Refraining from discussing the merits of horror as a genre, the choice of the most optimal analysis method appears complicated. To regard horror movies analytically, it is worth considering that they are, at large, a projection of fear or anxiety, which are the main target of their appeal. Adult audience tends to be afraid of things coming from the domain of rationality. Horror movies find a way to compile the rational and irrational, using the metaphor and symbolism of the supernatural, the incognoscible.
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There are several approaches of horror film analysis, including, but not limited to the analysis of sexuality, the psychoanalytical approach, etc. Although each of these approaches provides an in-depth perspective, the following paper is devoted to discussing what it regards as the most optimal one, which is the socio-political and socio-cultural.
As said, there is quite an extensive body of approaches that can be adopted when analyzing horror movies. To conduct a competent analysis, one might start by applying diachrony, linking the ideas from the horror movies’ past to their present. Such analysis might require additional research to establish the place of a particular movie within the timespan of horror movie history. On the other hand, such approach speaks in broad terms about individual matter, and the analysis can turn out to be overly evasive and vague.
Considering that horror movies often incorporate elements that have to do with sexuality, including the one that is commonly regarded as perverted, sexuality analysis can prove sufficient to understand the message. Such analysis is particularly applicable to movies with increased presence of naked flesh and torture. Erotic imagery and the imagery of violence serve as an attention grabber to sharpen the audience’s perception and communicate the message in the most efficient way (Pinedo 347).
From another perspective, the analysis of sexuality is not applicable to movies where such imagery is not abundant. Another approach includes applying psychoanalysis, particularly the Freudian one. Psychoanalysis of the horror movies does not necessarily concern sexuality, but rather, the fears that the viewer experiences as a child and sees them projected in the movies’ visual and sound effects (Dumas 28).
Among those, the fear of madness in general can be enlisted, as well as some other fears and pervasive thoughts that might overwhelm the viewer from time to time. Some horror screenplay moves and features can be explained and clarified through the lens of, say, Oedipus complex or the fear of castration. Also, the archetypal characteristics of some of the characters tend to correspond with archetypes that invade the viewers’ nightmares (29). On the flipside, the psychoanalytical approach to horror movies is likely to drift entirely into the realm of psychoanalysis, ignoring the movie message and its technical components.
It appears that, to conduct a competent study, it is worth applying as many approaches as possible. On the other hand, as it was stated above, horror as a genre largely amounts to projection of fears, including those that are experienced by the audience as a society, as a culture. Art is inseparable from the posture of affairs in which it is created, either societal or cultural, or the personality of the creator which is, again, influenced by their status quo. Just as any form of art, horror movies are produced within a certain timeframe with its socio-political situation, ideological demands, and common concerns (Sharrett 71).
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Such analysis, therefore, appears the most optimal since it helps reveal societal fears in broader – and at the same time, more focused – terms, in terms of discursive practices. At that, socio-cultural and socio-political approach incorporates the discourses of psychoanalysis and sexuality analysis since the disorders that cause anxiety in observers can be applied to the society as well. There are examples of societies becoming violent and suicidal, of children murdering their mothers (66).
Such actions can be analyzed from the point of Freudian methodology – the infamous Oedipus complex, for one – but the socio-cultural approach implies these to represent fears that encompass the culture; particularly, the fear of destruction of the seemingly solid nuclear family value. Zombies can be referred to as a vampire sexual fantasy in reverse, as a mockery of the society’s hype about the vampire sexuality (64). On the other hand, what the rise of undead represents in cultural and political respect is the fear of the collapse of the global society, especially on the aftermath of the millennium with its nuclear and apocalyptic concerns (65).
To conclude, entertainment culture reflects what the society is currently interested in. Horror movies as a segment of such culture speculate on the society’s fears and anxieties. The messages embedded in such films can be analyzed from diverse viewpoints but it is the socio-cultural and socio-political approach that can be argued to be the most optimal for horror film analysis. Such conclusion can be made on account that it not only regards screenplay and effects through the prism of common societal concerns but also incorporates other approaches, creating the fullest perspective of analysis.
Dumas, Chris. “Horror and Psychoanalysis: An Introductory Primer.” A Companion to the Horror Film. 1st ed. Ed. Harry M. Benshoff. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley & Sons, 2014. 21-37. Print.
Pinedo, Isabel C. “Torture Porn: 21st Century Horror.” A Companion to the Horror Film. 1st ed. Ed. Harry M. Benshoff. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley & Sons, 2014. 345-361. Print.
Sharrett, Christopher. “The Horror Film as Social Allegory (And How It Comes Undone).” A Companion to the Horror Film. 1st ed. Ed. Harry M. Benshoff. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley & Sons, 2014. 56-72. Print.