The director's got a knack for going dark just when you least expect it
Wes Anderson works with a highly specific catalog of quirks: an ever-expanding gallery of familiar faces, slow-motion shots, ’60s Britpop soundtracks and Futura Bold fonts are just a few of the attributes that have carved out his particular cinematic world. “Twee” comes to mind, but it’s a deceiving label.
What most forget is that underneath all the yellows, greens, pinks, and Ray Davies songs is a sense of danger. No character is ever truly safe in this world, and Anderson makes that quite clear with a number of disturbing scenes that jolt audiences out of his charmed aura. From his 1996 debut, Bottle Rocket, all the way up to his eighth and most recent picture, The Grand Budapest Hotel, he’s always managed to shock.
Here are the most disturbing scenes in each of his eight films. Beware of spoilers.
08. Mr. Fox Goes Tail-less
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Not even Anderson’s unofficial children’s film is without its share of gasps. After a string of successful thefts at the farms of Walter Boggis, Nathaniel Bunce, and Franklin Bean, the three farmers take revenge on Mr. Fox by tracking him back to his own real estate, where they wait outside with firearms. Fox gets a whiff of all three and escapes, but not unscathed. Bean shoots off his tail… and then wears it as a tie! Not exactly a horrorfest, but pretty macabre nonetheless.
07. James Caan
Bottle Rocket (1996)
Yes, Mr. Henry gets his own entry altogether. As the mysterious landscaper, part-time criminal and scholar of Eastern culture, James Caan haunts the film in a manner similar to lawman Joe LeFors in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He’s an enigma, introduced by Owen Wilson’s Dignan, who can’t stop discussing how he wants to get back in his good graces. And because he’s played by the always-merciless Caan, there’s this anxious aura to him, which peaks during his verbal shakedown of John Mapplethorpe (Andrew Wilson). A hilarious scene, but seriously, what else is this guy capable of?
06. Camp Ivanhoe Loses Its Dog
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Who ever thought a group of 12-year-old Khaki Scouts could be so dangerous? Early in their tireless pursuit of young runaways Sam and Suzy, the Scouts get into a bloody mess when a stray arrow (aimed at Sam, no less) hits the Camp Ivanhoe dog. Coupled with Suzy’s scissors-led attack, it’s a jarring moment and one that The Hardy Boys certainly wouldn’t have dreamt up. Yet true to Anderson’s style, there’s enough levity to shake off the canine’s death, but c’mon, nobody likes seeing the corpse of a pooch.
05. The Intern Gets His Cut
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
A number of harsh scenes throughout Anderson’s seafaring epic come to mind, especially the fate of Kingsley Zissou. Still, the chaotic sequence involving a band of pirates hijacking the Belafonte delivers a number of breathtaking visuals, from Steve’s Stooges-fueled shootout to Nico’s gory wound. Few likely expected to see the ship’s friendly intern take a machete inches deep into his shoulder, but hey, that’s what it takes to be a member of the Zissou crew.
04. Francis Removes His Bandages
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
While The River Scene certainly comes out of left field, it’s also a beautiful sequence, a redemptive moment for the disparate brothers Francis, Peter, and Jack Whitman, despite the ensuing loss. Instead, the real eye-opener occurs in the final act, when Francis (Owen Wilson) strips off the ostentatious bandages that have been wrapped around his head for the entire film. What began as a humorous visual quickly devolves into the depressing realization that things really aren’t okay for this character, despite his preceding manic acumen.
03. Ms. Cross Confronts Max Fischer
It’s all fun and games until the teacher keeps it real, right? That’s what happens more or less to Max Fischer. Following his expulsion, arrest and excommunication, Max confronts Ms. Cross at Rushmore as she’s boxing up her classroom, only to be met with a frightening verbal rebuttal. “Do you think we’re gonna have sex,” she prods, cornering him amidst various elementary art projects in an awkward juxtaposition. “How would you describe it to your friends? Would you say that you’d fingered me? Or maybe I could give you a hand job. Would that put an end to all of this?” It’s a very claustrophobic scene, but one that puts everything in perspective. Well, for everyone but Max.
02. Deputy Kovacs Visits the Museum
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Without spoiling too much, Jeff Golblum tours an empty museum with his fellow Life Aquatic co-star Willem Dafoe. It’s not exactly an amicable trip, either. Let’s just say… Goldbum’s Deputy Kovacs might need to hire the same tailor used by Margot Tenenbaum. Bottom line: You’ll know when you know.
01. Richie Tries to Kill Himself…Tomorrow?
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Unless you’re watching Good Will Hunting, it’s never a good thing to hear Elliott Smith. It’s like the Chekhov’s gun of aural cues; in other words, something’s gonna go down. So when “Needle in the Hay” bleeds through as Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson) isolates himself in the sterile bathroom, there’s an understanding that the Bloody Mary drinker’s on a downward spiral. When he declares, “I’m going to kill myself tomorrow,” there’s not even enough time to scream for help before he’s going to town on his arms, as Royal might put it. Smith’s biting lyric, “You ought to be proud that I’m getting good marks,” proves deadly here.