While most horror movies have problematic elements, the ones below are the worst. Unlike others, there’s simply no merit in them to overpower the awful parts of the film.
1. Hostel (2005): The Hostel franchise is problematic for a variety of reasons. First and foremost it’s part of the torture porn or “gorno” subgenre and that automatically raises red flags for me. In one scene during the second Hostel film a woman is hung upside down from the ceiling completely naked—now tell me there isn’t something inherently wrong with that. Worse is the classic “scary Eastern Europe” undertones that many horror movies use to make their Western viewers feel uncomfortable, leftover fears from the Red Scare era. Hostel’s only merit is the possible critiques of elitism running through the film: The antagonists are rich sociopaths bidding on travelling young adults. Even so, if it is indeed a social critique it is utterly overshadowed by the rest of the film.
2. FeardotCom (2002): This movie was essentially a thinly veiled excuse to show image after image of brutalized women presented in a sexualized manner. It’s like a strange cross between bondage and actual brutality, and by the time this film ended, I just felt sick to my stomach. There are so many ways to portray a misogynistic antagonist, but countless shots of naked, bound and bleeding women is just not the way to do it. Fear.com gets a bit F in my books.
3. Human Centipede 2 (2011): This one is a no-brainer. In fact, I’ll admit I didn’t even watch this movie: I read the entire plot on Wikipedia out of curiosity. As if the first Human Centipede wasn’t repulsive enough, they made a second one that took gross to new heights. It seems like the ultimate goal of this film was shock factor—scene after scene after scene. There’s no real thought put into it. So how does mediocrity equate to something problematic? Let me think: the scene where a baby’s skull gets crushed, the scene where a guy masturbates with sand paper. I’m not going to keep going, but I assure you there’s more.
4. Skeleton Key (2005): Skeleton Key is absolutely rampant with racism. Using the slavery era and public lynchings as the historical context to the plot, the film creates no sympathy for its black characters; they are the antagonists. Not only does it demonize its black characters, leading lady Kate Hudson is presented as the frightened white woman haunted by a vengeful black ghost. As many thumbs down as possible for Skeleton Key.
5. The Hills Have Eyes (2006): There’s one infamous scene that renders The Hills Have Eyes remake horrible: a graphic rape scene that really serves no purpose in the film’s plot. The film is scary enough without this scene—it’s thrown in for pure shock factor, devoid of any type of social critique, or really anything that would justify putting such a graphically misogynistic scene in a movie.
In the next Oh, The Horror, I’ll list some great horror films that feature a woman of colour in the lead role.