Strangulation and sex: How horror films reflect the darkness within us

I have always gravitated towards the horror genre because I admire filmmakers, actors, and screenwriters within the genre that are willing to take film to new boundaries and explore the depths of our darkness. Admittedly, I have only seen one Alfred Hitchcock film, North by Northwest, but I am fascinated by what he was able to accomplish as a director. There he was exploring necrophilia, incest, strangulation, and the loss of childhood innocence, but presenting it in such a mainstream and accessible way. Certainly though, what further fascinates me about other, more daring films and directors, is that the sole purpose of the film is to explore the depths of our darkness without a care for its mainstream appeal or accessibility.

However, it is worth staying on Hitchcock for a moment longer. It has been quite noted how obsessed Hitchcock was over the dark contours of the human psyche and condition, and the manifestation of this obsession was apparently harshness directed towards those working on the film with him. Since I am not too familiar with Hitchcock, I am curious about what exactly he was known for doing on set and his behavior on set. For instance, in the book The Spectacle of Isolation in Horror Films: Dark Parades, “Stories are legion of his cruel treatment of actors and others in the industry” (Royer and Royer 25). It seems to me almost perverted in a sense, the manner in which Hitchcock creates his film in terms of the actual process and the stories in the film itself. I do not think it would be too reaching to suggest the films are a reflection of Hitchcock’s own deficit psyche and perhaps, he enjoyed subverting the mainstream audience into not noticing the underlining darkness of his films.

Moreover, in the aforementioned book, there is a great deal mentioned regarding the relationship between strangulation and sex, especially in the Hitchcock films. I could not help, but think about another famous movie with a classic scene involving such a relationship. John Carpenter’s Halloween has a scene where Michael Myers, the sexually repressed sociopath, goes after one of Laurie Strode’s friends, Lynda. Myers had just killed Bob, Lynda’s boyfriend, then walks into the room where Lynda is naked with a white bed sheet over his body. Lynda tries to entice him (whom she thinks is Bob) by unveiling her breasts in a provocative manner. She gets frustrated and calls Laurie on the telephone. As she does this and as Laurie picks up the phone, Myers comes up behind her and strangles her with a telephone cord. For an agonizing few minutes, you hear Lynda gasping and moaning for air. In a somewhat darkly comedic, but unsettling line, Laurie says, “I’ll kill you if this is a joke.” Then after Lynda is dead, Myers briefly picks up the phone and continues the diegetic motif of heavy breathing. Laurie’s line was based on the presumption that Lynda and Bob were having sex. Likewise, Myers’ heavy breathing could be taken as a reflection of his sexual repression.

Strangulation is used again later in the climactic scene between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. Laurie thinks she had just killed Myers and wanders off to the dark hallway and slumps against the wall. Myers sits up, walks over to her and begins strangling her. For a brief moment, in a desperate attempt at defense, Laurie pulls the William Shatner-painted white mask off of Myers. It’s an interesting shot because Myers is associated with evil personified, but then you see this innocent, almost baby-like face. Moreover, during the entire struggle Michael is breathing heavily again, exuding that thrust for lust, if you will. Not to mention, the whole film is based on Michael Myers stalking young, beautiful women babysitters. There is also something to be said about the fact that the more promiscuous women (Annie and Lynda) are killed, as was Myers’ sister in the beginning and the embodiment of innocence and virtue (Laurie) is saved from the onslaught of evil.

One final note, I am glad that Hitchcock and others integrate comedy into their suspense/horror films. Life does have its apparent darkness (and not so apparent), but life is also comedic at times – in fact, many times. Maybe it is not always necessary, but it is a relief for the viewer to have certain segments of comedy rather than a full force of horror shoved at them. Then sometimes, horror itself becomes entirely comedic, but still slightly terrifying at times, like with Shaun of the Dead. Other times, I do like horror films that push the envelope and keep pushing it until the credits roll and do not relent at any moment in the film. A recent horror film like Martyrs did that brilliantly to the point where I cannot shake the ending of that film from my memory. It just depends on what the filmmaker is trying to accomplish when attempting to engage the viewer.

2 thoughts

  1. Horror films do not reflect darkness within everyone because of the lacking evidence. Not everyone is born with darkness nor has it unless proof proves otherwise. Some countries have more peaceful cultures with the least amount of darkness. America is a circus freak show controlled by amoral capitalism. Which is why America has the most horror films, B.D.S.M., rape, violence, and other ensuing chaos compared to other countries that are more peaceful. That Alfred Hitchcock’s personality was very abnormal. Fascination with darkness is not normal. Necrophilia, strangulation, and other dark topics are not conventional whatsoever. Directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, who was an E.N.T.P., were experimental for profitability and unconventional fascination. It is why Alfred Hitchcock was controversial.

    Alfred Hitchcock’s mistreatment towards actors and actresses was psychopathic. He was manipulating people for his own interests and career. It is why there were actors and actresses who were careful about what movies to play in. Because they did not want to deal with Alfred Hitchcock’s abuse. Especially since a woman allegedly stated Alfred Hitchcock sexually harassed her. He ended her career when she refused to sleep with him. This was during a time when film studios had heavily patriarchal racism and lack of entertainer protection laws despite his genius work. Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Temple, Patricia Douglas, and other females were part of ruthless harassment when the entertainment industry protected sexual predators more compared to now. Alfred Hitchcock is definitely deficit in morality, kindness, and understanding the meaning of the word justice.

    Michael Myers might have been sexually repressed. Or maybe he was attempting to manipulate Laurie with his heavy breathing. Because he might have been a character that is only used for being that famous killing machine in 10 or so movies depending on how much they keep milking films out. Not a sexually repressed killing machine perhaps.

    Strangulation might have been what caused Michael Myers heavy breathing. Not his sexual repression. He probably doesn’t work out in public gyms everyday when on the run to avoid cops. So, he’s probably breathing heavily because of not being in shape. The stalking of young, beautiful female babysitters probably has something to do with Michael’s “trauma?” from killing his sister Judith.

    Although Alfred Hitchcock was a psychopathic E.N.T.P, his genius work will not be forgotten. Horromedy, which combines horror and comedy, was a movie genre that influenced me. The Addams Family television show, Alfred Hitchcock, Vampires Suck, Dark Shadows, some Tim Burton films, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show are what I liked that had horror and comedy. My aging has made me become desensitised and unimpressed easily by anything such as horromedy films now. But, I will say that Shaun of the Dead is rightfully acclaimed by people. Shaun of the Dead had quality scriptwriting, talented actors/actresses, a highly professional director, proper music, and helpful budgeting from popular film distributors such as Universal Pictures. All of that caused Shaun of the Dead to be successful from my perspective.

    I prefer films that push the envelope fully and consistently do that without relenting whatsoever. Not merely horror films themselves. Usually, politics interfers with that when it comes to taboo subjects in films now. At least there are directors, actors, actresses, scriptwriters, producers, makeup designers, costumers, and others willing to courageously make films that challenge the world.


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