Friday, 22 November 2013

5 PG-13 Thrillers and Horror Movies That Don’t Suck

There are certain universally-accepted facts that everybody knows. Grass is green; what goes up must come down; and PG-13 thrillers and horror movies suck. Just ask any horror fan. The single worst thing that has happened to the horror genre in the past decade is the trend away from (US) R rated horror films, with their excessive gore and violence, towards much more restrained (and box-office friendly) PG-13 films. For those of you unaware of the US rating system, a PG-13 rating basically means no swearing, no sex, no nudity and minimal bloodshed. It’s the equivalent of a low-grade Australian M rating or a UK 12A or low-grade 15, and is the death-knell for the mystery, thriller and horror genres, which are all about bloodshed. The appallingly bad remakes of Prom Night, When a Stranger Calls and The Fog were all PG-13 rated. Enough said.

Yet, hard as it may seem to believe, it is actually possible to make a thriller or horror movie with a PG-13 rating that is worth watching. Horror-comedies, of course, work fine with a PG-13 rating (Ghostbusters and Gremlins were given the even more restrictive PG rating), but believe it or not, The Ring, which is a genuinely scary film, was also PG-13. The scares were there, there just wasn’t any blood. Disturbia, the teenage rip-off... uh ...update of Rear Window is also PG-13. It’s not the PG-13 rating that makes horror movies bad, it’s the fact that many film makers who make PG-13 horror films lack the creativity and innovation necessary to make those movies good.

To further prove my point, here are 5 more PG-13 thrillers and horror movies that are actually worth watching:

The Monster Squad (1987)

A group of kids must stop Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon from bringing about the end of the world.

The Goonies, The Gremlins, The Monster Squad. They sure don’t movies like that anymore. Co-written by Shane Black, who also wrote such films as Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, I’ve never been quite sure whether this movie was aimed at kids or if, like Stephen King’s It, was in fact, an adult movie about kids. It also answers the question of what happens to a werewolf if you blow him into lots of little pieces.

Stars: Andre Gower, Duncan Regehr, Stephen Macht.

Rating: Australia M/ US PG-13/ UK 15.

Stonebrook (1998)

In order to pay his tuition fees, a college student (Brad Rowe) and his scheming roommate (Seth Green) become a pair of conmen backed by the mob.

A thriller rather than a horror film, this independent feature really ramps up in the last half hour when things inevitably go wrong for the pair resulting in a string of twists and double-crosses. Even though Brad Rowe is the star, the highlight is seeing Seth Green back in his Buffy days.

Stars: Brad Rowe, Seth Green, Zoe McLellan

Rating: Australia M/ US PG-13

Cry Wolf (2005)

A group of students at an elite boarding school start a rumour that the recent murder of a local girl in the nearby woods was, in fact, the work of a serial killer, and that more deaths will follow – then are horrified to find the rumour coming true.

Although the premise makes it sound like a teen slasher film, this modern update of The Boy who Cried Wolf is actually a very clever confidence trick movie with a fantastic ending.

Stars: Julian Morris, Lindy Booth, Jared Padalecki, Jon Bon Jovi

Rating: Australia M/ US PG-13/ UK 12A

Drag Me to Hell (2009)

After evicting an old gypsy woman from her home, an ambitious young loans officer is cursed to suffer three days of torment followed by eternal damnation.

Writer/director Sam Raimi returns to his horror roots with this grossly funny horror film that plays a lot like an episode of Tales From the Crypt. It’s the perfect example of a film maker using creativity to push the limits of the PG-13 rating.

Stars: Alison Lohman, Justin Long

Rating: Australia MA/ US PG-13/ UK 15

Fear Island (2009)

A group of high school students plans to spend a weekend partying on an otherwise deserted island are spoiled by the arrival of a killer out for revenge for something they have done. Told in flashback by Jenna (Haylie Duff), the last survivor of the group, who was found by the police clutching a bloody knife and whose memory of the events is less than 100% reliable.

This made for TV movie is the cinematic equivalent of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books. Mystery and suspense take the place of blood and gore, but it still manages to achieve an acceptably large body count, clocking up a total of six corpses.

Stars: Haylie Duff, Aaron Ashmore, Lucy Hale

Rating: UK 15 / Unrated in the US, as it was made for TV, but conforms to the MPAA’s PG-13 certificate requirements.


  1. I saw Fear Island because of Lucy Hale (it was my first thriller/horror movie) and I absolutely loved it! Then I found this list and am now tempted to watch these other ones! :D

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