You can either love or hate the horror genre, depending on your “need for affect”. In the first case you tend to have extreme attitudes across a variety of issues, choose to view emotional movies or become involved in emotion-inducing events. In other words, you accept negative emotions as a part of life. In the second case you try to avoid these emotions if possible. That group of people will never develop into their best selves, because they refuse to see their shadow side and refuse to walk through the mud of their minds to get to the true meaning of their lives.
If you belong to the emotion seekers, you are in the right place! I will take a look at the horror genre, represented by a few stories from the movie industry, and analyze their inner workings.
I will be looking at the best psychological horrors, thus no cheap jump scare movies. no “monster in the woods” or eerie atmosphere types that move you nowhere in life; but at the best horrors made exactly for the kind of person who WANTS to explore the deepest darkness of humanity and in themselves, because as the saying goes “No tree can grow to heaven unless its roots reach all the way down to hell”.
The Witch is about the monster inside of each one of us and not really about witches. It’s about the terror of being accused of something you didn’t do. And not only by anyone, but by the closest members of your family, who are supposed to love you. Each member of the family has a different fear, a different sin they commit throughout the movie, slowly making their accusation come true.
This movie will grab your brain and squeeze it for 90 minutes. There is a single jump scare in this movie, and it will actually serve as a relief from the psychological tension. You will also need to think outside yourself to get into the shoes of the protagonists, as they live in the 1700’s, where the folklore was considered reality.
The fear in Midsommar is the general fear of unknown. The main characters find themselves in a very unfamiliar place and are presented with uncanny pagan customs and festivities. Due to their fear of social embarrassment they are manipulated by psychedelic drugs that make them into defenseless victims.
Unfortunately they realize they are prisoners of the fanatics when it’s too late.
The director and writer of the movie, Ari Aster, created the story as a metaphor to a romantic relationship falling apart; at the end of the relationship you get to burn all that reminded you of it, and emerge anew. He also explored the horrible consequences of cheating in relationships and the native Scandinavian customs, which were apparently really this brutal and psychopathic.
The whole story revolves around one family that has been manipulated by occultists for generations to serve as hosts for a demon king. The story is intertwined with the trauma and pain of losing a loved one and some deeper psychological complexes of the individual family members that float to the surface (i.e. the mother wakes up while sleep-walking, about to burn her now adult son with gasoline, because all the years ago she wanted an abortion and repressed the thought).
The first plot point (the scariest scene in modern movies) starts an unstoppable cascade of events, that none of the main characters have any control over. The scene starts an uncanny feeling that will follow you and get stronger until the final scenes. Most of the story takes place in the family house, where you can watch the whole family descend into madness and decompose.
A movie that is not generally classified as a horror, but for me it was a very dark experience. At the end of the movie I was proclaiming something like “Please, kill them all”. I’ve never felt anything like this in my life, except after watching Dogville (2003). This is a movie that forces your Shadow to come out.
Nicole Kidman is a calm protagonist, that remains stoic in the face of the most disgusting darkness that seemingly nice and civilized people in the village showed her. The fears in this movie are the fear of isolation, imprisonment, enslavement, manipulation and sexual assault.
Not only will this movie enable you to explore the darkness of other people, their fucked up desires and their inability to resist their urges, but it will also reveal some deep aspects of your own personality and your own darkness.
A good horror will always attack multiple human fears at once. In case of The Thing (1982) it’s the isolation in the cold Arctic with no radio signal to reach anyone in a case of an emergency; the psychological fears — the paranoia that anyone could be the Thing and spread it; and the pressure of food, gas and electricity running out; fear of Death; and the fear of the ultimate Unknown — an Alien civilization.
The Thing is attacking all the basic human fears at once and slowly building the tension throughout the story. The story ends with a famous cliffhanger that has left the final impression of the movie hanging in our minds for almost 30 years after its release.
The only way how to overcome fear is to face it. Same way, if you are afraid of what you might find inside yourself, you have to face it. You have become aware of your Shadow side and accept it as a part of your existence. As we saw, psychological horrors are a great tool for this kind of inner work.