We go to see horror movies to see terrifying monsters — but sometimes the scariest monsters in a horror film are the people. In many of the best scary movies, the real horror is how terribly the humans behave. Here are 11 of the most misanthropic horror films ever made.
1) Let The Right One In (2008)
In Let The Right One In a young boy is driven from his home by bullies — straight into the arms of a vampire. 12-year old Oskar befriends Eli, a mysterious vampire child. Eli and Oskar form a strong friendship, exchanging messages and presents. Even after he learns what Eli is, Oskar doesn’t run away or break off the friendship. Eli seems to be his only friend, and his relationship with his parents is strained by their separation. Meanwhile, Oskar continues to be bullied by his classmates. In the climax of the film the bullies attempt to drown Oskar in the school pool. Eli comes to his rescue, putting a very violent end to their bullying. Humanity doesn’t come out of this movie looking too great. The people Oskar knows are bullies, drunks, or just too distracted to notice how much he’s suffering. Eli is the only one who helps him and urges him to stand up for himself. And meanwhile, we see what happened to the last human to get drawn into Eli’s orbit.
2) Fido (2006)
The zombie apocalypse has come and gone — so naturally, corporations have found a way to turn the undead into slaves. ZomCom has invented zombie slave collars, that are controlled with remotes by the humans who own them. All of the neighbors have one, so the Robinsons buy a zombie to keep up. Timmy Robinson quickly forms a bond with the family’s new “pet,” naming him Fido. His mother, Helen, also forms a bond with Fido while her emotionally distant husband wants nothing to do with it. In addition to showing us the desire of humans to monetize even the most tragic of events, we see that zombies can be better family members than some humans.
3) Zombie Strippers (2008)
Everyone is terrible in Zombie Strippers. The zombies, the strippers, the government... everyone. During George W. Bush’s fourth term in office, a zombie virus gets released in the bleak town of Sartre, Nebraska. When the plague hits a strip club, infecting the star stripper, the club owner decides not to take her off the stage. The customers prefer the attentions of the zombie stripper, so soon enough, more strippers voluntarily become zombies. The intense gore and violence are less powerful than the bleakness of this riff on Ionesco’s Rhinoceros.
4) Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Cabin in the Woods shows a team of dedicated professionals, using horror movie cliches to torment five real college students. But it turns out their torment is a sacrifice to a huge, ancient god — and it’s the only thing keeping our entire world going. In one unforgettable scene the office celebrates a successful year of murder while a young woman struggles for her life on a screen in the background. As the film comes to a climax, the two survivors ask themselves whether the survival of the human race is really worth it. Their answer is a resounding “nope.”
5) The Last Winter (2006)
Humanity is terrible enough in The Last Winter that the Earth itself turns against us. Strange things start happening at an oil drill site, and soon people start to realize that the destruction humanity has caused has called forth the ghosts of fossil fuels. The film suggests humanity has acted like a virus, that the Earth is defending itself against. The ghosts kill off most of the characters in the movie, and in the final scene we see news footage showing widespread natural disasters. It’s clear that humanity has wasted what we was given, and we probably won’t get a second chance.
6) Day of the Dead (1985)
Director George A. Romero describes Day of the Dead as a “tragedy about how a lack of human communication causes chaos and collapse even in this small little pie slice of society.” After the events of Romero’s previous films, a group of government scientists and military personnel shelter in underground bunker near Fort Myers, Florida. The scientists continue their research into finding a cure or pacifying the zombies.Supplies run low and disagreements about the research divides the survivors. Even in such a dire situation, humanity can’t find a way to work together.
7) Deadgirl (2008)
When two high school boys stumble upon a deaf, mute naked woman in an abandoned mental hospital, they rape her and try multiple times to kill her. They bring in classmates, who pay to rape and torture the woman they nickname “Deadgirl.” When they realize that she has an infectious disease that can turn other girls into similar zombies, they decide to infect a classmate who had formerly rejected them. Like Fido and Zombie Strippers, this movie uses exaggeration to show how we’re willing to exploit and demean each other in the name of pleasure.
8) 28 Days Later (2002)
After a highly contagious virus gets loose, society starts to break down. The government has shut down after being overrun by people suffering from the “rage virus.” A small group of survivors finds a military blockade near Manchester and believe they will be safe, but soon discover that the sadistic Major Henry West can be worse than the Infected. West’s plan involves starving the Infected to death while forcing women into sexual slavery with his soldiers. The female survivors are dragged away to be raped while the men are sent to be executed. The infection is scary, but it’s scarier to watch West abusing his power.
9) The Mist (2007)
After a mysterious mist, full of monsters, overtakes a town, a group of survivors seek shelter in the supermarket. They quickly subbumb to mob mentality. Mrs. Carmody, a religious fanatic, quickly gathers a cult around her who eagerly sacrifice a man to the monsters outside. When the main character, David, tries to flee she destroys his supplies and is killed. David and his group eventually make it out of the supermarket, but find that the outside world is even more terrifying than they thought. In a last ditch effort to avoid being eaten by the creatures in the mist, David kills his companions and walks into the mist to sacrifice himself. He then learns that they were only moments away from being saved and he murdered four people for nothing.
10) Frankenstein (1931)
Frankenstein’s monster might end up as a creature to be feared, but it doesn’t start out that way. When he is first created, the monster is an innocent, peaceful creature. Thanks to misunderstandings, and Fritz’s cruelty, he is driven to madness and destruction. If Fritz hadn’t tormented him with fire, or if Doctor Frankenstein hadn’t misunderstood his early actions, perhaps he could have had a very different life and death. Instead, the townspeople form a mob, eventually capturing and burning the monster alive. Humanity created this monster in more ways than one.
11) Martyrs (2008)
This French horror film features a secret society that tortures young women. We learn that they believe they can learn the secrets of the afterlife by making the girls into martyrs, and that all of their attempts have only created victims. We see a young woman beaten and degraded until the head of the cult tells her that she has progressed further than any of their previous victims. They then proceed to flay her alive, and when she survives the horrific procedure she whispers the secret of the afterlife to the cult leader who commits suicide soon after. Seeing people torment others is bad enough, but it’s almost worse knowing that they’re doing it in the name of enlightenment.