As movies have evolved, they have grown in depth. Nowadays, any movie worth the film it was captured on is expected to be steeped in some deeper meaning. Perhaps no genre feels this expectation as strongly as the horror genre, with horror flicks subjected to a level of thematic scrutiny that isn’t usually employed in analyzing other genres.
It’s pretty clear where this comes from: for decades, the staples of the horror genre have been used to represent various aspects of modern life. Slasher films in particular were created primarily to explore the idea of imagined adolescent immortality, with larger-than-life killers of creatures used to signify the weight of responsibility ahead of the movies’ respective teen victims. The use of heavily layered symbolism has simply become an accepted part of the horror genre, and it’s almost taken for granted that horror movies should have a deeper meaning – otherwise, it’s just frivolous gore, and who really wants that?
Of course, just because there’s an expectation of deeper themes and creative symbolism, that doesn’t mean that horror movies can’t still surprise their audience. In fact, many horror movies are so loaded with metaphors that it’s incredibly easy to miss some hidden subtext, with the apparent message then lost in translation. With all that in mind, here are 9 examples of just that: horror movies with a hidden theme or message that was all too easy to miss.
9. Hellraiser (1987) – Addiction
The now-iconic Hellraiser franchise got its start way back in 1987 with the simply titled Hellraiser. Based on a short story by Clive Barker, Hellraiser became iconic for the somewhat complex lore of the Cenobites – inter-dimensional beings with a penchant for inflicting an eternity of gruesome torture upon their victims. However, that complexity actually concealed a much deeper theme at play in the original film: addiction.
Hellraiser‘s story is kicked off by Frank, a man obsessed with chasing his next extreme sexual thrill. After this backfires (thanks to the Cenobites) and Frank finds himself imprisoned, he’s set free by his former lover (and sister-in-law) Julia, who then begins to kill in order to restore Frank to life. Once Hellraiser‘s story is unpacked, it can be interpreted as a rumination on addiction and the lengths to which people will go for the things they can’t give up.
Of course, Frank’s drive for pleasure can be seen as one example of this, but it’s Julia’s story that best represents the self-destructive tendencies of addiction. For her own addiction (Frank), she’s willing to forsake her own principles and common decency, as well as her husband’s life. Julia has an itch that she can’t help but scratch, and it destroys not just her own life, but the lives of her family, too.