8 Horror Films That Aren't Just Scary, But Also Make You Think

No movie genre has a greater share of detractors than horror. The reasons are obvious enough — while laughs, thrills, and romantic enchantment are universally endeared sensations, not everyone likes to be scared. Of course, anyone shutting him or herself off from the horror genre on the whole is missing out on quite a bit more than fright. You can find a lot of horror movies that are more than just scary out there, if only you know where to look.. Its polarizing nature aside, the horror genre has become an especially frugal avenue for modern Hollywood. As such, we see droves of new horror pictures each year. Taking a look at the bulk of these, it’s not especially tough to understand how the collective’s reputation has gone down to what is, in most people's mind, a genre rife with cheap shocks and paltry writing.

But this shouldn’t be our main understanding of the genre’s peak capabilities. The horror realm’s best entries, age-old and contemporary, have plenty more to offer than jump scares and easy tension. When aimed toward its greatest end, horror tells stories just as witty, thrilling, and sweet as those you’d find in parallel genres. Using monsters, ghouls, and other tenets of the paranormal to examine everything from love to grief to the sense of identity, truly good horror can be some of the most mindful cinema there is.

1. The Babadook

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The surprise smash horror movie lays a storybook ghoul upon on a single mother and her verbose son in an effort to betray the intrinsic difficulties lining such a bond. The Babadook isn’t afraid to question the limits of a parent’s love for her child; on the contrary, the film enlivens a brave and insightful examination of those limits as it tests them.

2. The Final Girls

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In far livelier and more jovial fashion, The Final Girls juggles the lastingly complicated relationship of a young woman and her deceased mother through the horror form. Here, horror arrives not in facing off with your parent, but in becoming her.

3. Maggie

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Whereas The Babadook inherits its parent/child/monster dynamic from The Shining, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie Maggie plays the Rosemary’s Baby card. In zombifying a dutiful father’s young daughter, the film paints a picture in the margins of the most damning breed of unconditional love.

4. Stoker

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A breakout picture for Mia Wasikowska, the wickedly enchanting Stoker parades the many facets of the subject of budding sexuality in a wonderfully ambitious, delightfully macabre manner.

5. Dark Touch

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Superficially similar to Stoker, but leagues more grim, is the lesser known Dark Touch, which digs into the harrowing notion of sexual assault through a supernatural lens. You’ll see a lot of Carrie in Dark Touch, both in its supernatural leanings and in the internal struggle of the main character.

6. Under the Skin

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Although much of The Fly relegates Jeff Goldblum’s monstrosity to Geena Davis’ perspective, I have come to appreciate Goldblum’s own eventual recognition of himself as such. Under the Skin is just that: Scarlett Johansson’s gradual recognition of herself, and her own sexuality, as the work of monsters.

7. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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You won’t see many modern movies like A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, which ushers the grand scope of gender imbalance, a factor that cannot be dismissed in today’s discussion of sex and sexuality, in a Western about vampires.

8. It Follows

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Perhaps the most brazen of the lot, It Follows turns sex itself into the monster in a fashion far more literally than the genre had ever done before: by rendering sexually transmitted bloodthirsty ghouls.

See? Not every horror movie is about an axe-wielding murderer racking up a body count. There are tons of other ways to scare people than that.

Images: IFC Films