7. Black Swan (2010, Darren Aronofsky)
This is one of those entries on my list where people say “Well is this really a horror movie?” I think it fits the basic criteria, which is disturbing, nightmarish, completely insane by all means, and haunting to the max. Featuring a powerhouse acting job by the lovely Natalie Portman, Arnonofsky takes a rather ordinary plot-a ballet company doing Swan Lake-and turns into a frightening experience combing fantasy with reality, and featuring body horror that would be right at home in a David Cronenberg film. Having Mila Kunis act as Portman’s more outgoing, adventurous counterpart/rival was a great touch, and I loved how expertly creepy and slimy Vincent Cassel was in the role of her director. A man who gets way too close to his dancers, commanding high respect and demanding extreme perfection to the point of causing his performers to be exhausted. This literal balancing act is what causes Portman’s Nina to slowly and then rapidly become unbalanced, giving the movie its bleak center: the pressure causing what little sanity the poor girl had to begin with to ebb away.
Something I truly love about this film is how the darkness builds up to a fevered pitch, as Nina goes from being only able to portray the White Swan to embracing the Black Swan of the title, going inwards into herself and uncovering the madness necessary to let go. Perhaps this is a bloody and sad tale of method acting gone utterly wrong, or simply just another fine psychological driven movie from Arnonofsky, who with Black Swan, The Wrestler, Pi and others is one of the best of the modern directors. Whatever the case the transformation is something I still brood upon from time to time, pondering whether art attracts insane people. Maybe people are driven insane by art. Something in the middle, perhaps.