Since the 1970s, horror and science fiction have been populated with a type of film called a social thriller. These genre movies tell stories about societal oppression as well as discuss injustices in everyday life. The topics discussed in these films vary, but they include class, environmentalism, gender, politics, race, religion, and sex.
The social thriller has been an important part of cinema for decades, but in recent years, they have received more attention from the media. This is due in part to horror's own resurgence in the mainstream. So, let's look at ten horror movies that have terrifying social commentary.
10 The Thaw (2009)
A prehistoric parasite is released when a preserved mammoth is discovered in the Canadian Arctic. As a team of researchers investigates, they are attacked by the parasites. However, the worst was yet to come. The Thaw is accused of being a copycat of John Carpenter's The Thing.
There are some similarities, of course, but The Thaw has more in common with the episode "Ice" in The X-Files. There is also the implication that global warming is the cause of the parasites' release. Not to mention, what one character decides to do at the end — to show the world just how serious the threat of global warming is — was a bold choice.
9 I Spit on Your Grave III: Vengeance Is Mine (2015)
After surviving her own brutal attack, Jennifer moves to Los Angeles and becomes an assault hotline operator. She also attends a support group for survivors. There, Jennifer becomes emboldened after hearing how others have been failed by the legal system. She now takes justice into her own hands and goes after these criminals who have escaped legal consequences.
The 1978 film I Spit on Your Grave was remade in 2010, and it was followed by two sequels. Although only Vengeance is Mine is related to the remake. This entry heavily comments on the flawed laws that apply to sexual assault.
8 The Expelled (2010)
A teacher is suspended for three months after being attacked by a student he failed. Yet this is only done to avoid a lawsuit. Upon his return, the teacher is kept under a watchful eye as there have been reports about his drinking problems. In the meantime, he gives his daughter detention.
As they stay at the school after hours, a band of assailants wearing hoodies attacks anyone still on campus. Like Eden Lake, The Expelled (also known as F) is another "hoodie" horror. In the United Kingdom, hoodies are often associated with anti-social behaviors.
7 The People Under the Stairs (1991)
An impoverished boy named Fool uncovers a disturbing secret in his parents' landlords' house: beneath the stairs are children being held prisoner. Now, he and two other people are trapped inside the house with no means of escape.
Wes Craven's satirical thriller The People Under the Stairs is notable for its scathing critique on gentrification and class. Roger Ebert was no fan of the film overall, but he did commend Craven for his injection of social commentary in his show At the Movies; his reviewing partner Gene Siskel was more positive.
6 The Stuff (1985)
When a mysterious yet tasty, yogurt-like substance is discovered bubbling out of the ground, it is commercialized and sold in markets all over. One man is then hired by someone in the ice cream industry to investigate this new food called The Stuff. To everyone's horror, though, The Stuff isn't some harmless fad. It's really alive and out to take over the human race.
The Stuff is a satire about consumerism and capitalism. It was directed by the recently departed Larry Cohen, who was considered to be one of the most progressive voices in horror.
5 Scream 4 (2011)
Since the Woodsboro Murders, Sidney Prescott has become world-famous as she's one of the few people to survive the various killers dubbed Ghostface. It has been ten years, and Sidney has returned to Woodsboro as part of a press tour for her book. This is when a new rash of murders begins. This time, however, the new Ghostface is using the rules of remakes to kill his targets.
Scream 4 remarks on the dangers of social media and people's obsession with Internet fame. Despite its derisive takedown, this sequel is eerily convincing in its assessments of these growing concerns.
4 The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
A grieving father and cop brave the mayhem on Purge Night to find the party responsible for his son's death. In his journey, he crosses paths with a single mother and her daughter as well as a couple on the run from murderous Purgers. If they want to survive the night, they will have to trust one another. Or else, they will fall prey to the perilous status quo.
The entire Purge franchise is rich in political overtones. It discusses race relations as well as underlines the disenfranchised who would be affected in the case of a real-life Purge. The first film focused on an affluent family, whereas Anarchy spotlights the less prosperous parts of society who are also the most vulnerable on Purge Night.
3 Red State (2011)
Three teenage boys respond to an online personal ad. Once they meet the other party, they are abducted by members of a fanatically conservative organization known as the Five Points Trinity Church. The members of this extremist faith group murder anyone they deem to be sinners. Soon, a shoot-out between the military and the church takes place following a raid of the center.
Director Kevin Smith's Red State is a frightening depiction of groups like the real-life Westboro Baptist Church, who, suffice it to say, were not pleased with the film.
2 The Fly (1986)
A scientist named Seth Brundle has made a breakthrough in the field of matter transportation. But when he tries to teleport himself, things go terribly wrong. It appears a fly flew into one of the transmission booths during the experiment, and now, Brundle was turned into something that defies the laws of science.
Critics and audiences have long interpreted this body horror movie to be one about the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. On the other hand, director David Cronenberg has countered that his remake of The Fly is more about aging.
1 Get Out (2017)
A man named Chris visits his girlfriend Rose's parents for the first time at their secluded house. At first, things are awkward because Rose's parents are not aware their daughter is in an interracial relationship. Then, the weekend becomes one of terror as Chris becomes aware of the family's true intentions.
Jordan Peele's Oscar-winning Get Out has helped reignite the social thriller's popularity today. Foremost, it showcases how racism is pernicious in society. In addition, Get Out effectively discusses more complex ideas about racism by putting it in terms everyone can understand or relate to.