In celebration of two upcoming documentary events, I thought I’d share some of my favorite documentary films with you all. Firstly, the wonderful Kristy Jett of Fright-Rags fame has decided to take her love for the 1991 film, Popcorn, to a whole new level. She is now in pre-production on a documentary all about Popcorn. Visit the production diary here to show your support. Secondly, Best Worst Movie is out on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 16th. Documenting the cult phenomena surrounding Troll 2 and its cast/filmmakers, Best Worst Movie promises to be a hilarious yet heartfelt look at an endearing film. Check out the official site here.
Now, back to the title of this post. Here are some of my favorite documentaries ever made—some involve the horror genre and some are simply horrifying. I’ll start with the most horrifying documentaries and work my way down.
Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996)
This film tops the list because everything about it is horrific. From the documentation of the most heinous crime imaginable to the subsequent deconstruction of justice, I have never been so enraged by a viewing experience. Chronicling the sadistic rape and murder of three children in West Memphis, Arkansas, this doc censors none of the terrible details. Following the murders, three teens, who listen to metal and explore the goth scene, are arrested and the trial is documented. What follows is the destruction of more life, as stereotypes and ignorance outweigh reason. I cannot recommend this powerful film enough, and I also encourage you to visit the Free the West Memphis Three site to learn more about their ongoing struggle for justice.
Deliver Us from Evil (2006)
No film has ever made me cry like this one. I’ll admit it, I literally sobbed uncontrollably during an interview. This documentary follows the exploits of a single Catholic Priest, who was moved from congregation to congregation to cover-up his abuse of far too many children. This film not only captures the immense suffering of the families whose trust was violated so deeply, but it exposes a sickening corruption scandal in the highest levels of the Catholic Church.
The Thin Blue Line (1988)
Another film dealing with a miscarriage in justice, acclaimed documentarian Errol Morris was so effective, his film literally saved a man’s life. How many movies can claim that? Utilizing reenactments and interviews, Morris studies the conviction of an innocent Texas man wrongfully accused of the murder of a police officer. While this movie is not as entertaining as others on the list (this was back in the day when docs were shot on film), it is most definitely an important documentary that exposes the weaknesses of our justice system and human prejudice.
This Film is Not Yet Rated (2006)
Censorship. Yup, that’s pretty frightening, especially for fans of the horror genre. Kirby Dick’s documentary aims to expose the unfair practices of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). Tackling an entity that is shrouded in secrecy, Dick hires a private investigator to find the identity of the ratings board members. Although horror fans may not appreciate the way the documentary tackles violence, it is definitely worth a watch for any cinephile or student of the First Amendment.'
American Movie (1999)
What’s so horrifying about a documentary that captures an amateur filmmaker’s attempts at completing a horror movie? To anyone that has ever tried to make a movie, you’ll understand. Fear of failure is almost as scary as death. Milwaukee native Mark Borchardt, the film’s tragic hero, is perhaps the best documentary subject ever committed to film. Full of passion and conviction, but with hardly any resources to support his dreams, we watch Mark work through a struggle that is terrifyingly familiar for any artist. Highly recommended to even those who don’t care for documentaries, American Movie glides between hilarious and moving without pause.