The horror movie genre is known for its gruesome slashers and thrilling creature features but there are plenty with more psychological themes. Some of these have more subtle undertones or metaphorical meanings that are intended to keep the viewer thinking after the credits roll.
Movies like It Follows and Ginger Snaps represent coming-of-age and puberty and others such as Hereditary and The Descent focus on grief and mental illness. Many horror movies have hidden and metaphorical themes that may go unnoticed without multiple viewings.
8 Drag Me To Hell (2009)
Drag Me To Hell sees Christine bestowed with a demonic curse after refusing an elderly woman’s request for a loan. Within the movie, there are some hints that Christine has struggled with her self-esteem and body image in the past. Redditor Fubai97b says, “I’ve heard Drag Me To Hell called a metaphor for eating disorders. “
At several points in the movie, Lamia taunts Christine about her weight and her history with food. There is also a scene where the entity attacks her in the kitchen using utensils which shows the character’s battle with food. Furthermore, there is a scene where Christine is eating a dessert and an eye appears in it which suggests someone is judging her for eating it.
7 It Follows (2014)
It Follows has one of the best horror movie premises of the 2010s, focusing on a sexually-transmitted curse that sees the recipients followed by a violent, shape-shifting entity. Despite this terrifying premise, the movie is also a coming-of-age story. Redditor Rechan states, “The movie was about the transition from a teen to an adult. At the start, the dialogue is all doofy teen sh * t. Sex is done super irresponsibly and casually. At the end of the movie, she [Jay] finds a serious relationship and is holding hands. “
Jay begins the movie as a fairly irresponsible but typical teenage girl, but once she is bestowed with the curse, she faces a fight for survival. She takes on a leadership role within her friendship group, vowing to protect them and save herself. The stalking entity shows the inevitability of growing up and the characters’ lack of choice in this.
6 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the best classic horror movies that still hold up. The movie has spawned many sequels, and Leatherface has become an iconic villain. Although the movie seems like a typical slasher on the surface, there are far more disturbing undertones to the story of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with it critiquing the meat industry.
Redditor fezzikthepug suggests the movie has some metaphorical themes relating to the treatment of animals in Western society, saying it is, “the cruel meat industry and how different everything looks when it’s humans being put in those situations.” The cannibal family within the movie could certainly represent the meat industry with the protagonists acting as animals sent to slaughter.
5 Hereditary (2018)
Hereditary focuses heavily on grief as a family is targeted by supernatural and demonic forces following a tragic loss. That being said, the movie also acts as an allegory of generational trauma. Redditor HeWhoIsMedicated says, “Hereditary is a FANTASTIC metaphor for how trauma is passed on. It might be one of the best of its kind in that regard. “
After Ellen’s death, her family is slowly disintegrated by their grief and her prior dabbling with demonic forces. Although there are supernatural forces targeting the family, there’s a clear metaphor for how trauma can be passed down. Annie’s troubled relationship with her mother has clearly affected her own parenting as shown through her treatment of her son, Peter, and the strained dynamic of the family.
4 Ginger Snaps (2000)
Ginger Snaps follows two sisters who are fascinated by death, the older of which (Ginger) is bitten by a werewolf and begins a gruesome transformation process. Ginger begins to experience a number of physical changes after she is bitten, providing a clear metaphor for puberty. Redditor BrokenHomePoets says, “Ginger Snaps is a metaphor about hitting puberty / getting your period.”
Not only does she change physically, but Ginger also becomes more aggressive and angry once she’s been bitten. As she is a teenager who suddenly experiences these massive changes, the movie represents the often-confusing process puberty and coming of age.
3 Sinister (2012)
Where Ginger Snaps‘metaphorical themes are more overt, Sinister has a more subtle undertone. While the demonic entity and the possessed children are important elements of the movie, it is most memorable for its chilling video tapes. Redditor pickledsoylentgreen suggests, “Sinister is about parents’ fear that media is corrupting their children.”
Considering the videotapes show children brutally murdering their own families, the negative media influence of the media is an interesting lens to look at the movie through. Ashley, unbeknownst to her family, is slowly being corrupted by Baghool, leading to one of the most tragic horror movie endings where she kills them all on tape.
2 X (2022)
X sees a film crew gather to make an adult movie at an elderly couple’s property without telling them what it is they’re really doing there; the group gets more than they bargained for when the hosting duo discovers the truth. Mia Goth plays both the main protagonist and the elderly woman of the movie to highlight the parallels between the two and highlight the former’s fear of growing old and the latter’s lost youth.
Redditor coolgalmona suggests the movie has a metaphorical meaning saying, “it has this underlying theme of fear of getting old and losing your youth which is super interesting. It’s pretty obvious in the film but the metaphor of the older couple becomes more interesting the second and third time you watch! ” With Goth playing both roles, the film’s deeper meaning is clearly intentional, and this duality cleverly adds to Pearl’s motivations. She is attracted to Maxine as she represents everything she lost as she grew older and wants again.
1 The Descent (2005)
The Descent is one of the best horror movies to invoke the senses and adds a psychological twist to the creature feature sub-genre. While the women are pursued by cave-dwelling creatures, there are also some themes relating to mental illness and grief. Redditor Dalecooper82 puts this forward as a metaphorical horror movie and says, “as for a suggestion for a particularly good one, The Descent. ”
Sarah is grieving the loss of her husband and young daughter, and the ordeal she experiences within the cave does nothing to help her mental state. By the end of the movie, she is left broken and sees visions of her deceased daughter. While the main threat may be the monstrous Crawlers, they are more of a metaphor for the trauma Sarah is experiencing.
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