Horror movies are known for starring dumbasses and no one is going to contest that claim any time soon. For as long as anyone can remember, people in horror movies were never the smartest of the cinematic human race, seen in how they would either run headlong into obvious death traps or just stand around and let the psycho with the machete lop their fucking head off. Things have become so predictable that many horror creators think that the only way to write a compelling horror movie is to either make a self-aware deconstruction like the Scream and Hatchet franchises or just outright make fun of it like how the original (and only worthwhile) Scary Movie (2000) did at the expense of Scream. Or be like dudes such as James Wan and dish out consistently awesome throwback pieces.
But every now and then, an exception to the rule comes along and audiences have an unexpected horror movie that pits death against people who want to survive because they actually value their lives. Just to honor these brave few, here are five recommended horror movies where the victims fought the good fight. Also, to keep things more interesting and varied, parodies such as the examples above will not be considered for this short list to give way to the more straightforward examples of the genre.
5. The Collector (2009) / The Collection (2012)
Ever since Hostel (2005) brought back the senseless violence of campy '60s era B-movies but treated it as seriously as an art film, horror movies starring sadistic torturers became an annoying fad. One of the most ignored titles was The Collector series, which is unfairly forgotten since it actually has some merit to it when compared to the rest of the sub-genre.
The Collector movies may look like disposable low budget torture porn movies featuring absurd murder traps ripped right out of the Saw movies but what sets it apart is its main character, Arkin O'Brien (Josh Stewart). After getting himself trapped in a house he was supposed to rob, Arkin finds himself facing off with a psychotic masked killer who uses traps to play with his victims. Unlike other torture porn leads, Arkin isn't tied to a chair and tortured for a whole movie because here, he uses his conman skills and street-smarts to outmaneuver the titular Collector's death traps in a deadly game of hide and seek, which leads to a rare satisfying ending in a horror movie that has strong ties to torture porn.
4. You're Next (2011)
This premise has been seen one too many times: a suburban home is attacked by creepy masked stalkers and a dragged out game of cat and mouse ensues. What you may not have heard of is a version of the exact same story where someone among the homeowners suddenly grows a pair and decides to fight back.
When her family reunion is interrupted by crossbow bolts and dead bodies, Erin (Sharni Vinson) takes matters into her own hands and violently retaliates against the masked assailants by using her survival skills and homemade booby traps. The usual game of cat and mouse does happen but by the halfway point of the movie, it becomes difficult to differentiate the slasher from the victim. Thanks to a heavy dose of subtle black comedy and gore, You're Next proves itself to be more than just another bland stalker horror movie from the 2000's where masked guys breathe heavily against windows for an entire fucking hour.
3. Alien (1979)
Though it is known today for being action-packed and for its phallic aliens, the Alien franchise originally started out as a minimalist sci-fi horror where atmosphere and tension were more important than blood, and the original movie from director Ridley Scott is testament to that.
If you ever saw a movie where a girl kicks all kinds of monstrous ass, you can blame Alien for popularizing and essentially giving birth to the trope by means of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). After witnessing the titular Freudian monster murder most of her crew, space trucker Ripley does the only sane thing anyone would do in the same situation: pick up a flamethrower and burn the motherfucker. The sequels kept changing tones and eventually lost the "horror" aspect altogether but if there was one constant, it was Ellen Ripley's all around badassery that would later go on to define how female action heroes should be written.
2. The Mist (2007)
Being smarter than everyone else in a horror movie doesn't always guarantee survival as seen in the next two examples, starting off with this adaptation of a Stephen King novella.
When inter-dimensional creatures hiding in an unearthly mist besiege Stephen King's favorite place of Maine, everyone in the local supermarket finds out that the monsters outside may not be the biggest threat. Most horror movies have an obvious antagonist but The Mist doesn't, instead pitting otherwise normal people who are scared shitless against a mob of batshit insane townsfolk. What follows next is a violent clash for survival where the smartest choices aren't exactly the safest but when caught between a cult and giant insects, going for the most rational option could mean causing a few deaths just to get out alive. All of these emphasize the desperation the characters go through, a point painfully hammered in by the time the ending credits roll.
1. Cube (1997)
The best horror movies tend to be the ones without a definite antagonist, and Cube is a great example of that where the situation is the closest thing to an antagonist you'll get. That is, if you ignore the characters and the paranoia that takes its time creeping in.
A group of strangers wake up to find themselves in a cube shaped room with six doors that lead to an endless maze filled with death traps or even more doors. In their attempts to survive, the characters prove to be some of the most competent in the genre, seen in how they manage to figure out the rooms' coded patterns and how they prove themselves to be resourceful at any given moment despite being limited to the clothes they're wearing. Yet no matter what they do, they can't escape the maze before the madness sets in. Similar to The Mist, the closest thing to a "bad guy" is the situation, with the murderous rooms being the last thing to worry about when the person next to you obviously lost their shit. The sequels did a piss-poor job following up the original movie's premise but then again, there's a reason why people only acknowledge the first installment. If you needed more proof that the deepest horror in life is the crippling realization that everything you do may amount to nothing or if you just fucking hate yourself and want to put yourself through some tough shit, then Cube is definitely your thing.