8 Mind-bending horror movies to wreck your brain


Looking for some mind-bending horror to stimulate, or perhaps even melt your brain? Sometimes you run into movies that challenge your intelligence more than you expected. Movies that don’t rely on a heavy twist but rather build up a confusing atmosphere only to end up wrecking your brain. This is one of the best horror genres in my opinion! So, let’s have a look at 8 movies that have done their best to boil our brains. Sure, it hurts to think a little, but sometimes it’s worth it; I promise.

Triangle (2009)

Triangle mind bending horror

Writer/director Christopher Smith’s movie Triangle is a tricky one to talk about without giving anything away, but I will try my best. But if you’d rather to cut to the chase, skip the trailer and watch it immediately! The fewer assumptions, the better for this mind-bending masterpiece that took Smith 2 years to write.

The story centers around Jess, who lives alone with her autistic son. When her friend arranges a sailing trip she sees her chance for vacation, but on board the ship are people who don’t necessarily go together very well, so tensions are already high. A sudden storm appears from nowhere and the friends take shelter in a 1932 cruise ship that came to their rescue. But the cruise ship is seemingly empty, so who let them on board?

Triangle is a movie that with its twist and turns have you captivated from beginning to end, intensified with every minute that goes by. Keeping such a complex plot together requires a lot of thought, especially figuring out angles and cuts. Christopher Smith really pulled through and all peaces fall into place perfectly. A brilliant mind-bending mystery worth every minute of your time.

A review on IMDb said it very well: “The phrase “underrated” for this film IS underrated.”

Southbound (2015)

Southbound mind twisting horror movie

This is an anthology compilation film, much like V/H/S, which also shows separate stories. In Southbound however this framework succeeds better, with a distinctive universe in place and the many red lines recognizable through all 5 stories. The stories flow seamlessly in and out of each other, creating a harmonious (well, maybe not so much) coexistence.

We follow a number of individuals through their journeys on a deserted road. Two men trying to escape their pasts, a band on their way to their next gig, a man fighting to go home, a brother looking for his missing sister and a family on vacation. 5 different stories that all have something in common, they will be faced with their secrets and nightmares. Will they survive?

After watching Southbound for the first time I thought “well that was alright”, feeling entertained buy ready to forget and move on to my next horror-thrill.¬† It wasn’t until I watched it for the second time that I understood the many delicious breadcrumbs in this movie, and all the concepts it plays with. It’s actually pretty brilliant, which is why I personally love this movie.

As Above, So Below (2014)

As Above so Below terrifying horror

If you mix Indiana Jones, The Da Vinci Code and Tomb Rider but add a shit ton of mind-bending terror you’ll have the Dowdle brothers’ “As Above, So Below”. A found footage movie, something the Dowdle brothers are familiar with, having previously made Quarantine and The Poughkeepsie Tapes.

Archaeologist and scientific wonder child Lara Croft.. Wops, sorry – I mean Scarlet Marlowe, is a woman who follows in her dead father’s footsteps. She is on the hunt for the most sacred artifact of ancient alchimy, the Stone of the Wise. With her are sidekicks George and the documentary filmmaker Benji, followed by three french urban explorers to guide them. The team takes to the Paris catacombs, but the truth awaiting them is far more terrifying than they could have ever imagined.

As Above, So Below is not a perfect movie, with a story that falls flat at times. The clues and mysteries thrown at the characters are quickly solved by them, leaving us as an audience without the chance to take part. Sometimes things are better left unsaid (Talking to you, Hollywood). All in all though, I really enjoyed this movie and found the horror elements quite terrifying.

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

A tale of two sisters amazing horror movie

I don’t even know where to begin with this one, seeing as it’s one of my absolute favourite movies ever. The story is so incredibly complex, it really deserves an analysis instead of a review – I’ll probably get back to that. The first time I watched this movie I was left feeling pretty confused, so I turned to a forum and found an incredibly in-depth analysis which puzzled together all the pieces for me and left me in complete awe. Director/Writer Kim Jee-woon is a cinematic genius. There is absolutely nothing unnecessary in this movie, truly everything from angles, movements, dialogue has a perfectly thought out meaning.

The first scene takes place in an asylum where a psychologist asks young Su-mi the cause of her catatonic state. It then culminates to the two sisters, Su-mi and Su-yeon, who since their mother’s suicide both spent a good amount of time together in a mental asylum. When they are finally released back to their father he has remarried, but the stepmother is far from a warm and inviting presence, and an enmity soon develops between the new family members.

If I could only choose one movie to analyse for the rest of my life, The Tale of Two Sisters would be it. Don’t think you can skip this masterpiece if you’ve seen the Hollywood re-make “The Uninvited”, as it has no bearing on the original. The Hollywood version is a drop, while A Tale of Two Sisters is an ocean full of mysteries to discover. Hint: Notice the hands.

Ahh, I want to write so much more. Let me know if you want a spoiler-heavy in-dept analysis of this movie.

Tideland (2005)

Tideland 2005 intense mind-bending movie

Alice in Gilliam’s land? Yes, pretty much. This twisted story of imaginative Terry Gilliam received harsh reviews from critics when first released in 2005, dubbing it a disappointing mess. I couldn’t disagree more, Tideland is a wonderfully bizarre, heart-wrenching movie. Jodelle Ferland carries the movie from start to finish in the role of Jeliza Rose, displaying child acting at its absolute finest. We see Jodelle play a theatrical child rather than theatrically playing a child.

The story follows Jeliza Rose, who in her daily life goes through hell with a heroine addicted father. Lacking  food, protection and entertainment, she drifts into her own mind, letting her imagination transform her awful reality into fable. Through the eyes of a child we see someone grow up under horrendous circumstances, fighting to stay safe and sane.

Tideland is a uniquely stunning, powerful, surreal film. Gilliam is as odd and bold as ever, with slanted camera angles, unexpected humour and sometimes serious madness slipping into action. It’s a movie based on a book by Mitch Cullin, but the narrative is one the director no doubt made his own.

Resolution (2012)

Resolution mind-bending mystery horror

Filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead made their first feature film together, Resolution. A unique, mind-bending horror movie that has you guessing from start to finish. It’s an intelligent film that really put the directors on the cinematic map, and the unique horror standard is something they’ve upheld ever since, with amazing movies like “Endless” and “Spring”.

Mike is a soon-to-be-dad who takes it upon himself to save his childhood friend Chris from his debilitating drug addiction, after having received a film where Chris shows some worrying sides. Mike sees the film as a cry for help and travels to Chris’ isolated cabin to give him some unconventional support. He handcuffs Chris to a plumbing pipe, planning to force him through withdrawal and into a life of sobriety. But the horrors of withdrawal soon become their last worry as they discover that all is not right in this Indian Reservation land that seems to attract strange people and incidents.

I’m really excited about any director who dares to take on the genre of horror in a more serious and imaginative way, and that is exactly what directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have been doing so far. They’ve shown themselves to be pioneers in the horror genre and with shoestring budgets nonetheless! The friends made Resolution with a tiny budget of only 20,000 USD, which really proves that a good movie is more than a famous cast and expensive special effects.

Pi (1998)

Pi 1998 a brilliant mind-bending masterpiece

Aronofsky really messed with our heads with his debut film, Pi, and would later come to mess with our hearts with Requiem for a Dream. He’s an intriguing director to follow, having movies that really pull on your heartstrings, your sense of reality and above all – feelings of isolation. Pi is not an exception, and perhaps his best study in madness.

As a child Max was told not to look directly at the sun, but he did anyway and the burns from the sun almost caused him to go blind. The experience woke something up in him, a curiosity that turned into an obsession, a theory that everything can be explained in patterns. Now we find Max in a tiny cramped up apartment in China Town. He lives a lonely life as a mathematician, obsessed with finding a number, a pattern, that explains the logical structure of our world. It’s a lonely existence and does a number (pun intended) on his mental health. He becomes increasingly paranoid, and the migraine he’s had since looking at the sun as a child keeps getting worse.

“Pi” sucks you into the unstable world of Max, and you kind of go mad yourself. The suggestive sound scape almost causes you to have your own migraine. The grainy black and white cinematography along with the deep black shadows and sometimes washed out highlights really create an unsettling atmosphere much like in Erasehead. But unlike Erasehead, “Pi” is a movie that strives to, and very much can be, understood.

In the Mouth of Madness (1995)

In the Mouth of Madness

John Carpenter has made no secret of his admiration to author H. P. Lovecraft, and while not an adaptation, In the Mouth of Madness really showcases this. The play with cosmic terror and the depiction of the influence fiction has on the real world and us as consumers is pretty brilliant and doubtless a tribute to Lovecraft.

Horror writer Sutter Cane is by far the biggest author in his publishing house, and his books are only continuing to grow in popularity. Cane’s fans are eagerly awaiting his newest release, but the author himself is nowhere to be found. With the publishers desperate to get the money-making recent book out, they hire private detective John Trent to wind the missing author. Joined in his search is publisher Styles, and as the two opposites move to a mysterious town called Hobbs’ End, strange things start to occur. Is it all one big publicity stunt or is there something sinister going on?

As we follow Trent’s journey through the movie, the line between reality and fiction are slowly blurred out, creating an unsettling atmosphere as we cluelessly await what will happen next. The way director Carpenter plays with darkness and shadows makes for an uncomfortable watch. Is this his best movie? No, but it’s a fine intellectual horror thrill!

Written By


I've always had a deep love and fascination for movies, being an especially strong advocate for the weird, foreign, underrated, under-budgeted and unfairly NC17 rated films of our world. Cinesister is the embodiment of this passion (which some might call an obsession).

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