In almost every horror movie ever made, a hero or heroine goes up against a ruthless killing machine. In the end, the monster is dead (until the next sequel), and life returns to normal, but that’s not the only format a horror movie can take.
There is a sub-genre known as Reverse Horror, which works like this: the monster is the protagonist, and the victims are the bad guys. That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but it will make sense when you check out these ten Reverse Horror films that are arguably the best the genre has to offer.
Carrie is an interesting film due to the complexity of the characters and how it completely upends the nature of the titular girl in the end. As the movie begins, the viewer meets Carrie and her insane and fanatical mother, who barely manages to take care of her daughter. She’s mercilessly teased at school, and when she has her first period while in the school locker room, she freaks out because her mother never explained menstruation to her. This only makes the kids tease her more, and her life is clearly not going well.
By the third act, Carrie is taken to the prom, and she’s elated, but it doesn’t last long. When the kids pull a prank on her by dumping a bucket of pig’s blood all over her, it triggers her latent psychokinetic abilities. From there, the film shifts from Carrie being the victim to being the monster. She kills almost everyone attending the prom, up to and including the school teachers and administrators. With this, the film flips from straight-up horror to a reverse horror by redefining the main character from being the victim to also being the film’s villain.
Poltergeist spends a lot of time making sure the viewer knows that the ghosts haunting the house are not only causing trouble, but they are also malevolent and out to get the family. As each interaction with the poltergeists continues, the stakes are pushed higher and higher until Carol Anne is sucked into the television, leaving a hopeless family with few options in getting their daughter back. Add to that the murderous clown that still gives people nightmares, the corpses in the pool, and the deadly tree, and the villains in Poltergeist are clearly the ghosts.
Only they aren’t! As you make your way through the movie, it becomes clear that the ghosts aren’t evil spirits intent on destroying all life — well, most of them aren’t. Instead, they are the disturbed spirits of the people who were buried under the property. As the film closes out in the third act, Craig T. Nelson’s character grabs his boss and screams that they moved the tombstones, but they didn’t move the bodies! Ultimately, the living were the ones who caused all the problems and had the dead been treated with respect, none of the bad things that happened in the film would have come to pass.
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Nikole Kidman took the role of Grace in 2001’s The Others, and the movie is incredibly strange but in a good way. In the beginning, she is shown to be incredibly overprotective of her children, who are allergic to sunlight (they aren’t vampires, it’s a real condition). She hires three people to help on her property, but soon after she does this, strange things begin happening all around the home. The curtains are drawn throughout the house, putting the children in jeopardy, and one of the children begins communing with the ghost of a little boy. Other paranormal events take place, and it’s clear the home is haunted.
As the film continues, more and more strange things occur, and it’s revealed that Grace did something terrible to the children in the past, but it’s not clear what that was. Just when the viewer thinks they know what’s going on, the whole plot is flipped upside-down, and it turns out that Grace and the kids (as well as the help) had been dead all along. The “ghosts” of the house were the living, who had taken up residence in the home long after Grace killed her children and herself. They were the ghosts, who had been terrifying the living all along.
The Cabin In The Woods
On the surface, Cabin in the Woods seems like a typical horror movie featuring zombies, a group of unsuspecting teens, and a bunch of bad decisions, but it’s far more than that. The plot does follow a group of teenagers who vacation in a cabin in the woods, where they fall victim to zombies, but the undead aren’t the real monsters in this movie. There’s something going on under the surface — literally, under the cabin’s surface, which is where the real villains of this film could be found.
A couple of engineers named Sitterson and Hadley are the real bad guys in this movie. They are the ones manipulating the events in and around the cabin to ensure the kids meet proper horror movie deaths. It turns out, they are part of an international project meant to keep humanity from being destroyed by horrific subterranean deities called the Ancient Ones. They do this by manipulating the kids via pheromones and drugs that get them to engage in sexual activity and other horror movie tropes used to bring on the monsters. In the end, the kids turn out to be the victims of the engineers and their Director, while the zombies turn out to be little more than a tool used by them.
At first glance, the muck monster that is the Swamp Thing is a classic movie monster, but he didn’t always look that way. Before he called the swamps his home, he was a man named Alec Holland, but when he’s doused in chemicals, set on fire, and dumped into the Louisiana swamps by Dr. Anton Arcane, his body mutated. He changed from being a normal human, and morphed into a new kind of creature… a monster of the swamps best described as a Swamp Thing!
His appearance is indeed that of a classic movie monster, as he’s made up of the muck and plant matter of the swamp. He also has superpowers, including increased strength, durability, and the ability to make plants grow and do his bidding, but he’s not the monster of this film. He’s actually the hero, and when his transformation is complete, he takes his vengeance out on Dr. Arcade and his henchmen. To anyone who knew the character before seeing the movie, they would have known who the true hero and villain were in the film, but a casual viewer… not so much.
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Whether it’s the original King Kong from 1933 or Peter Jackson’s remake in 2005, the film’s basis remains the same. A group of filmmakers heads out to a mysterious place called Skull Island, where a rumored beast is said to roam the dangerous landscape. Along with the filmmakers are the actors, one of whom is a beautiful woman starring as the film’s female lead. After arriving, everything goes to hell rather quickly, and the woman is sacrificed to Kong, the island’s gigantic ape, but he doesn’t eat her — he fancies her.
When she’s taken, the filmmakers head out to try and get her back, and in doing so, they manage to capture King Kong. With such a prize on hand, they have little choice but to head to New York City to show him off. They chain the King and premiere the beast to the world, but he manages to escape. After taking the woman up the Empire State Building, aircraft manage to shoot him down, killing the great beast. The movie closes with “It was beauty killed the beast,” but that’s not true. The real villains of this movie were the men who went into Kong’s home, stole him from it, and led to his death, making the giant beast the real victim of this film.