'The Purge': 7 Socially Conscious Horror Films

Audiences love a good horror flick — and love-to-hate a terrible one. But not every horror film is about simple scares. Some of the most frightening films actually have a real point besides "don't go into the attic alone." (Though, honestly, they should stop doing that.) In the new film 'The Purge,' a family must survive on the one night of the year when all crime is legal — a holiday called (you guessed it) "The Purge," which is held responsible for the country's low crime rate and lack of violence. (On every other day of the year, of course.) Intriguing — and terrifying. But 'The Purge' is just one horror film with something to say about society. Read on for some other recent films that used the genre as social commentary, without losing any of the scares. Warning: Spoilers may follow!

Scarily Relevant

Audiences love a good horror flick — and love-to-hate a terrible one. But not every horror film is about simple scares. Some of the most frightening films actually have a real point besides "don't go into the attic alone." (Though, honestly, they should stop doing that.) In the new film 'The Purge,' a family must survive on the one night of the year when all crime is legal — a holiday called (you guessed it) "The Purge," which is held responsible for the country's low crime rate and lack of violence. (On every other day of the year, of course.) Intriguing — and terrifying. But 'The Purge' is just one horror film with something to say about society. Read on for some other recent films that used the genre as social commentary, without losing any of the scares. Warning: Spoilers may follow!

'The Crazies' (2010)

A remake of the 1973 film of the same name, 'The Crazies' has even more relevancy in today's world than it did when the original came out. Pollution in the town water supply has caused residents of a small Iowa town to act, well, crazy. It turns out that the pollution is actually a government-created biological weapon. Politicians then put the entire town into containment mode, leaving the uninfected townspeople to die alongside their (literally) crazy neighbors. The message is clear: Our weapons can be turned against us, and our government has a responsibility to do right by its people.

'Funny Games' (1997, 2010)

'Funny Games' has been made twice: once for an Austrian audience and once for an American one. Accents aside, they're essentially the same film — the latter is a shot-by-shot remake of the original. The film is fairly plotless, but it revolves around a family that has been taken hostage by two preppy teenage sociopaths. Bad things happen, and it becomes extremely unsettling to watch the film... and that's exactly what the filmmaker was hoping to accomplish. The characters in 'Funny Games' even chastise movie audiences for watching the horror unfold. What does it mean that we can both judge the characters in the film for doing terrible things while as an audience have actively chosen to watch it happen?

'Splice', (2010)

When a team of scientists splice together human and worm-like DNA, the results are horrifying. There is a lot going on in this film (don't even get us started on THAT sex scene), but, like many sci-fi films before it, 'Splice' asks: How far should we go for the sake of science?

'Hostel' (2005)

While the torture porn film has certainly been controversial, 'Hostel' has more message than many people give it credit for. In the film, a group of American tourists go on a wild backpacking adventure only to become victims of an "elite hunting group." Translation: sadomasochists who purchase tourists so that they can kill them for fun. Like 'Funny Games', 'Hostel' compares the audience watching with the torturers, but it also poses questions about race, class, and the place America has in the world. (Americans are a top-dollar purchase while other races are "on sale" at the film's hostel.) You might have noticed the message... if you weren't too busy shielding your eyes from the explicit violence.

'Scream 4', (2011)

'Scream 4' had plenty to say about our wired-in generation. In the newest installment, Sydney (Neve Campbell) is back in Westboro and finds that her old high school is obsessed with living their lives on the digital plane. Texts replace those terrifying phone calls and murders are suddenly live-streamed on the Internet. The bigger issue? People are just "dying" to become famous, and the Internet is suddenly the new way in.

'Drag Me to Hell' (2009)

In 'Drag Me to Hell,' a young banker (Alison Lohman) is cursed by a gypsy when she refuses to give the woman a loan. It's revealed throughout the film that the pretty banker was once heavyset, and struggles with anxiety and issues regarding her appearance. The film features a ton of gross-out horror, with most of it involving food — leading many to speculate that the film isn't actually about a curse, but about the destructiveness of an eating disorder.