There’s been an earth-shattering debate (read: crybaby whining) going on at the IMDb board for Ridley Scott’s upcoming sci-fi horror feature “Prometheus.” Apparently, the film is under threat of being slapped with a PG-13 rating, which, as many horrified posters have anxiously pointed out, is “OMG, the same rating as Twilight, so gay.” This, in spite of the fact that the film serves as something of a prequel to the “Alien” franchise, each entry of which has been granted with a much harsher R rating, mostly for gore, bloody violence and frequent scenes of chest-bursting.
As of this moment, the MPAA (that’s the Motion Picture Association of America) is yet to officially announce the film’s American rating, but many are dead certain that film studio 20th Century Fox are gunning for a PG-13 rating purely for financial gain. Those complaining claim that the level of raw, pants-crapping intensity captured in the previous “Alien” films simply cannot be recreated in a supposedly watered-down, hacked-to-bits PG-13 cut. As sort of a counter-argument, I thought I’d take a look at the ten best examples to come out of the horror genre brandished with either a PG-13 rating or an even lighter PG rating, along with how spooky they managed to be, even though their rating clearly meant “Twilight” levels of gayness, and what they would be like had they been granted an R rating.
10. “What Lies Beneath” (2000)
Budget: $100 million
Total Gross: $291,420,351
Plot: The happily married wife of a renowned scientist begins to suspect that her lakeside home is haunted by a malevolent ghost.
Scare Rating: 7/10
Actual Quality: Director Robert Zemeckis’ one and only foray into the horror genre is slightly overlong and requires a little tinkering in the script department, but it’s nevertheless a spine-tingling, mostly engaging nod to the works of Alfred Hitchcock, featuring a terrific leading performance from Michelle Pfeiffer and (spoiler!) a rare (and rather effective) villainous turn from the legendary Harrison Ford.
If It Had Been R-Rated: The steamy seduction scene between a possessed Pfeiffer and a bewildered Ford would have been even steamier.
9. “1408” (2007)
Budget: $25 million
Total Gross: $131,998,242
Plot: A snarky debunker of paranormal hotspots intends on spending a peaceful night in the fabled room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel, only to find his skeptical views quaking at the seams.
Scare Rating: 5/10
Actual Quality: Under the stylish direction of Mikael Håfström, “1408” is one of the more successful cinematic releases to brandish in its opening titles “based on the novel/short story by Stephen King.” Showcasing a powerhouse performance from John Cusack, who carries most of the film on his increasingly jittery shoulders, the film expertly builds up an ominous atmosphere and pays it off gracefully with a tremendously bizarre, frequently inventive and occasionally heart-racing slew of spook-house scares.
If It Had Been R-Rated: Samuel L. Jackson would have dropped the F-bomb more than just once.
8. “The Ring” (2002)
Budget: $48 million
Total Gross: $249,348,933
Plot: An intrepid journalist becomes obsessed with a very peculiar story of a supposedly cursed video tape that kills its viewer seven days after they observe its disturbing footage.
Scare Rating: 9/10
Actual Quality: An American remake of J-horror hit “Ringu” (and the one that started the J-horror remake craze), “The Ring” may lose some of the biting social commentary of its nerve-shredding original, but remains just as hair-raisingly terrifying and relentlessly gripping as the 1998 version, thanks to the coldly atmospheric direction of Gore Verbinski, the compelling performance of leading lady Naomi Watts and a startlingly spooky villain in the form of TV-dwelling ghost girl Samara.
If It Had Been R-Rated: Samara would be crawling out of your television screen with a few rusty power tools in tow.
7. “The Woman in Black” (2012)
Budget: $15 million
Total Gross: $121,782,375
Plot: A young and determined solicitor is assigned to visit a dusty, creaky manor, the sole inhabitant of which is less than welcoming and even less alive.
Scare Rating: 8/10
Actual Quality: Featuring the first post-“Harry Potter” performance of the young Daniel Radcliffe, “The Woman in Black” is a terrific adaptation of Susan Hill’s bone-chilling book and an electrifying fright-fest in its own right, combining a creepy atmosphere, knuckle-gnawing intensity, slightly clichéd jump scares and an inspired use of a rocking chair to heart-stopping effect.
If It Had Been R-Rated: Radcliffe’s plethora of under-17 fans would have thrown a hissy fit.
6. “Drag Me to Hell” (2009)
Budget: $30 million
Total Gross: $90,842,646
Plot: After refusing a gypsy woman a loan extension, a female loan officer finds herself cursed and stalked by a tormenting demon that will drag her down to the fiery pits of Hell in three days.
Scare Rating: 5/10
Actual Quality: Having dazzled popcorn munchers the world over with his record-breaking “Spider-Man” trilogy, director Sam Raimi decided to return to his roots in the horror genre. The result was “Drag Me to Hell,” a wholly tongue-in-cheek spook-em-up rollercoaster ride that boasts a vivid imagination, relentless energy, an uncommon sense of B-movie fun and a batshit insane final 30 seconds that left many movie-goers speechless in the auditorium, in a very, very good way.
If It Had Been R-Rated: Raimi would have surely indulged himself in the blood-splattered carnage of his filmmaking debut, “The Evil Dead.”
5. “Poltergeist” (1982)
Budget: $10.7 million
Total Gross: $121,706,019
Plot: A Californian family desperately seek the aid of paranormal investigators when the supernatural presence haunting their suburban home snatches the youngest daughter and takes her into their realm.
Scare Rating: 6/10
Actual Quality: There was much debate surrounding “Poltergeist,” focused on whether it was director Tobe Hooper or producer/co-writer Steven Spielberg who really had the most creative control over the film. Either way, “Poltergeist” is tremendous fun, showcasing spellbinding special effects, frequently frightening scares and a gleefully eccentric supporting performance from Zelda Rubinstein as an offbeat medium, the film fully deserving of its long-standing status as a classic of its genre.
If It Had Been R-Rated: Perhaps that demonically possessed tree would have succeeded in having poor little Robbie for a midnight snack.
4. “Gremlins” (1984)
Budget: $11 million
Total Gross: $153,083,102
Plot: Young Billy gets a small, furry creature named Gizmo from his father for Christmas, resulting in a swarm of mischievous monsters rampaging through the snow-smothered streets of his picture-postcard town.
Scare Rating: 4/10
Actual Quality: One of two films to influence the creation of the now-popular PG-13 rating (the other being Steven Spielberg’s PG-rated “Raiders of the Lost Ark”), Joe Dante’s “Gremlins” is something of a modern classic. A black comedy, it is wackily funny and wildly anarchic, serving as both a loving parody of B-movie cinema and a deliriously entertaining slice of popcorn movie-making. It also features one of the most naturally adorable characters in film history, and no, I’m not talking about that old hag Mrs. Deagle.
If It Had Been R-Rated: The gremlins would most certainly not be watching “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” in the movie theatre; “The Evil Dead,” perhaps?
3. “The Others” (2001)
Budget: $17 million
Total Gross: $209,947,037
Plot: In the aftermath of World War II, a Catholic mother of two young children fears that an unknown presence has invaded her remote country house.
Scare Rating: 8/10
Actual Quality: Like its 1961 British counterpart “The Innocents,” Alejandro Amenábar’s haunted house picture “The Others” features a very powerful use of minimalism, fully earning its status as a “psychological horror film.” Very little of anything visually fearsome is shown throughout the film’s runtime, yet the film itself is a profoundly intense and significantly eerie experience, led by a commanding performance by Nicole Kidman (who’s never been better) and topped with a twist ending so alarming and unexpected it will make your head spin.
If It Had Been R-Rated: Perhaps the “intruders” wouldn’t be so coy, and manifest themselves in a more bloodthirsty fashion than, erm, stealing the curtains.
2. “The Sixth Sense” (1999)
Budget: $40 million
Total Gross: $672,806,292
Plot: A troubled child psychologist is assigned to help an isolated young boy who claims to be able to see and talk to dead people.
Scare Rating: 6/10
Actual Quality: Some will debate over whether or not this is technically a horror film but, given that it scared the holy bejesus out of me as a child, I’m going to say that it damn well is. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, “The Sixth Sense” was a worldwide smash hit, and rightfully so: it is an intelligently scripted, passionately directed and thoroughly invigorating piece of horror cinema featuring a career-best performance from Bruce Willis, a fame-launching performance from young Haley Joel Osment and a jaw-dropping twist ending that blew the minds of many; it’s just a shame that Shyamalan’s career went on.
If It Had Been R-Rated: Those dead people Haley Joel Osment sees would be a little more visually gruesome.
1. “Jaws” (1975)
Budget: $9 million
Total Gross: $470,653,000
Plot: The beachgoers of Amity Island get quite a shock when a man-eating great white shark begins stalking the waters, prompting a local police chief to go out to sea and catch the massive bugger with the aid of a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter.
Scare Rating: 7/10
Actual Quality: Frequently seen to be the original Hollywood blockbuster, horror-thriller “Jaws” was the highest grossing film in cinema history at the time of its release, and made an international star out of its then-unknown director, a certain Mr. Steven Spielberg. Its success was wholly deserved, Spielberg having made a masterpiece of terror and suspense that challenged the best works of Alfred Hitchcock, and stimulated the brain as well as the nerves. Featuring an instantly recognisable music score by John Williams and a certain line of dialogue that has since become iconic for the genre, “Jaws” is now cited as one of the finest films ever made – this, in spite of the fact that the film was awarded with a measly PG rating.
If It Had Been R-Rated: The shark would have certainly not been left very hungry.
By Stephen Watson
We have also listed 10 Independent horror films that will chill your blood.