wikipedia page for this film even has its own detailed timeline, if that tells you anything about its layered complexity.
Although the rest of these films may have managed slip under your radar over the last two years, as most of them were small indie releases, Gone Girl most certainly doesn’t fall into that category. It’s likely that those who haven’t yet seen this film are already aware of its major twist, but like any well-executed surprise, knowing doesn’t detract from the experience as a whole. Gone Girl is a murky, twisted, morbid tale of the dark underbelly of human nature and the manipulation and power that can be yielded when a person has lost all sympathy and morality. If you’ve seen it, watch it again, because I guarantee you’ll discover new pieces of the puzzle you didn’t realize you missed the first time around.
What are your favorite puzzle movies? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured Image: A24 Films