What Horror Movies Are About
I’ve been thinking about horror movies a lot, lately. More exactly, I’ve been wondering about what they were metaphorically about. The genre lends itself easily to psychological and symbolic analysis. As entertaining as they may be, horror flicks certainly are not the most creative movies out there. They’re pretty similar to each other when it comes to their cinematography and plots.
But what if the homogeneity of the genre was the point?
The most common remark you may hear when watching a horror movie with someone is some variation of “I would have left right there”. A wise point, indeed. Very often, we’re witnessing stubborn characters inexplicably choosing to stay in a situation whose flags couldn’t be any redder. But this may be the actual tragedy horror movies try to convey. The monstrous weight of responsibilities, the undisclosed price of stability and privilege to the point where they become nefarious. Terror, in movies, often happens in places of wealth and success: big suburban houses and manors inhabited by wealthy and cultivated families. Horror movies transcribe the stifling anxiety of those who live in gilded cages. Superficially successful, but bound by their families, their traditions, their society, their past, etc… A movie like Hereditary, for example (whose name also evokes another of these limitations), can be understood as a metaphor for the discrepancy between the image suburban families try to convey and their own impression of the ‘rot’ hidden in their home, only appearing at dusk when nobody else’s here. This is about the feeling that there is a particular perversity or some hidden wickedness among themselves. And the cheerier their external facade appears, the darker their inner malevolency is. Which is why traditional markers of happiness and innocence - children’s songs, wedding gowns or happy portraits - always foretell the most terrible events.
That may be the true appeal of horror - to peek into what people try to hide under the carpet.