The Changing Face in the Horror Film’s Mirror

Horror as both a genre and as a central part of the human psyche continually reinvents itself.

Horror as both a genre and as a central part of the human psyche continually reinvents itself. While ghosts, ghouls, and the unsettling uncanny (i.e. dolls), will always spark fear in the viewer, the other dimension of terror exists in its ability to hold a mirror up to the society we live. For example, at the time of Scientific and Artistic revolution in the early 19th Century, Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein demonstrated the dangers of when we mess with nature and try to emulate God. We create a monster that, between the realms of the living and dead, ultimately destroys its maker and wreaks havoc on the innocent. Similarly, Bram Stoker commented on sexuality, Christianity, and Technology in the Victorian era Gothic novel Dracula.

Long before this, Shakespeare continually uses the Supernatural such as the Three Witches in Macbeth as reflective of the societal belief that witchcraft is the devil’s magic and capable of manipulating even the highest levels of power. Would it not be terrifying if known hothead leaders like Kim Jong-Un or Donald Trump were easily swayed by a witch’s evil brew dropped in their morning coffee? Perhaps, that could explain their erratic and unbelievable behavior. 

There is always an element of catharsis in Horror novels or films. Part of this is akin to the built up fear on a Roller Coaster’s steep climb, to then let loose an alleviating scream when the track drops. The ‘jump scare’ in Horror movies has been a classic device in this regard, whether the viewer can anticipate where the monster is waiting and hiding or not. For a perfectly executed jump scare, most times the audience screams in heart pumping terror and then immediately finds a massive smile on their face followed by laughter. This is pure catharsis from a break in tension. It is often portrayed in the aptly termed ‘Slasher flicks’, that can often involve large levels of gore. The other side of Horror, however, involves a psychological component. This is when the reader or viewer leaves confused and frightened, taking days or more to process what they have just seen and experienced. This is often followed by many unanswered questions and a string of terrifying theories on top of the creepy imagery. For example, ‘The Blair Witch Project’ was initially presented as a real life documentary that tricked some audiences who actually believed what they saw.

The directors even created fake websites about the Blair Witch. After the film, many still wondered about the mystery of the Blair Witch and woke up in middle of the night in cold sweats checking the corners of the room – a scary image that appeared in the film. There is even a psychological component that exists in the Slasher thriller, where the trend is that the young and beautiful characters always get brutally murdered, often in Romantic moments – in what many comment is punishment for the non virginal. This took root in early horror films, where the female victim was often portrayed as scantily clad and helpless. Similarly, there is a well-known phrase that the “the black guy dies first” in horror movies to signal a racist trope, yet there are frequent reversals of this in today’s cinema.  

Lately, Horror in film has used many of the typical tropes and scares, yet with a frightening underlying message about the broader social fabric we all knit. This has led to a fresh way that horror can be viewed and understood. For instance, the 2014 Australian film ‘The Babadook’ uses the conventional terror of the creature that comes at night yet elevates this to an important metaphor for Depression, mental health, and a single mother fighting with past trauma. Other recent horror movies such as 2019’s ‘Midsommar’ and 2017’s ‘Get Out’ explore the danger of how common thinking and behaviour in a community can turn into a deadly cult. The scary aspect is that the cults in both films do not see the horror they are committing and do horrible acts with smiles on their faces. Just as the witch in Hansel and Gretel offers candy, audiences learn to be wary of those too friendly and those that seem innocent at first.

Where ‘Midsommar’ involves a young woman overcoming all the horrors in her own life and the loss of family, ‘Get Out’ dispels the silly myth society often promotes that racism can be completely destroyed as the film follows the Obama era and the great hope the America vested in him to banish all racial hatred. Racial injustice is not something easily left behind, and societies should not be naive thinking so. Racism in ‘Get Out’ just as trauma in ‘Midsommar’ exists in many forms. Like matter itself than can never be created nor destroyed, only changes from one form to another. We are born into a society with these fears, and these fears live in our psyche and become part of who we are. Director of ‘Get Out’, Jordan Peele, has created another film ‘Us’ (2019) that similarly captures how American aspirations can be flawed because of the system; particularly reflected in the Hands Across America movement. 

Horror fans stay fans through movies, gothic novels, musical bands like Rob Zombie, and also scary games that are usually based on terrifying films like Silent Hill. Online casino sites also offer a wide variety of horror theme slot games to indulge horror fanatics. For example, NetEnt’s ‘Mythic Maiden’ slot, ‘Dracula’ online, ‘Halloween Jack’, Microgaming’s ‘Lost Vegas’ and the comical ‘Zombie Hoard’, Eyecon’s ‘Vlad’s Castle’, and many more. The great aspect of these UK slots online is that they can be enjoyed on your midnight stroll through the graveyard or in the Dungeon as each are specially formatted as mobile slots with a very simple style of gameplay. This involves 5 reels, about 3 to 4 rows, a certain number of paylines, and multiple features and bonuses that grant many chances to win real money. The slots are unique and immersive, so players might find themselves looking over their shoulder to make sure nothing looms behind, waiting to celebrate any wins with a ‘boo’yeah. 

Horror has always been sophisticated at knowing our deepest and darkest fears and exploiting them. Dealing with trauma or to understand the truth of our community, often involves passing through hell or the spooky woods. Horror films of today demonstrate a fresh form of entertainment, in keeping the viewers minds playing back what they have seen on screen and also what they currently see in the world they live. 

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