“Examining the Social Commentary in Classic Horror Movies”

Examining the Social Commentary in Classic Horror Movies

Examining the Social Commentary in Classic Horror Movies

The Significance of Classic Horror Movies

Classic horror movies were not just about entertaining audiences with monsters and jump scares. Many of these films had deeper meanings and social commentary that reflected the values and fears of the time in which they were created.

Horror movies, in general, have always been a reflection of society’s anxieties and desires. They use monsters and supernatural elements to explore political, social, and cultural issues that are often too difficult to address directly.

Frankenstein: A Critique of Industrialization and Science

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a classic horror novel that has been adapted into movies numerous times. The story of a scientist who creates a monster from dead human parts is often interpreted as a cautionary tale against the dangers of unchecked science and industrialization.

In Shelley’s novel, the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, is consumed by his ambition to create life. He ignores the ethical implications of his experiment and ends up creating a monster that is rejected by society. The novel is a criticism of the scientific mindset that values progress over ethics and the consequences of playing God.

The social commentary in Frankenstein is still relevant today. Advancements in technology and genetics have raised questions about the limits of science and the role of scientists in society, especially in terms of ethical considerations.

Night of the Living Dead: A Commentary on Race Relations

George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is a landmark horror movie that redefined the zombie genre. The film follows a group of people who are trapped in a farmhouse while flesh-eating zombies attack them. Despite its gory nature, the film is also a powerful commentary on race relations.

The main character of the film, Ben, is an African American who takes charge of the situation and tries to keep everyone alive. This was a significant departure from other horror movies of the time that often depicted black characters as stereotypes or as expendable sidekicks.

Night of the Living Dead was released in 1968, during a time of unrest and civil rights protests in the United States. The movie reflected the tension and division in American society at the time and challenged viewers to confront their own prejudices and assumptions.

The Exorcist: A Critique of Religion and Patriarchy

The Exorcist is a horror movie that deals with demonic possession. The film follows a young girl who is possessed by a demon and the efforts of two priests to exorcise the demon from her body.

The social commentary in The Exorcist revolves around the theme of religion and patriarchy. The movie was released in 1973, during the height of the feminist movement and the increasing skepticism towards organized religion.

The film portrays religion as oppressive and patriarchal. The young girl’s possession is seen as a manifestation of the corruption and hypocrisy within the Catholic Church. The priests are also depicted as flawed and conflicted characters who are not above using their power for personal gain.

The Exorcist was a groundbreaking horror movie that used the supernatural to critique the institution of religion and its oppressive patriarchal structures.

The Shining: A Critique of the American Dream

The Shining is a horror movie that tells the story of a family that moves to a remote hotel for the winter. The father, Jack, is a struggling writer who hopes to find inspiration in the solitude of the hotel. However, the isolation and supernatural forces in the hotel drive him insane.

The social commentary in The Shining centers around the theme of the American Dream. The movie was released in 1980, during a time when the myth of upward mobility and success through hard work was being challenged by economic stagnation and political corruption.

The character of Jack represents the failed American Dream. He is a talented writer who is unable to realize his potential and has to work as a caretaker at a remote hotel. His descent into madness is a metaphor for the disillusionment and frustration of those who have been left behind by the promise of the American Dream.


Classic horror movies are more than just scary stories. They are windows into the fears and anxieties of past societies and commentaries on current issues. These films have the power to challenge viewers and provoke discussions about topics that are still relevant today.

Frankenstein, Night of the Living Dead, The Exorcist, and The Shining are just a few examples of horror movies that have used the genre to explore deeper themes. As the horror genre continues to evolve and adapt to new technologies and cultural changes, it is important to remember the roots of the genre and the significance of classic horror movies.