Horror Films of Unrelenting and Uncomfortable Darkness

Horror films are supposed to be dark, but every once in a while one come along that goes beyond dark. Some horror movies move into a whole other level of darkness that becomes unrelenting in the quality of its depression. The greatest film analyst the world has ever known, Robin Wood, says all horror cinema can be boiled down to what is repressed bubbling to the surface and forcing the conscious mind into a confrontation that ends either in assimilation or annihilation. Perhaps that which has been repressed in these ultra-dark horror flicks is just too sinister to confront with the thrill that horror normally produces.

Pet Sematary

Stephen King’s novel upon which “Pet Sematary” is based is the most depressing novel I have ever read. Imagine listening to Joy Division’s album “Closer” for as long as it takes to read a novel and you have some idea. The film tones down the darkness of King’s novel, but not by much. The subject matter of the re-animated corpse of a little boy coming back to strike fear into the heart of his family is just maybe one that is too dark to be made into the kind of horror movie that allows you to enjoy the experience of risk-free scares.


Maybe it’s just the presence of kids in a horror film that makes them dark. “Phone” is yet another example of why South Korea is the most inventive national film industry in the world. Can you imagine what a mess Hollywood would make of a horror movie that is utterly dependent upon pedophilia for its story to make sense. There is a young actress in “Phone” who is charged with some of the very darkest scenes ever found in any genre of movie. I still maintain that the makers must have used a midget; this little girl is six miles of creepy on a five mile long island.


Repression usually starts in childhood. Society and our own mental well-being depends to a great extent on the mind’s ability to repress some of the ugliness that the world has to throw in our face. The literal face of repression marks the final shot of “Repulsion” And, like all movie endings, your reading of the meaning of that face says more about you than it does about what director Roman Polanski may be telling you. The darkness of “Repulsion” stems from what you read into that photograph, but watching Catherine Deneuve at the height of her loveliness descend into madness is plenty of dark, too.