I'm spiraling out of control!!
July 22, 2016 6:31 PM   Subscribe

I watched the film A Simple Plan (1998, dir. Sam Raimi) last night and loved it. I enjoyed it because despite the best efforts of the characters, everything just spiraled out of control for them. Can you guys recommend other films where everything just goes out of control and gets worse and worse for the characters?

I guess these films are typically thriller, suspense, noir, etc. but I'm not too particular about the genre of the films, release date, or if they're foreign or not.

A few other films I can think of that "spiral out of control" are Fargo, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead , No Country for Old Men (I think...), what other films sort of follow this "out of control" narrative?
posted by modesty.blaise to Media & Arts (92 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
 
Primer.
posted by vrakatar at 6:38 PM on July 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just as a preface, if you enjoyed the movie, the book is really very good also.

You mention Fargo, but if you haven't seen both seasons of the show on FX, those are pretty much everything you are looking for, but over the course of a season. Both seasons are some of the best TV that I've seen. The movie Shame (2011) is like this, too, although the subject matter is pretty intense. Owning Mahowny is one of my favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman movies, and it's about a downward spiral of gambling addiction.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:40 PM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


sorry about the subtitles, not gonna edit again.
posted by vrakatar at 6:41 PM on July 22, 2016


In a comedy vein, Quick Change features Bill Murray as the leader of a hapless group of bank robbers.
posted by not that girl at 6:42 PM on July 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Boogie Nights and Magnolia come to mind.

Magnolia has multiple intersecting storylines, so you get to watch 6 different plots spiral out of control. Aimee Mann's Momentum, featured in the film, is a good snapshot of the gist of the movie (lyrics).
posted by good lorneing at 6:44 PM on July 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Go (1999) is a good example of this.
posted by tybstar at 6:44 PM on July 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


I thought of Fargo and No Country before seeing your {more inside}. Turns out the Coen Bros are great at this, because their first movie, Blood Simple, is a perfect, perfect example. Highly recommend it.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:47 PM on July 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Shallow Grave
posted by The Shoodoonoof at 6:48 PM on July 22, 2016 [17 favorites]


The Big Clock (1948).
posted by praemunire at 6:48 PM on July 22, 2016


Scotland, Pa.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:51 PM on July 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


An oldie, but goodie: Adventures in Babysitting
posted by invisible ink at 6:52 PM on July 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


Blood Simple - also by the Coen Brothers, a much earlier work
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:56 PM on July 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


I just finished watching Europa Report this very evening before I signed on to MetaFilter. It's not without its flaws, but it pretty much fits your description.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:57 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Requiem for a Dream
Black Swan
posted by erst at 6:58 PM on July 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Birdman
posted by erst at 6:58 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I actually haven't seen The Talented Mr. Ripley, but the book always feels very much like this to me, though of course it's Tom Ripley's fault.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:00 PM on July 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Maybe Kids as well, though it's not exactly a crowd favorite. And obviously a lot of horror movies fit the bill, but I remember Cabin Fever 2 feeling like this in a deeply disturbing way.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:00 PM on July 22, 2016


House of Sand and Fog
posted by ReluctantViking at 7:01 PM on July 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Seconding Quick Change.
posted by holborne at 7:03 PM on July 22, 2016


Unforgiven. I've walked out of that one and A Simple Plan. Also Das Boot. I call them 'everything sucks' movies.
posted by bq at 7:03 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Gravity
posted by dydecker at 7:11 PM on July 22, 2016


Before the Devil Knows Your Dead.
posted by the foreground at 7:12 PM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm a big fan of Wonder Boys for that.
posted by Caravantea at 7:21 PM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


After Hours
posted by phoenix_rising at 7:32 PM on July 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Clockwise (80's comedy with John Cleese)
posted by anonymisc at 7:32 PM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Maybe Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Memento
Run Lola Run
The Prestige
The Hunt
+ 1 for Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream
posted by Crystalinne at 7:41 PM on July 22, 2016


The Hoax spirals wonderfully, gloriously out of control. (Fanfare post)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:41 PM on July 22, 2016


Bad Day at Black Rock
posted by rhizome at 7:45 PM on July 22, 2016


Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
posted by fings at 7:45 PM on July 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


All Is Lost
K-19
posted by j_curiouser at 7:47 PM on July 22, 2016


Very Bad Things

Not a good movie, but things do spiral wildly out of control from the first shot to the last, pretty much .
posted by Fig at 8:00 PM on July 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


May I suggest Repo Man?
posted by 256 at 8:06 PM on July 22, 2016


Check out Korean film The Wailing for the most batshit crazy out-of-control spiral you can imagine! The film starts out almost like a gentle small-town comedy before its police detective main character makes some questionable choices, and then the insanity begins. It's terrific!
posted by RubyScarlet at 8:10 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Dog Day Afternoon with Al Pacino and John Cazale.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:16 PM on July 22, 2016 [6 favorites]




Failsafe
posted by j_curiouser at 8:36 PM on July 22, 2016


This is pretty much the entire premise of Breaking Bad.
posted by danceswithlight at 8:39 PM on July 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


Four Rooms
posted by prewar lemonade at 8:40 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Before & After, with Liam Neeson and Meryl Streep.
posted by danceswithlight at 8:44 PM on July 22, 2016


Ditto on Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Also, Into the Night.
posted by bonehead at 8:46 PM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Dancer in the Dark, with Bjork.
posted by danceswithlight at 8:50 PM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Strangers on a Train (1951)
Diabolique (1955)
posted by mdrew at 8:55 PM on July 22, 2016


The 1950 film noir Quicksand.
posted by Paragon at 8:57 PM on July 22, 2016


Breaking Bad for sure! Came to say it but was beaten to it. Every episode just gets worse and worse and worse. Everyone makes bad decisions, it's great.

Rogue Trader does a good bit of spiraling, and it's based on a true story, so that's neat.
posted by phunniemee at 8:58 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Repulsion (1965)
posted by rhizome at 9:04 PM on July 22, 2016


There's the documentary, American Movie (Trailer)
Sunset Boulevard
Straw Dogs
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:11 PM on July 22, 2016


Angel Baby
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:19 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you want comedy, Rat Race.
posted by delight at 9:32 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Heathers
Fight Club
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:36 PM on July 22, 2016


Montenegro, a great film, which contrasts the modernity and predictability of Sweden with the chaotic, serendipitous madness that was Serbia of the moment, must make your list.

If I weren't in internet-repressed China, and thus unable to nimbly Google the film, I'd give you more links. But let me say this, you'll be treated to Susan Anspach and the lovely "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" sung by Marianne Faithfull. Bored American housewife meets Montenegran zoo-keeper – with surprising culmination. Throw in an out-of-control geriatric Swedish father-in-law and his disinterested Swedish businessman-son and you've got out-of-control for a good 96 minutes.

Supposedly loosely based on real events. Really!
posted by lometogo at 10:12 PM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Burn After Reading, Coens with Clooney, Swinton, McDormand and Pitt. Hilarious.
posted by effluvia at 10:16 PM on July 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm in the middle of Mr. Robot and things are..complicated.
posted by Pardon Our Dust at 10:17 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Cabin in the Woods.
posted by Fister Roboto at 10:27 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Owning Mahowny (2003)
posted by bigtex at 11:53 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Snatch
posted by The World Famous at 12:23 AM on July 23, 2016


Inside Llewyn Davis.
posted by umbú at 12:59 AM on July 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


Election
posted by iamkimiam at 2:27 AM on July 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


John Cleese is on here several times and that's not a surprise.
Many of his stories (although he didn't write Rat Race) are about watching characters as they grasp for straws as their lives unravel.
Not a movie, but nearly every episode of Fawlty Towers is just this.
A Fish Called Wanda has an entire subplot where you watch a barrister's very boring personal and professional life fall apart.
posted by plinth at 3:55 AM on July 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Conversation. Maybe Cache? Agree that the Coens are good at this -- maybe Burn After Reading as a goofy example.
posted by pepper bird at 4:58 AM on July 23, 2016


If you're interested in television, check out Mad Dogs on Amazon Instant Video. I'm not done watching it, but the first half of the season is definitely about bad things getting worse all the time.
posted by liet at 5:17 AM on July 23, 2016


Blue Ruin
posted by mattholomew at 5:21 AM on July 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Nasty Baby
posted by areaperson at 5:52 AM on July 23, 2016


Drive
Black Hawk Down (it all starts with one guy falling off a rope...)
Miracle Mile
posted by McCoy Pauley at 5:53 AM on July 23, 2016


You want The Ice Harvest.
posted by joelhunt at 6:02 AM on July 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Red Rock West
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:26 AM on July 23, 2016


The comedy version of this is Catastrophe, streaming on Amazon.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:47 AM on July 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Rope
The 25th Hour
posted by kapers at 7:09 AM on July 23, 2016


Mulholland Drive
Thelma & Louise
posted by kapers at 7:10 AM on July 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't think anybody's mentioned this but it's important and will help you find more- A Simple Plan is a basically a straight classical tragedy with some modern film making. The whole notion of one or two small choices leading to large unintended consequences (usually ruinous) started with the ancient Greeks, and so you might enjoy some classic 60s-90s film adaptations of Greeks tragedies.


Also Fargo, like ASP, is basically a Greek tragedy, so I think this method of searching might help :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:14 AM on July 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is one of the most common structures in storytelling. If the story starts in the thick of things and stays there, it's much harder to identify with the protagonist. Starting the story in an environment not too different from your normal life helps with that. You effectively get to watch the situation develop through the protagonist's eyes.

And what interest would there be in a story where a simple plan is executed successfully, with no hitches, and everyone just goes home and goes to bed?

Of movies that have this as an explicit theme, some of the most effective are "The Game" (mid nineties with Michael Douglas) and "Something Wild" (the eighties Jonathan Demme flick). Very different moods though. As stated above, "Go" does this well too.

Lots and lots of others of course, probably many from this millennium which by definition I haven't seen...
posted by sesquipedalia at 7:41 AM on July 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have a fondness for 'Carlito's Way', a more charming version of 'Scarface' with a protagonist who's just got things stacked up against him.
posted by ovvl at 7:49 AM on July 23, 2016


Possibly "The Ghost and the Darkness."
posted by Michele in California at 10:28 AM on July 23, 2016


Oh, for TV, Weeds fits the bill too. (It takes a season or two to get going.)
posted by stoneandstar at 10:51 AM on July 23, 2016


Falling Down from 1993.
posted by Rash at 1:48 PM on July 23, 2016


The trope From Bad to Worse is the closest fit I could find on TV Tropes.

It's popular in horror, but in subverting the trope, there's Tucker and Dale vs Evil for the horror-comedy, and Cabin in the Woods for meta-horror (jokes on horror tropes, but still being straight-faced horror, for the most part).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:06 PM on July 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Straw Dogs
Fight Club
posted by bongo_x at 2:40 PM on July 23, 2016


Charlie Victor Romeo is a documentary, of sorts -- they took the actual cockpit conversations of various airplane disasters and recreated them using actors on a minimal set. Very chilling. One thing leads to another, and before you know it the plane has crashed. Was on Netflix, not sure if it's still there.

A Simple Plan was based on Scott Smith's book of the same name; he also wrote The Ruins, which was also made into a movie. Very similar in structure to A Simple Plan; the book was ok, no idea if the movie is any good.

+1 for All is Lost. Jeez, that movie -- hope dies last, y'know.
posted by Bron at 3:13 PM on July 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Quicksand with Mickey Rooney from 1950. He thought it was his best film.
posted by Rash at 4:15 PM on July 23, 2016


In Bruges (2008).

Trailer here.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:56 PM on July 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Gotta second 'Shallow Grave'. It's a prototype of the condition you describe (excluding Macbeth, natch). Smart people in strange scenarios make increasingly poor decisions. Watch and savour.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 5:00 PM on July 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Detour (1945) -- it's a little over an hour long, one of the lowest-budget movies you will ever see -- and it's a classic that's on the National Film Registry.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:33 PM on July 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Ladykillers is an excellent old Ealing comedy along these lines.
posted by emilyw at 7:39 AM on July 24, 2016


Die Brücke
posted by Sys Rq at 10:00 AM on July 24, 2016


Sid and Nancy is especially horrifying because it is a true story about people you have heard of. Trailer
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 11:00 AM on July 24, 2016


Reservoir Dogs falls nicely into this category. The characters plan a heist, and they only know each other by code names (Mr. White, Mr. Pink, etc.) so that if anyone gets caught by the cops, they can't rat the others out. They're all seasoned criminals, so it should work perfectly! But instead, it all falls spectacularly apart.
posted by BeBoth at 11:23 AM on July 24, 2016


Nthing Blood Simple. It really is exactly what you describe looking for, and ,in my opinion, it's one of the best suspense films ever made.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:19 PM on July 24, 2016


Elevator to the Gallows
posted by wcfields at 6:47 PM on July 24, 2016


Ooooo late to the party but I have two that are perfect:

Clay Pigeons (1998)

and

U-Turn (1997)
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:32 AM on July 25, 2016


The recent Green Room (2015; Dir. Jeremy Saulnier).

Not for the faint of heart, but pretty great. Go in cold, if you can. Don't even read the cast.
posted by merlinmann at 3:05 PM on July 29, 2016


I'm intrigued, but "go in cold" and "not for the faint of heart" don't really work together.
posted by bongo_x at 5:42 PM on July 29, 2016


Oh they absolutely do
posted by rhizome at 7:02 PM on July 29, 2016


Oh hello old thread I just remembered in the car.

If you're out of stuff to watch by this point and want a TV series, Big Love fits this really well. Bonus: revisit Bill Paxton! It also does a great job of giving you a constant spiral without needing the suspense/thriller/heist angle.
posted by phunniemee at 3:42 PM on August 15, 2016


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