There is a certain peculiarity as to why the genre of horror appeals to different kinds of people. Horror is usually seen as a genre too scary, too disturbing, or too disgusting to watch. Others see horror as the lowest genre and others see it as something unusual and something to stay away from. Horror, despite all those, still prevails as a genre popular among seemingly “normal” people and is still widely watched. Andrew Tudor, in his article “Why Horror? The Peculiar Pleasures of a Popular Genre”, questions why people are drawn to horror films. He asks, “why horror?”, and breaks the question into two aspects namely, “what is it about horror?” and “what is it about those who like horror?”
The article presents two ways of understanding horror’s appeal. One is the differences in perspectives, and the other is the concept of repression. People, in the past and in the present, generally have different thoughts, beliefs, perspectives, etc. The perspectives and opinions of people change throughout time and periods. As the context wherein people live change, so does their own thoughts change too. In addition to that, the perspectives of different people differ from other groups as well. This aspect talks about horror appealing to different people depending on their context. Horror becomes relatable for them in a sense. There’s also the second way which is psychoanalytic and deals with repression. The article mentions of the concept of the deep-seated desires. This aspect talks about watching horror as something that gratifies needs.
The film Deadgirl is a perfect example of the appeal of horror despite its features being peculiar, disturbing, etc. It was a film released in 2008 and directed by Marcel Sarmiento. The film mixes ideas of zombies, hidden and repressed desires, and necrophilia.
The film, focusing a lot on gaining control, can be analyzed through a psychoanalytic approach. In the film the two main characters, Rickie and JT, finds a woman in an abandoned hospital. Having been fascinated by the woman, the initial Monster of the film, because of not knowing what she is draws him to her more. Compared to Rickie, JT is his total opposite or foil. Rickie at the start wanted to take the woman to the police while JT’s repressed desires started to come out. In the coming scenes of the film, JT starts and continuously physically and sexually abuses the woman. He discovers that the woman continues to live despite his violence towards her and all the more he becomes drawn to her. In the film, JT also tries to reason with Rickie or tries to get him to also abuse the woman by telling Rickie that the woman is “everything they want”. Again, this shows JT’s repressed desire for sex, violence, and control coming out. The abuse continues into an obsession as JT acts like she owns the woman and stays in the abandoned place all the time. The roles between the woman and JT then reverses. JT becomes the Monster of the film and the woman becomes a victim. Another reversal of roles happens towards the end of the film. Rickie the “nice guy” turns into what JT used to be. Thus, the abuse does not stop, only it was done a different woman. Again, this shows what is repressed within the two main characters. The form of control of the men in the film is through abuse.
Now the question is, why would a film like this appeal to viewers? Applying what Andrew Tudor discusses in his article, it could be the context with which the viewers are in or it could be needs-gratifying. The film shows strong abuse for women and even necrophilia. Given that both are not widely accepted as a norm in society now, Deadgirl transgresses beyond what is expected of a mainstream and usual horror film. The film outright shows the sexual and physical abuse and the necrophilia giving the viewers that feel of fear that these actually do exist in reality, only in the film it was more of supernatural. Another aspect that could be relatable as well are the themes of feminism and the male ego. These are topics that are talked about nowadays. Women and feminism is not taboo anymore and the film, tackling abuse and women as victims directly, could have viewers resonate or relate with it. Aforementioned, men use abuse to gain control over the women and this is something that happens in reality and the film tackles this. Personally, I continued watching the film because of the anger I felt towards Rickie, JT, Wheeler, etc. The film, as mentioned, shows sexual and physical abuse for women and I felt how the two women were severely violated.
Source: Andrew Tudor, “Why Horror? The Peculiar Pleasures of a Popular Genre.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).