There has always been an assumption that when it comes to horror films an R rating guarantees a horrifying experience, while a PG-13 rating will be toothless. Yes, the 2000’s got polluted with some of the worst commercial horror films in a long time. And believe me, we’ll dig into those terrible films somewhere down the line. But today I wanted to look at a handful of films that prove terror knows no rating limitations.
Let’s start this list off with a very recent film. Krampus hit theaters last December just in time for the holiday season. I have to admit that I was totally game for this film when I saw Michael Dougherty was directing. The man knocked it out of the park with 2009’s Trick ‘r Treat and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. While previous horror films have been set around Christmas (i.e Black Christmas, Silent Night Deadly Night, Christmas Evil), but this film took an already terrifying holiday myth and brought it to the big screen. Aside from a truly stellar cast (including Adam Scott, Toni Collette, and David Koechner) this film did something that I truly loved, it used predominantly practical F/X to bring it’s creatures to life.
The Final Girls
It’s a thankless job to blend the horror and comedy genres. Go too scary and you alienate non-horror fans, go too comedic and you’ve delved into parody. The Final Girls struck a fun balance that has been sorely missed since Scream 2. I enjoy how this film lovingly poked fun at many classic 80’s horror film tropes. Basic plot synopsis, normal people get pulled into an 80’s horror film and chaos ensues. The best part is that there is some actual emotional resonance to the story. One of the normal people pulled into the film had a mother who died in a car crash. The twist: her mother starred in the film they’ve entered. It gives the lead some very interesting moral dilemmas to deal with. Is this person she’s interacting with in fact her younger mother, or is she nothing more than a film character? Definitely worth the rental.
Gore Verbinski’s filmography is one of the biggest head scratchers in recent memory. The man has made a family comedy (Mouse Hunt), adult dramedies (The Mexican, The Weather Man), an animated film (Rango), some of Disney’s biggest moneymakers of the 2000’s (Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3), and one of Disney’s biggest money losers of the 2010’s (The Lone Ranger). But the biggest oddity is the 2002 J-horror remake The Ring. Not only did he craft a truly unsettling movie, it also ushered in a long string of Americanized remakes of Asian horror films to mostly diminishing success. Verbinski’s background in directing music videos worked to his advantage as he brought some truly creepy images to the big screen. Nearly fourteen years later and this film is still a worthy entry in 2000’s rather sad state of horror.
The Insidious Series
For over a decade the Torture Porn subgenre dominated horror to mixed success. Funny that the duo who are considered responsible for the birth of the genre crafted a franchise that stands as a polar opposite to it. James Wan and Leigh Whannell not only wanted to prove that there was more to them than splattering blood everywhere, but go against the very tropes of traditional horror films. What we got was a chilling ghost film that told such a story in a very different fashion. We can question the first film’s finale and whether the sequels are all that good, but for all three when they hit scary notes they hit them hard and left a huge impression.
Drag Me To Hell
After crafting some of the best low budget horror films of the 80’s with The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II Sam Raimi built a career that is impressive in it’s diversity and evolution. Raimi never seemed to be someone willing to be complacent and made films that got bigger in scope almost every time. After wrapping up his Spider-Man series Raimi went back his horror roots with Drag Me To Hell. Costing just over a tenth of his previous film (Spider-Man 3’s budget was a staggering $258 million while Drag Me To Hell cost a mere $30 million) the man proved his visuals weren’t contingent on cash. With an unsettling opening we’re pushed into the life of a bank loan officer (Alison Lohman) who after pissing off an old lady gets cursed and will be pulled to Hell in a mere three days. Over the course of those three days she’s plagued with ghastly hauntings that culminate in possibly the creepiest seance in film history. As always, Raimi brings a very dark humor to his horror stories. The fight scene between Christine and Mrs. Ganush in the car is a perfect example of slapstick in horror. I actually liked this movie so much it’s one of the few that I did a second viewing in the theater. It’s that good in my opinion.
These are just a few PG-13 horror films I love, but there are many others out there. And as usual, what are your thoughts? Do you think horror films are best served with as harsh a rating as possible? Are you a fan of gore or tension in horror films? Let me know. Thanks for reading.