17 Surprisingly Smart Horror Movies That Intelligent Horror Fans Can’t Get Enough Of

Scream

Scream
Scream

The Scream series is consistently underrated for being a cliche horror movie series when the reality is it’s a horror movie series about cliche horror movie series. It’s meta.

The Shining

The Shining
The Shining

The Shining is a movie so smart there are other movies about how many philosophical layers are in it. Was Jack Torrence haunted by the ghosts of of the Overlook hotel — or was his mental health slipping as a result of cabin fever? Was he crazy, or could that happen to any of us. And then there’s the meaning behind some of Kubrick’s directorial decisions to think about.

Let The Right One In (2008)

Let The Right One In
Let The Right One In

Don’t let the subtitles lure you into watching the American remake. This Swedish film about friendship and murder is perfect in it’s original incarnation. You won’t think kids are so innocent afterwards.

Triangle

Triangle
Triangle

Triangle isn’t the right kind of movie to watch if you aren’t going to fully pay attention to it. You can’t play on your phone for awhile and then ask whoever you’re watching with to catch you up. A bunch of friends are boating (in the Bermuda Triangle — get it?) when some pretty strange shit starts happening, and for the rest of the movie, it keeps getting weirder.

Seven

Seven
Seven

David Fincher’s psychological thriller holds up 20 years later. Who is John Doe and what could possibly motivate him to pull of such a sick series of murders?

The Changeling (1980)

The Changeling
The Changeling

The Changeling is an intense (and scary) you know it’s based on a real life mystery. Transport yourself to a creepy old Victorian mansion and see if you can solve it.

Wicker Man (1973)

Wicker Man
Wicker Man

Please don’t watch the American remake with Nic Cage (lol). This British classic is a classic for a reason: it’s weird and terrifying and has a very juicy twist ending.

Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob's Ladder
Jacob’s Ladder

There should be a support group for people who snuck a VHS of Jacob’s Ladder into a slumber party when they were a kid and it ruined their childhood.

Candyman

Candyman
Candyman

In addition to being absolutely terrifying, Candyman also contains some smart social commentary. What’s easy to pass off as a silly urban legend, the tale of the Candyman, is actually one part history and one part supernatural.

Suspiria

Suspiria
Suspiria

Suspiria is one of those movies that separates casual horror fans from diehards — if you don’t know and love it, you’re not a diehard.

Session 9

Session 9
Session 9

If you can figure out the twist in this movie before it happens, you’re way smarter than most people. The ending aside, the whole movie is brilliant in how creepy it manages to be. Even after it’s all over and the lights are on, Session 9 will linger in your head for a long time.

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead
Shaun of the Dead

It takes smart writing to make a movie about dumb characters seem intelligent. Shaun of the Dead pokes fun at all the overdone tropes in the horror genre. We also get a glimpse of a truth often avoided by zombie films — even after the zombie apocalypse our dumb human relationship drama goes on.

Funny Games

Funny Games
Funny Games

This is one American remake that is really decent and stays extremely to the original. Funny Games is about the sheer terror of a pair of killers without any motive at all.

Saw

Saw
Saw

Say what you will about the neverending Saw franchise, the first one was just so original. We hadn’t seen anything like this before.

The Vanishing (1988)

The Vanishing
The Vanishing

You absolutely cannot watch the American remake before you have seen the original The Vanishing. Even though Sandra Bullock and Keifer Sutherland are in it. It’s universally revered among smart horror fans for being one of the most intense and unsettling movies of all time.

The Others

The Others
The Others

A common theme among the “smart” horror movies is they play with epistemology — what is reality? Do we know “what’s real”? Are the lives of the Stewart family real, or those of The Others?

American Psycho

American Psycho
American Psycho

Bret Easton Ellis is such an insanely good writer and this story is awesomely fucked up. If you haven’t read the book, I strongly urge you to do so, even if you’ve already seen the film.

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  • http://morbidlybeautiful.com/smart-horror/ Smart Horror: The Evolution of the Genre — Morbidly Beautiful

    […] fact, all the qualities for which the new wave of smart horror is praised — social comment, strong, well-rounded characters, layers of meaning, challenging […]

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