Why does Hollywood want to punish us?

This year’s Oscars aren’t just heavy — it’s a given that the weightiest dramas pop up in theaters when Academy members are preparing their ballots. But this time around, the movies are more than serious. They’re nightmare-inducing. You’ve got a bear trying to eat a man and slow-motion throat-slitting; a teenager held captive in a shed and dead bodies hidden behind drywall. Just to name a few.

Watching all the brutality unfold onscreen is no picnic. Do you have what it takes to handle it?

Let’s find out.

This post discusses (some disturbing) plot points in a number of movies, so proceed with some caution on multiple levels.

“The Revenant”

What you can expect: Despite rumors you may have heard, a bear does not, in fact, rape the protagonist in Alejandro Inarritu’s excruciating revenge story. First of all, it’s a mama bear protecting her cubs. Second of all, why are we even trying to rationalize such an absurd fabrication? The fact that Fox had to issue a statement to refute the Drudge Report’s ramblings is mildly amusing.

Less amusing? That scene with the bear. It’s muffle-your-scream-caliber terrifying when Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who at this very moment may be finding a good spot for his forthcoming Oscar) ends up between a grizzly and her cubs. He gets violently tossed around, stomped, slashed, slobbered on and generally ripped to shreds. And that’s just the beginning of the movie.

After he gets rudimentarily stitched back together, Hugh has to muster the strength to crawl hundreds of miles to track down the creepy evildoer who left him for dead. It’s exhausting for him and it’s not much easier to watch considering what follows — finger severing, a feast of raw meat, a scalping and a scene where Hugh cuts open a dead horse to use it as a sleeping bag.

During an Academy and press screening in Los Angeles, some viewers walked out. It was just too gory, according to the Hollywood Reporter. And one critic declared: “Forget women seeing this.”

How will you fare? That depends. Are you a woman? If so, you should be fine. You’re built to handle childbirth after all. Horse lovers, on the other hand, might want to bring a barf bag.

“The Hateful Eight”

What you can expect: That rascal Quentin Tarantino is at it again with a western about a bounty hunter and his prisoner trapped in a haberdashery during a blizzard with some trigger-happy characters.

The first half of the movie isn’t so bad unless you take exception to John “Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) using a woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) as a punching bag. But just before the intermission, things take a turn during a flashback that involves one sadistic character forcing a man to walk naked in the snow for hours and then — and there’s no easy way to put this — the guy forces his freezing, nude prisoner to perform oral sex on him. That scene is basically an amuse-bouche for the grotesqueries to come. You know, exploding heads, bloody vomit, a testicular mishap — that kind of thing.

How will you fare? If you survived “Reservoir Dogs,” you should be fine. The relentless violence in “Hateful” is somehow less disturbing than that ear scene.

“Son of Saul”

What you can expect: The Hungarian holocaust movie takes place at Auschwitz, so you know you’ll be put through the wringer with this one. Saul (Géza Röhrig) is both a prisoner and a worker inside the concentration camp, where his job is to burn dead bodies. But when he thinks he finds his child among the recently deceased, he risks everything to find a rabbi to help with a proper burial.

The bleak drama focuses tightly on Saul, which means the viewer is confronted with the shrieks and calls for help coming out of gas chambers, but — in order to give us the same desensitized worldview of the character — some of the worst horrors are blurred out or left out of the frame.

How will you fare? Even without the most excruciating visuals, you’ll lose faith in humanity.


What you can expect: Here’s a nightmare scenario: A teenage girl is kidnapped and held for years in a shed where she is repeatedly raped and becomes pregnant with her captor’s child. The movie, like the book by Emma Donoghue, is told from the perspective of the little boy, Jack (Jacob Tremblay). That means viewers are spared from seeing some of the horrors that Joy (Brie Larson) has to endure, though we know what’s happening when “Old Nick” (Sean Bridgers) comes into the shed every night.

Even when things begin to look up for mother and son — this isn’t a spoiler! It’s in the trailer! — the feelings of bleakness never really lift.

How will you fare? You’ll fall into a deep depression that can only be reversed by watching a “Master of None” marathon on Netflix.


What you can expect: When director Justin Kurzel got his hands on Shakespeare’s violent play, his thoughts were clearly: You know what would make this better? More blood.

Hence, a new version of “Macbeth” was born in which every death and battle that takes place offstage in the play ends up onscreen, unfolding in the goriest fashion — sometimes in slow-motion so you can fully appreciate what happens when sharp blade meets jugular.

It’s all sort of gorgeous in a horrifying way, in part thanks to Michael Fassbender as the murderous king-to-be, who ferociously inhabits this austere, dark ages take on “Macbeth.”

How will you fare? If you can handle “Game of Thrones,” you can handle this.

“Black Mass”

What you can expect: Johnny Depp piles on the prosthetics to play mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, who led Boston’s Winter Hill Gang. Bulger was ultimately convicted of murdering 11 people, and the movie doesn’t shy away from showing the cold-blooded killer’s handiwork, whether he’s gunning down a former associate in a parking lot or strangling a young prostitute with his bare hands.

Violence aside, the movie wallows in the unsavory with its focus on so many awful criminals, including Bulger’s childhood friend, FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who protected the mobster from legal repercussions for years.

How will you fare? This is “Departed”-level horror but without the satisfying Wahlberg-delivered retribution to lighten the mood.


What you can expect: Denis Villeneuve’s thriller about the drug wars along the Mexico-U.S. border wastes no time getting going. Almost the moment the movie begins, we’re already confronted with the image of dozens of dead bodies covered in plastic and squirreled away behind the walls in some drug dealer’s house. And before we can recover from that sight — or the hard-boiled FBI agents vomiting out front — a bomb is detonated sending body parts flying.

Things only get worse from there. The images are horrifying, clearly, but the score, by Jóhann Jóhannsson seriously ups the ante, transforming a suspenseful drama into something like an edge-of-your-seat horror movie.

How will you fare? You’ll forget to breathe, but you’ll recover. Eventually.