Let’s start this article out by presenting the definition of the word subversive. The dictionary defines subversive as “intending to overthrow, destroy, or undermine an established or existing system.”
With that out of the way, the point of this article is for us to highlight some of the horror flicks that basically took a giant middle finger to the normal rules and regulations of the horror genre and all of its cliches and tropes and forged their own path – for better or worse.
So let’s get to it!
Quite possibly the most subversive horror movie of all time, Michael Haneke’s dark horror-comedy Funny Games is a fucking trip and a half. If you haven’t seen the film, beware; it gets super strange once one of the characters picks up the remote control and… you know what, I’m not even going to spoil all of that for unsuspecting viewers. Add in the fact that the original Austrian film was remade shot-for-shot by Haneke in 2007 and this only makes the film even more subversive. If you haven’t seen the film, as a horror movie fan it is basically required viewing. Enjoy?
Writer-director Pascal Laugier blasted into the horror scene with his brutal and challenging (and subversive?) horror film Martyrs. But in my eyes, his real treasure is his 2012 mystery-horror film The Tall Man starring Jessica Biel. The film isn’t anywhere near as brutal and bloody as Martyrs, but it is about three times as challenging. Be warned, The Tall Man is not a film for everyone (or mostly anyone) but for those who enjoy a film that plays out in the most unexpected ways, The Tall Man is a must-see ASAP.
If the definition of subversive is “to overthrow, destroy, or undermine an established or existing system” then Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods could literally be the flagship of not just subversive horror, but the word subversive itself. With a plot revolving around a group of young potential victims going to war with the ritualistic office workers that seek to end their lives for the sake of the entire world, Cabin in the Woods all but destroyed every single horror movie cliche in the book. The fact that they did so with the use of basically every single horror villain of all time makes me get all warm and fuzzy every time I think back to my first trip to this cabin.
The most brilliant thing about Kevin Williamson’s debut screenplay for Scream (at the time known as Scary Movie) is that the film goes so far as to literally lay out all of the rules of a horror movie before it delightfully dismembers each and every rule with gory gusto. From its Hitchcock blonde switch at the beginning to the use of two final killers, Wes Craven’s Scream is about as mainstream as subversive horror gets, and that in itself is a major accomplishment with $100+ million scored at just the domestic box office alone. God Bless Wes Craven’s Scream.
Mark Duplass and director Patrick Brice’s Creep 2 tries with all its might at every turn to subvert expectations we as an audience had after viewing the first film. In this case, there could be a subcategory for Subversive Sequels ala Evil Dead 2 and The Devil’s Rejects that basically decided to destroy the very subgenre of their predecessors, but I’m going with Creep 2 today on this list as the flagship for subversive sequels. Like I said, the movie consciously uses your expectations against you time and time again, and that is what makes this movie so amazing.
The writing-directing team of Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead’s Resolution starring Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran follows a man (Cilella) who ties up his best friend (Curran) in a remote cabin to get him sober. If that plot rundown makes you think you have any idea where the film is heading, then plain and simply you are wrong. Benson and Moorhead’s horror-thriller is much wilder and crazier than you could possibly imagine, and thus it is bound to be either your new favorite film or a Blu-ray you throw out the window of your speeding Prius with fury. Either way, Resolution is a subversive must-see.
Back in the winter of 1973 director William Friedkin and novelist, screenwriter, producer William Peter Blatty declared war on the basic human value system with their take-no-prisoners horror film The Exorcist. The Acamedy Award-winning, box-office destroying masterpiece is for all intents and purposes a massacre of morals and good manners. The filmmakers’ total disregard for common decency is what has kept this film turning heads (waka, waka) for generations, and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist will continue to shock audiences until the end of time. Talk about subversive!
And there you have it, those are seven subversive horror films that told the genre to go f*ck itself. What did you think of this list? Let us know below!
And if you dig subversive horror movies, make sure to check out Natasha Kermani’s Imitation Girl starring Lauren Ashley Carter, coming soon.