10 Horror Movies That Purposefully Mess With Your Head

Unpacking the mind-melting trippy horrors that left you wondering "What's it really about?"

Midsommar Florence Pugh

Sometimes a straight slasher or simple haunted house story won’t cut it.

Much like conventional sci-fi fare can disappoint when discerning viewers want a little something more surreal and strange from their preferred genre's cinematic outing, sometimes there's nothing that scary film fans want more than a thoughtful, deep horror with plenty to mull over after the initial terror has subsided.

That's what this list is for, a string of stranger scary flicks for the times when you need a tripp-ier, more psychedelic brand of horror. If Ari Aster and David Lynch are more your speed than the likes of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, then these ten horror movies are likely to be up your twisted tree.

Famous, obscure, or somewhere in the hinterland in between, these ten flicks may seem inscrutable at first glance, but there’s a deeper meaning beneath the strange exteriors of these genre hits and this list is here to shine a little light on their grimy, dark corners.

10. The Shining

Midsommar Florence Pugh
Warner Bros.

Starting with the most infamously indecipherable horror flick in the genre's storied history, Barry Lyndon director Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece The Shining has been subject to myriad interpretations over the years, with obsessive fans reading the byzantine text as...

Well, as everything but a faithful adaptation of horror icon Stephen King's novel of the same name.

There are enough popular readings of the film to accommodate an entire acclaimed documentary detailing the many theories, but the one highlighted in this list views the film’s blackly comic ghost story as a condemnation of American history’s attempts to cover up the Native American genocide.

King's novel features no mention of the native American burial ground that the film notes the Overlook was built upon, whilst the interiors are covered in Native American interior decoration and the pantry is stocked with Calumet brand baking powder. The prominently featured logo shows an American peace pipe, which some viewers read as a cynical indictment of the invaders' broken promises of peace during their relentless attacks on native communities.

Moreover, the film's ending sees the furious patriarch attempt to retrace his steps in the frozen snow only to die angry and blood-crazed, mirroring the US's international imperial adventures wherein the nation replayed the bloody conquest of its own native communities across the globe.

The infamous closing shot, meanwhile, shows Jack has always been a resident of the Overlook, because using force to oppress others is the brutal ideology both the hotel and its country are built upon.


Cathal Gunning hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.