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Horror - The Morality Play

Banes at 12:00AM, July 27, 2023

The idea of “sin” is a prevalent one in horror stories. In terrifying tales, the monstrous against the human also explores good vs. evil.

There is often a “sin” perpetrated by horror Protagonists. The classic Psycho begins with Marion Crane stealing money from her job. Her intentions are understandable, maybe, and she realizes it was mistake soon enough – but is it too late to correct that mistake? I won't spoil the answer; a lot of people have never seen this classic, and you definitely should!

Also, there's my boy Jason from the Friday the 13th series, who punishes horny camp counselors. I remember reading a magazine article about how Jason was the ultimate Puritan, punishing the carnal counselors for their behavior. And it's the “good girl” or virgin (or relatively virginal character) who can survive and defeat him.

This interpretation came from media people, but I think they're right; youths having sex when they were supposed to be watching the campers was what caused Jason's drowning to begin with, so this stuff is baked right into the Friday the 13th mythos. Before Scream expressed these “rules”, they were sort of there and sort of understood already.

On the other hand, John Carpenter who made Halloween has resisted this analysis of his classic slasher movie. He says Laurie Strode is the final survivor not because she's a virgin, but because she's paying more attention to what's going on around her. Her friends are more distracted.

But ‘not paying attention’, a sort of passive “sin” can land you in a horror story too. The whole point of the SAW series is that characters who are not engaged properly in their lives, not appreciating what they have, become victims locked in Jigsaw's horrible traps. That's enough of a sin sometimes!

I'll bring up, once again, the bickering or tension-filled couples in The Strangers and Vacancy, and I'll add in the low budget ‘Open Water’ as well. The couples who don't value each other, and are on the verge of throwing away what they have - these are good candidates for horror movie MC's.

Even in stuff like “Creepshow” and “Tales from the Crypt”, which can be heavy handed in their writing (I say that with affection), the morality is right up front. Evil is punished and Good survives, almost every time.

Of course, there are stories where the innocent lose, suffer and die, and the evil escape unscathed (or the evil wins). This happens in horror stories as well as other genres. Is this more how the real world works? Is the constructed kind of morality just a comforting fantasy?

Hm. Nothing like ending on an happy note, eh?

In any case, horror stories are often the ultimate expression of morality.

Have a Good One!


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bravo1102 at 6:17AM, July 27, 2023

Possible trope twist for horror but more accurately represents reality: The most sinful (experienced) may in fact be the best equipped to survive the horror. Risk-taking practices would have prepared the individual for dealing with the unexpected and also doing nasty sinful stuff where angels fear to tread would have provided the skills necessary to build the poison stake trap to take Jason out or the practice with firearms necessary to shoot his head clean off. You won't find a team of Navy SEALs getting killed at Camp Crystal lake NJ.

marcorossi at 5:56AM, July 27, 2023

I think horror movies largely use the sense of guilt; in particular horror movies for teenagers, who are starting to have sexual desires, logically work on this sort of puritan sexual morality that has appeal for them. It is also the logic of a classical tragedy (hero succumbs to passion and is punished in the end), it works because the audience, who also has repressed passions, first experiences these passions vicariously and then is "cleansed" by the punishment of the sinful hero.

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