David Lynch (1990-91)
A surreal soap opera cum murder-mystery, Twin Peaks follows an investigation headed by Special Agent Dale Cooper into the death of the homecoming queen of a fictional town in Washington. The show was a critical success and has since developed a cult fan base, perhaps because of its mixture of genuine creepiness and the surreal humour of its range of weird characters. Cancelled after its second series, it ends on an unresolved cliffhanger – will we ever really know ‘Who killed Laura Palmer?’
The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood (1986)
The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the near future in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian and theocratic state that has replaced the United States of America. Offred, the protagonist and narrator, is a handmaid – a woman assigned to bear children for elite couples; reproduction rates are dangerously low due to sterility from pollution and STDs. The story slips from tales of her daily life to flashbacks. The novel ends with Offred on her way either to prison or to freedom—she does not know which.
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
Featuring a truly mesmerizing debut from Elizabeth Olsen, this is an understated, deeply disquieting psychological thriller. Protagonist Martha goes to stay with her sister and wealthy husband; it becomes clear through a series of flashbacks that she has escaped from a terrifying cult. Shot and acted more like a drama than a thriller, the film’s wilful ambiguity is its genius. Our expectations are confounded as the film ends not in Martha’s suicide, but in complete, terrifying obscurity.