Scariest PG

The natural response to hearing horror movie and PG-13 in the same breath is, most likely, skepticism. How scary can a movie be when its rating is only a cut above scooby-doo? There’s not a lot of blood. Minimal swearing. No severed limbs. Still, there’s a treasure trove of movies that make up for what they lack in R-rated horror tropes by doubling down with plenty of scares. You see, PG-13 is no death knell for a horror movie. In fact, it opens up a wide margin of creativity in order to scare people without resorting to the tried and true experience of slice and dice.

Signs (2002)

It is Mel Gibson in a movie scarier than his actual antics, if you can believe that. Gibson plays Graham Hess, a widowed former cloth man who lives on a farm with his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), son Morgan (Rory Culkin) and her daughter Bo (Abigail Breslin). One day, the Hesses find large crop circles in their cornfield, which they initially blame on local vandals, but learn the truth is far scarier. Crop circles have appeared all over the world, and with them visitors who appear to be extraterrestrials. Director M.Night Shyamalan is exceptional at extracting terror from tension, with the claustrophobic feeling of family in the basement, barricaded against aliens, a masterclass in fear of the unseen. The ending is a bit practical (unless you subscribe to the theory that aliens are actually demons), but the movie offers a good jump or two.

Arachnophobia (1990)

Image via Buena Vista Pictures

Jeff Daniels like Dr. Ross Jennings. John Goodman as exterminator Delbert McClintock. A whole load of a deadly new breed of spider, with an unknown deadly toxin, that has taken hold in the town of Canaima, California, killing a number of townspeople and poised to wipe out more. Be honest – you have been convinced to deadly spiderweren’t you?

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

An anthology film based on the book series by Alvin Schwartzwith four tales woven into the story of one girl, Stella (Zoe Colletti), who finds a book of horror stories written by a Sarah Bellows, who committed suicide years ago after being accused of witchcraft and using it to kill the town children. It would appear, however, that Sarah is still writing stories, as all four tales are new stories that appear on once-blank pages…and are used to take down Stella’s friends one by one. It’s a surprisingly scary movie, unsurprisingly given Guillermo del Toroof his involvement as a writer and producer.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

What happens when an exorcism results in the death of the exorcised person? This is what happens in The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a horror film that rises above the genre to include thought-provoking questions about faith and the powers of darkness. Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) performs an exorcism on a young girl, Emily Rose (Jennifer Charpentier), which ends tragically with his death. The priest is arrested for murder, along with attorney Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) defending his client against his seemingly unbelievable claims of truth.

Lights Out (2016)

Curfew first released in 2013 as a three-minute short, which used its time effectively to a genuinely terrifying ending. The short went viral on Vimeo and YouTube, which caught Hollywood’s attention, with Warner Bros. and the horror producer James Wan winning the battle for film rights. It’s no surprise that a movie was made from a short viral clip – it was Hollywood that made Machete on a false trailer in Crusher, after all – but the fact that the film is excellent is most certainly, with a vengeful spirit, somehow connected to their mother, terrorizing a young woman and her brother. She can only be seen when the lights are off, hence her name, and if you’re thinking “why don’t they just have the lights on then?” they thought about it, only “Diana” cut the power to their house. No plot holes here, just move on.

Insidious (2010)

Picture via Universal Pictures

Speaking of James Wan, Insidious testifies to the talent of the filmmaker. It’s a truly unique and undeniably scary horror movie, as good as Wan’s Conspiracy. Young Dalton Lambert (Ty Simpkins) falls into a coma after seeing an evil entity, with no explanation as to why. Soon after, supernatural things start happening around the house, prompting the Lamberts to move to a new house. Guess what else was in the moving truck? Yeah, the move doesn’t stop paranormal activities so psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) is brought in to help, and she informs the parents that Dalton has the ability to astral travel, only now he is trapped in “The Further”, another dimension where a number of tortured souls walk aimlessly. This prompts dad Josh (Patrick Wilson) to use his own forgotten astral travel abilities to save Dalton. Just a great movie, with a terrific close-up that puts it together a bit better (in the opinion of the author) Insidious 2.

Mom (2013)

When even the radio spots promoting the movie send shivers down your spine hearing a child’s voice simply say “Mom,” you know it must be good…and Mom is. Five years after his brother killed several people, including his ex-wife, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) welcomes his two nieces, Victoria (Megane Charpentier) and Lily (Isabelle Nelisse), who spent that time alone in a secluded cabin in the woods. Well, “alone” might not be the right word. What would you say spent this time with the creepy spirit of a long dead mother in a remote cabin in the woods. Even in death, mom takes care of the children she claimed to be hers and doesn’t like Victoria getting too close to Annabel, with fun and frolics lagging behind.

A Quiet Place (2018)

A silent place succeeds on many levels. This is the movie that proved Jean Krasinski is more than Jim’s Office. This is yet another example of the exceptional talent Emily Bluntundeniable talent as an actress. It’s a film with little dialogue and a breathtaking performance by a deaf actress. Millicent Simmonds. More importantly, it’s scary as all hell. Krasinski pulls out all the stops and more here, with every squeal or whisper laden with the terror of a monster hearing it. Two scenes in particular make the film an absolute must-see, both with Blunt’s Evelyn Abbott in the foreground: the first is when Abbott has the misfortune to step directly on a rusty nail, barefoot, while the second is Abbott giving birth in the bathtub while the monsters are in the house. Blunt shows pain and terror through her face and eyes, desperate to scream but knowing she can’t. It’s an amazing performance that should have earned Blunt more accolades than just the Screen Actors Guild Award for supporting actor she got.

Poltergeist (1982)

“They are there.” Two simple words, spoken by young people Heather O’Rourke like Carol Anne, reporting that evil spirits have arrived in the Freeling household. If you thought hearing “mom” was scary (see above), then you’ll be dirtying your drawers with those words. The paranormal antics are innocent at first, but slowly turn into something much more sinister, culminating in Carol Anne being taken to a spiritual realm. Fighting spirit had homebuyers insisting on background checks to ensure there was no burial site on the property, and, paired with the HE 1990 miniseries, led to the ostracism of clowns for thousands of children. And adults.

Cloverfield (2008)

Armed with a revolutionary game-changing promotional campaign, Cloverfield roared – literally – onto the scene in 2008, a film that capitalized on the found footage craze of the time. It was like watching a Godzilla movie from the perspective of a citizen of the city Godzilla was tearing apart. All right, a citizen of Tokyo, happy? The found footage element works incredibly well, adding a sense of realism to the events of the film not often found in the horror movie genre. And seeing the head of the Statue of Liberty rolling down the street is worth the price of admission alone.

1408 (2007)

Gee, a cynical and skeptical writer who debunks so-called supernatural phenomena, travels from Los Angeles to New York to spend a night in room 1408 of the supposedly cursed Dolphin Hotel. There’s no way this Can go aside for writer Mike Enslin (John Cusack)! Imagine his surprise when there is no “reporting” in the room at all, and the horror of realizing that he might not even make it until morning. According to a news from Stephen King, 1408 deliver the fears.

Drag Me to Hell (2009)

drag me to hell
Picture via Universal Pictures

Sam Raimi of course loves the dead dragging the living, huh? Christine Brun (Alison Lohman) is a loan officer at a bank who refuses an extension for a loan to old Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver), placing her in the prospect of losing her home. Bad call, Christine. Now the old lady has cast a curse on her that will see Christine dragged to the depths of hell in a few days, days filled with terror as she waits. It seems a bit excessive. Couldn’t Ganush just write a letter with harsh words?

Scariest PG-13 Horror Movies – GameSpot