Funny and frightening films for finals

Finals week is right around the corner. The already sleepless will sleep less, the need for some laughter will abound even more than it usually does and cinemaphiles everywhere will find themselves in the unfortunate position of being unable to sit down with a good movie. There will simply be no time. Of course, during the semester you might have seen a movie or two – a clip from Hamlet or non-fictional footage from the time when the world was recorded in black and white. If you took a film course, you might have even seen films by Federico Fellini and Lina Wertmüller that metaphorically analyzed exhilarating topics such as gender roles, auteur theory and postwar cinematic phases.

During the break from this strange reality that’s known as university life, however, those are probably not the movies you’ll want to relax with. So what movies are there to watch? In the spirit of the insomniacs and those who desperately need a good laugh, the following are movies that will either give a good guffaw or provide relaxation in the knowledge that, “My finals week insomnia is nothing compared to this guy.” They are also movies you most probably haven’t heard of or seen before.

First up is Harold and Maude.

If you have never laughed at fake suicide attempts before, this is the movie to watch. Harold, a young man obsessed with death but with a seemingly limitless ability to fake suicide in hilarious ways, meets Maude. Maude thinks nothing of stealing cars, driving like a maniac, replanting the city’s trees – anything to stir up the stew. Their relationship meets with some unexpected and perhaps shocking results. The movie pretty blatantly emphasizes everything that’s relatively annoying and sometimes just plain wrong about the counterculture of the ’60s and ’70s, but hey: Finals week is over. Time to let your groovy freak flag run high, if not on an actual flagpole then at least in your DVD player. Funny in a much more intelligent and genuine way than Austin Powers, Harold and Maude is a good bet for a feel-good movie to make you laugh.

Another good movie for those who need a chuckle is Monster Man. A lot of people might consider it depraved that someone could find this movie funny. It’s not the most humorous storyline. Of course, The Evil Dead series didn’t have a very humorous storyline either. Adam and Harley, who once were best friends but are now not the comradeliest of couples, go on a road trip to find that a monster – Monster Man – is keen on doing them grievous bodily harm. Monster Man is grossly disfigured and drives a monster truck, ironically enough. The stories that get told, the people who Adam and Harley meet and the events that take place are sometimes disgusting and often hilarious, but always entertaining. Monster Man is a gross-out movie that will make your ribs hurt.

For those not inclined to laugh, there are other movies to watch – movies that are not only unfunny, but not even mildly amusing by coincidence. No matter how much sleep you lost during finals week, it’s nothing compared to the characters in these movies. If a laugh won’t bring you out of your finals week haze, these movies will.

The Machinist starts out showing Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale), the main character. Just from looking at him, you know something is awry. The usually sleek and attractive Bale underwent massive weight modification to play the role, but precisely opposite the type that Robert De Niro underwent in Raging Bull. Looking emaciated, anemic and sallow, it comes to light that Trevor hasn’t slept in, well, a very long time. His perceptions and his reality are commensurately skewed, and the movie has a many surreal moments in which one can’t tell reality from delusion. It is a long, often disturbing ride to the conclusion. The Machinist is comparable to Memento, but in at least one cinemaphile’s opinion, better.