Where do you draw the line between a movie that is enjoyably disturbing and one that is just plain unpleasant? It’s a question everyone has to answer for themselves eventually. A movie can be mean and depressing and gross without necessarily being bad: Goodnight Mommy disturbed me so much I had to pace it out in twenty-minute chunks, but I liked it. The final shot (and sound) of Lars Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark will probably be with me for the rest of my life, but I think I’m probably a better person, or at least a less carceral person, as a result.
On the other hand, there is some stuff I just don’t want to watch. The Beta Test, a fairly well-reviewed movie about “toxic masculinity,” opens with an exceptionally gory scene of an abusive man beating his wife to death. It takes a long time. There are little details — like her body flailing and wriggling as he throws her over a railing to her death; like the impact — that another filmmaker would cut. I turned the movie off, after that scene, and I don’t plan to revisit it. I just don’t need to see that shit, ever. I lived it. I already know it’s bad.
Speak No Evil is the worst time I’ve ever had watching a movie, and for you to get the full effect — I kind of hope you do — you should know no more than that before going in. After it ended, my husband (who had chosen the movie based on a podcast recommendation) just stared at me in contrite silence for a few minutes. I stared back, speechless. Eventually, we both started laughing. No language was adequate for what we’d just seen.
I think Speak No Evil is brilliant, and if you watch it on my recommendation, you will be angry at me for, like, a week. Again: I won’t tell you why. You have to go in blind for the full experience. Once you’ve watched it, though — go ahead, watch it now, it’s on Shudder; we’re already talking about it; what’s the worst that could happen? — you can come back here and I can try to explain what I’ve done.