Darren Aronofsky’s mother! arrives in US Theaters nationwide this Friday, and early reviews are (rather ominously) predicting it will divide horror fans. The horror genre, as a whole, is polarizing, with extremely rabid fans and detractors; in general, however, horror fans are a pretty tight knit group, so the idea of our community being divided is a bit harrowing. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time familial horror fans have been hotly split over a film.
As horror gains box office momentum and mainstream popularity, the community becomes a larger spectrum. A common refrain heard in today’s genre landscape is “That’s not a horror movie” as the very definition of horror becomes nebulous (and don’t even get me started on the “Post Horror” BS). Of course, there’s nothing wrong with differing opinions and enthusiastic debates when it comes to horror fandom; unfortunately, there are times when differences in tastes and perception sometimes lead to damaging rifts that benefit no one.
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Below are 10 horror movies that proved to be extremely divisive; most have as many lovers as haters, while others are problematic for specific reasons that may or may not affect an individual’s viewing experience. Have a read and let us know what you think in the Comments section. Do you agree with the selections on this list? What are some other horror films that you found extremely divisive? Let’s discuss!
Warning: Below There Be Spoilers!
It Follows (2015, Directed by David Robert Mitchell)
Official Synopsis: After carefree teenager Jay (Maika Monroe) sleeps with her new boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary), for the first time, she learns that she is the latest recipient of a fatal curse that is passed from victim to victim via sexual intercourse. Death, Jay learns, will creep inexorably toward her as either a friend or a stranger. Jay’s friends don’t believe her seemingly paranoid ravings, until they too begin to see the phantom assassins and band together to help her flee or defend herself.
Common complaints were: “It wasn’t scary,” “It was confusing,” and “It was boring”. Fans, however, loved the film’s surrealism and nightmare logic. It Follows is an example of metaphorical storytelling and exists in a universe not quite aligned with our own. Horror fans were also divided about the film’s message; some regarded it as an allegory for STD’s while others saw a parable about rape. Personally, I loved the film and have watched it several times.
The Babadook (2014, Directed by Jennifer Kent)
Official Synopsis: A troubled widow (Essie Davis) discovers that her son is telling the truth about a monster that entered their home through the pages of a children’s book.
Common complaints were: “That kid was annoying,” “It’s confusing,” and “The ending doesn’t make any sense.” Like It Follows, The Babadook is an example of metaphorical storytelling; Jennifer Kent’s film is a meditation on grief and sorrow manifests into a physical monstrosity. I found the film engrossing and poignant.
The Witch (2016, Directed by Robert Eggers)
Official Synopsis: In 1630 New England, panic and despair envelops a farmer (Ralph Ineson), his wife (Kate Dickie) and four of their children when youngest son Samuel suddenly vanishes. The family blames Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), the oldest daughter who was watching the boy at the time of his disappearance. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, twin siblings Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) suspect Thomasin of witchcraft, testing the clan’s faith, loyalty, and love to one another.
Common complaints were: “It wasn’t scary,” “It was boring,” and, “It’s not even a horror movie.” After The Witch made huge waves on the festival circuit (where some critics dubbed it the scariest film since The Exorcist), gorehounds and slasher fans felt duped by the films attention to authenticity and bizarre conclusion. This could be a case of over-hype when producers the film’s marketing team created false expectations. I thought The Witch was harrowing, dreadful, and thoroughly captivating.
The Mist (2007, Directed by Frank Darabont)
Official Synopsis: After a powerful storm damages their Maine home, David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his young son head into town to gather food and supplies. Soon afterward, a thick fog rolls in and engulfs the town, trapping the Draytons and others in the grocery store. Terror mounts as deadly creatures reveal themselves outside, but that may be nothing compared to the threat within, where a zealot (Marcia Gay Harden) calls for a sacrifice.
There’s really only one complaint about this movie, even amongst fans who otherwise loved The Mist: That brutal fucking ending! While many applauded Frank Darabont’s daring maneuver, others were left emotionally devastated. Personal, I found the ending devastating—but I also loved it.
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Alien: Covenant (2017, Directed by Ridley Scott)
Official Synopsis: Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, members (Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup) of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think to be an uncharted paradise. While there, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the synthetic survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition. The mysterious world soon turns dark and dangerous when a hostile alien life-form forces the crew into a deadly fight for survival.
After disappointing Alien fans with his first prequel, Prometheus, Ridley Scott promised to deliver a film that would answer riddles left unresolved while creating a solid connection to the original franchise. But Alien: Covenant, one of 2017’s most hotly anticipated films, did neither. While no one denies it was haunting and beautiful, the franchise’s core mythologies were further diluted by a film that only posed more question. My personal opinion: Fuck you, Ridley Scott.
Related Article: Did Ridley Scott Break His Covenant with “Alien” Fans?
Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017, Directed by Victor Salva)
Official Synopsis: This September, The Creeper returns. Be the first to see the next film in the iconic horror franchise when Jeepers Creepers 3 premieres in movie theatres nationwide for only one night on Tuesday, September 26. On the last day of the Creeper’s twenty-three day feeding frenzy, skeptical Sargent Tubbs teams up with a task force hell bent on destroying the Creeper for good. The Creeper fights back in gory glory as its enemies grow closer than ever before to learning the secret of its dark origins. This exclusive one-night event also features never-before-seen bonus footage and an interview with Jonathan Breck, who plays The Creeper in all three films in the franchise.
While Victor Salva has been working in Hollywood for over 3 decades, the full extent of his criminal history was not known to most until the “Internet Age” made personal privacy a thing of the past. It’s a unique situation, as fans of the Jeepers Creepers franchise were drawn to the films before Salva’s past was common knowledge. This has left many torn between supporting a boycott of the film or enjoying a sequel that’s been in the works for over a decade. My personal opinion: Salva is slime but horror fans should be allowed to make their own choice without being shamed or accused of child abuse by proxy.
[For a summary of writer/director Victor Salva’s criminal past and why many horror fans are choosing to boycott Jeepers Creepers 3, follow the link embedded in this article. We are also including a link to a statement from Nathan Forrest Winters, Salva’s abuse survivor. We support everyone who chooses to boycott this film but will continue to bring interested readers unbiased reporting.]
Related Article: Horror Fans Launch Petition to Boycott “Jeepers Creepers 3”
Dawn of the Dead (2004, Directed by Zack Snyder)
Official Synopsis: When her young daughter is turned into a zombie and attacks her father, Ana (Sarah Polley) just manages to escape, only to realize her entire Milwaukee neighborhood has been overrun by the walking dead. After being questioned by cautious policeman Kenneth (Ving Rhames), Ana joins him and a small group that gravitates to the local shopping mall as a bastion of safety. Once they convince suspicious security guards that they are not contaminated, the group bands together to fight the undead hordes.
Zombie purists were rattled and offended by Zack Snyder’s fast/rabid zombies in 2004’s remake of Dawn of the Dead (a vast deviation from George A. Romero’s undead shamblers); he was clearly influenced by 28 Days Later (like many other 21st Century subgenre offerings) which is ironic considering it’s not even a zombie flick. Others complained about a subplot that saw many of the film’s best-developed characters killed while attempting to rescue a pet dog. Personally, I loved the film and still consider it pure entertainment.
Related Article: The Problematic Brilliance of “Dawn of the Dead” 2004
31 (2016, Directed by Rob Zombie)
Official Synopsis: Five carnival workers are kidnapped the night before Halloween and held hostage in a large compound. At the mercy of their captors, they are forced to play a twisted game of life or death called 31. For the next 12 hours, they must fight for their lives against an endless parade of homicidal maniacs.
Anything Rob Zombie writes, directs, and/or produces will be polarizing, as the shock-rocker turned filmmaker has equal numbers of fans and haters. 31, however, was divisive among those who already appreciated Zombie’s filmography. Some complained about shaky cams and a lack of growth in Zombie’s storytelling abilities while others complained the film wasn’t extreme enough. Zombie’s battles with the MPAA in order to get an R-Rating were well documented; but even though the filmmaker promised fans would get an unrated director’s cut, one has yet to materialize. Personally, I liked the film more than most, but still feel like Zombie broke a promise by failing to deliver an unrated version of 31.
High Tension (2005, Directed by Alexandre Aja)
Official Synopsis: A beautiful young Frenchwoman, Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco), travels out to the country to visit her family and brings along her friend Marie (Cécile de France). Soon after they get settled in the secluded home, Alex’s parents are brutally attacked by a psychotic truck driver (Philippe Nahon), who proceeds to stalk the two women as well. When the killer kidnaps Alex in his truck, Marie hides in the back to try and rescue her, but the bloodshed is far from over.
Roger Ebert famously opined that High Tension has a plot hole big enough to drive a truck through—literally! Others complained that Alexandre Aja’s crown jewel of New French Extremity excessively borrows from Dean Koontz’s Intensity. Personally, I think getting hung up on plot holes and inconsistencies is a pointless exercise—especially in a film revealed to be seen from the perspective of a psychopath. I love everything about High Tension.
The Green Inferno (2016, Directed by Eli Roth)
Official Synopsis: New York college student Justine (Lorenza Izzo), a lawyer’s daughter, meets a student activist named Alejandro (Ariel Levy) when he goes on a hunger strike on behalf of underpaid janitors. Smitten, Justine agrees to help Alejandro undertake his next project: to save the Amazon. She soon learns to regret her decision when their plane crashes in the Peruvian jungle and she and the rest of their group are taken captive by a tribe of hungry cannibals.
Like Rob Zombie, anything written, directed, and/or produced by Eli Roth is instantly controversial, but The Green Inferno has amassed a laundry list of complaints. While some were offended by racially insensitive portrayals of Indigenous tribes, others complained the film wasn’t as gory as advertised. The fact that The Green Inferno was held up in a distribution row for years also frustrated fans. Personally, I loved the film, but not as much as the first 2 Hostel movies.