Five PG-13 Movies That Prove an R Rating Isn’t Always Better

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Sometimes less is more. And these 5 films prove it.


PG-13 horror movies have a bad reputation. And, to some extent, that reputation is deserved. A studio that waters down what should be an R-rated movie to get a PG-13 rating and sell more tickets is shameful. However, there are cases where a feature does not need foul language, nudity or graphic violence to provide an extremely chilling viewing experience. Once in a while, a director is able to deliver the goods without sacrificing their creative vision. So while it might be tempting to assume that a PG-13 rated movie couldn’t deliver the goods, that’s not always the case. And for that reason, I think back to five movies that prove an R rating isn’t always better.

Insidious

James Wan burst onto the scene with Seen and delivered a truly unusual giallo-inspired horror film with Dead silence. But I think the director really imposed himself with Insidious. This story of a young boy lost in a supernatural realm is extremely frightening. The idea that the malevolent presence is tied to the Lambert family, rather than a specific habitation, creates an environment where evil cannot be escaped. And what about the red-faced demon who shows up for a surprise visit? Ouch! This streak was enough to send the faint of heart running for the hills. As a result, a nude scene or more foul language would not have improved Insidious the least. This movie is great as it is. And tampering with that would spoil perfection.

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drag me to hell

Sam Raimi’s violent tale of supernatural revenge is full of gooey, grotesque sequences. And while the film itself is darkly comedic, the key word is dark. Really dark. Hell, the session footage feels like it could have been pulled straight out of Raimi very R rated movie, evil Dead. And that’s not to mention animal sacrifice or Mrs. Ganush vomiting embalming fluid all over main character Christine. drag me to hell brilliantly skirts the line between PG-13 and R and remains pretty perfect exactly as it is.

drag me to hell - Five PG-13 movies that prove an R rating isn't always better

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

If you stop to think about it, targeting a PG-13 rating makes perfect sense for this long move. adaptation, given that the books the film is based on are aimed at children. Of course, they are meant to terrify children. But, nevertheless, the books were made for a young audience. Thus, making the feature-length counterpart available only to adults would do a disservice to the target audience of the source material.

Although it sports a PG-13 rating, this adaptation doesn’t sugarcoat anything. The tone is very dark. The young characters depicted inside are often in very real danger. And the movie doesn’t serve up a fairy tale ending where everyone lives happily ever after. Much like the books, this film leaves a lasting (and terrifying) impression, and it manages to do so without the benefit of an R rating.

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The final girls

Director Todd Strauss-Schulson originally aimed for an R rating for The final girls but the studio asked him to tone down the image to PG-13. In any other scenario, this would have been a recipe for disaster. But this is a special case. The constant sending of Puritan horror tropes that punish sexuality comes across as a fiercely feminist message. So including gratuitous nudity for the sake of titillation would fly against that message. As for the violence on the screen, the carnage is not pushed to the maximum. But I would say it was the right choice. Sends are creative and funny. The fact that each death scene isn’t full of arterial spray seems fitting, given the tone of the picture and the fact that they’re likable, charming, and funny characters. On the contrary, we applaud their survival rather than their demise. So, this comes across as a case where reducing the violence actually makes the movie better.

The Final Girls - Five PG-13 Movies That Prove an R Rating Isn't Always Better

A silent place

I haven’t checked the MPAA of A silent place before taking it for the first time and assumed it had to be rated R. Something as heartbreaking and scary as A silent place Couldn’t carry a PG-13 rating, could it? Well, it could. And that’s the case. And, on that note, I wouldn’t change a thing. John Krasinski’s story of malevolent sound-seeking creatures scared me far more than the average R-rated horror movie. The intensity level never waned and got me through the vast majority of the length of the film trying to catch my breath. Being able to deliver this kind of cinematic experience with a PG-13 rating is testament to Krasinski’s talent and surely serves to prove that an R rating isn’t always better.

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