Streaming guide: Six films so harrowing you'll forget about COVID-19

During this time of crisis, many people are turning to heartwarming films about unlikely animal friendships, orphan wizards or triumphs of the human spirit. 

If you're reading this, you're probably not one of those people.

Some of us seek comfort in seeing just how much worse things could be and my cynical friends, I am here with the depressing goods.

As New Zealand endures the COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown, many Kiwis are getting into binge-watching. But what should you watch? Newshub is here to help.

We're bringing you streaming guides with advice on what to watch and where to watch it.

Here are six films so harrowing, watching them will help you forget about the global pandemic.
Be warned: these are all adults-only films that feature scenes designed to shock and upset.

The Road
Photo credit: Dimension Films

The Road

Often while watching post-apocalyptic movies, I think something like "this would be kinda cool though. Look at all the spikey death trucks!" This never happens while watching The Road. Seeing Vigo Mortensen shuffle across the dying Earth while slowly starving to death is a uniquely grim experience. But there's also some weary heroism to his performance and a tragic beauty to the film's world. This combines with a haunting score and exceptional cinematography to make a very worthy watch. You'll also treasure every bite of every lockdown snack after viewing.
Where to watch: Hire from Google / Apple


The Nightingale.
Photo credit: Transmission Films

The Nightingale

Set in 1800s Australia, The Nightingale reminds viewers that it's hard to beat recent colonial history for stomach-churning stories of human savagery. Aisling Franciosi leads the cast as an Irish convict chasing a British soldier across the outback after he commits a heinous act of violence against her family. The moment in question is one of the most confronting scenes I've ever experienced so I'll stress that this film, in particular, is not for the squeamish. While not literally based on a true story, the phrase 'inspired by true events' has never been more depressingly apt.
Where to watch: Hire from Apple / Google / Microsoft


Photo credit: A24


If you've grown numb to jump-scare heavy haunted house flicks, here's a film guaranteed to remind you what true dread feels like. Toni Collette shines as a daughter grieving the loss of her mother, while starting to suspect there might be something terrifyingly wrong with her family. Hereditary unflinchingly inflicts emotional agony on its audience in a way most in this genre won't dare to. Director Ari Aster might be the master of modern horror and the only reason I haven't mentioned him twice in this list is I thought my boss wouldn't let me get away with it. (Seriously, also watch his most recent film, Midsommar, it's great).
Where to watch: Hire from Lightbox / Apple / Google / Microsoft


Kill List.
Photo credit: UK Film Council

Kill List

This is a hard movie to categorise. What starts as a seemingly straightforward, low-budget crime thriller steadily devolves into an occult nightmare. A former soldier, desperate for cash, is hired by a mysterious client to kill three strangers. As he goes about his grisly business, events turn from simply violent, to eerily surreal and finally to sanity-straining. The final scene is, for my money, one of the most viscerally upsetting ever made. Kill List will likely leave you afraid of everything outside of your own house, making it perfect lockdown viewing.
Where to watch: Hire from Apple


Requiem for a Dream.
Photo credit: Artisan Entertainment

Requiem for a Dream

Watching a group of heroin addicts' lives slowly disintegrate sounds depressing enough but when combined with spectacular editing and one of the greatest film scores of all time, Requiem is guaranteed to leave you in a dark daze. Ellen Burstyn also gives the performance of her career as a lonely widow wasting away while dreaming of being on television. At one point she delivers a monologue so heartbreaking, even the film crew couldn't keep it together. Look closely during that scene and you'll see the shot drift out of focus briefly. It's because the cameraman was crying.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Funny Games.
Photo credit: Tartan Films

Funny Games

Probably the most unsettling watch on this list, despite containing almost no on-screen violence, no music and most of the film taking place inside one house. This is a home-invasion story like no other, with smirking villains who never stop being impeccably polite, even when committing truly heinous acts. You'll finish the film feeling like the director has grabbed you by the head and forced you to watch, and then participate, in something awful. This is Michael Haneke's shot-for-shot remake of his own 1997 Austrian film which I believe loses nothing in translation.
Where to watch: Hire from Microsoft / Apple