The two central themes in the films of Michael Haneke, the fragmentation and brutality of interpersonal and societal relations and the notion of cinematic reality as an illusory construction, reach an apex in his 2003 film Le temps du Loup/Time of the Wolf. That is to say, the post-apocalyptic breakdown of civilization represented in the film forcibly confronts the viewer with a social critique of a global magnitude that encompasses anxieties engendered by millennial capitalism in a post-9/11 world while conterminously withholding spectatorial desire and pleasure traditionally found in (post) apocalyptic cinematic narratives. Haneke’s use of ‘cinematic unpleasure’ as a device for critiquing social formations and more pertinently the spectator’s relationship towards cinematic spectacle has been explored in other films such as Funny Games (1997) and Caché/Hidden (2005). Indeed, it has been cited as a reason for criticizing Haneke as a cinematic sadist who situates a more active viewer who is complicit in the consumption and proliferation of extreme psychological and physical depictions of violence. Although this form of combative cinema has its limits in providing an ethics of response to viewing violent imagery, especially when shown through the very same device of cinematic violence, little has been mentioned of how Haneke’s withholding of generic expectations and spectacle can forward a critical viewing position that engages with dominant Hollywood representations. Therefore, the article will develop the notion of ‘cinematic unpleasure’ by engaging with Catherine Wheatley’s recent study on Haneke that looks at the notion of reflexivity as a more incisive approach to examine the positioning of an ethical and active spectator. Incorporating similar themes found in his other films along with other postmillennium apocalyptic movies will supply a point of entry as to whether Haneke’s refusal to accede to dominant aesthetic representations of the (cinematic) apocalypse enables a distanciation between viewer and traumatic spectacle that can lead to an ethical and active spectator?. © Intellect Ltd 2010.