Doors have been used as focal point in horror movies and horror literature for centuries (well at least in the case of literature). As a person who has written extensively about horror symbolism, I have always thought that it was strange that people thought of the character who is afraid to go through the next door as a simple cliché that has been overused. This article will explain the symbolic nature of doors in horror movies and horror literature. After reading, you might second guess the next time that you yell, “Don’t go through that door!”
The Current Room
Doors in horror movies and horror literature are actually a focal point for the symbolism that lie in the two rooms (the one the person is in, and the one that will be entered). Many of the references will point to whether they are directly related to the door, or to the two rooms.
Light vs. Dark
The door in a horror movie or in horror literature is the separation between the light, and the darkness. The door is the thin line that stands between the eternal struggle that has gone on in the cosmos since before man and woman ever left a footprint. The current room can be looked at as the light of the sun, the light of good, the light of holiness, or the light of safety. The room on the other side of the door can represent the darkness of night, the darkness of evil, the darkness of uncertainty, or the darkness of death.
Passing the Threshold
One ancient superstition of passing over a threshold still is resonant in a tradition in the modern world. Many women dream about being carried over the threshold on their wedding night. You might wonder what is symbolized by this, and how it relates to horror movies and horror literature when talking about the symbolism of doors.
The line of the door is the threshold between what is going on now, and what will be going on in the future. In terms of marriage, the threshold is the line between the separate life of the two newly-married people, and the life that they will have together.
In horror movies and horror literature, that door that you might not want the character to go through can represent the crossing of the threshold between the person’s life, and eventual death. It could be the River Styx from ancient stories. That few inches can symbolize the thin veil between this world and the next.
Open, Closed, and Locked
In horror movies and horror literature, an open door symbolizes acceptance. It symbolizes a continuation of the journey. The door symbolizes a possible escape route, or it might symbolize an invitation for the character to movie in a certain direction.
A closed door symbolizes mystery and intrigue. It might symbolize a location where the killer could hide from view, and spring out of at any moment. A closed door is one that is waiting to be explored to show new things that the character never imagined before.
A locked door is one that symbolizes rejection of the characters in horror movie or horror literature. A locked door might symbolize a challenge that the characters have to face as they find another way around, or try to find a key. A locked door can also symbolize a hidden evil that the characters should not try to find out like the abandoned mutant of a brother locked inside, an ancient crypt, or a necromancer’s laboratory.
Womb to Tomb
Usually, the room that the character is currently in is a safe place. They have explored the room, and have gained some level of comfort in it. The character knows the room, and knows that there is a level of safety in it.
The room on the other side of the door is a room that can symbolize hundreds of questions that deal with safety, life and death, or any of the other questions that a child might have when emerging from the womb at birth. A new life is usually on the other side of the door (or at least a new bloody death that will keep you on the edge of your seat).
The door could be the threshold between the womb and the tomb for many characters. Instead of the years that usually connect the two events, the character’s new symbolic trip from womb to tomb could be reduced to a mere three inches.
Keep these ideas in mind the next time that you are about to yell, “don’t go through that door!” There are many aspects that are symbolized by doors in horror movies and horror literature. In many cases, the same symbols can be related to other aspects of movie symbolism and symbolism in literature.