Research Spotlight: The horror, the horror

1-sheet from Night of the Living DeadIf the daily headlines aren’t scary enough – wars, fires, super germs, rising oceans – then slip into your local theater for a blood-curdling two or three hours. Horror movies and their stars, from rambling monsters to torturers to psychos, remain ever-popular, especially during the Halloween season.

“The successful horror film is similar to a nightmare,” says Rick Worland, chair of SMU’s Division of Cinema-Television and author of The Horror Film. “In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud argued very famously that all dreams are forms of self-communication about our deepest fears and desires. So, the monsters in horror films – human or otherwise – are easily seen as symbolic of what we fear most. The horror genre is traditionally held in low regard, at least in public by arbiters of taste and morality. However, horror often achieves its greatest impact when it exposes or flouts cultural taboos.”

For those who want to get beyond such popular horror films as Jaws and The Exorcist, Kevin Heffernan, associate professor of cinema-television and author of Ghouls, Gimmicks and Gold: Horror Films and the American Movie Business, has several recommendations, which are “less familiar but which hold untold pleasures for those lucky enough to see them.” Read more from SMU News.