Symbolism has been used as a tool in horror movies since their inception soon after the invention of moving pictures. As someone who writes regularly about horror symbolism, and horror symbols, I am often asked why horror symbolism is so prevalent in horror movies.
Horror Symbolism Gives Greater Depth to Characters Through Hidden Psychology
By using horror symbolism, horror movie directors are able to give us a deeper look into the psychology of a character or creature without spending time on the topic during the movie. By delving into the inner workings of a character’s mind, a director could lose the audience by reducing the speed, or by increasing the length, or the overall movie.
Take Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of the character of Dracula for instance. What would have been different in the early vampire movies if the directors had to point out that Dracula wears a cape in an attempt to separate himself from the world around him? When Dracula covers his face with the cape, it is already understood that the vampire is attempting to hide his true self, and intentions from his potential victim. Horror symbolism fills in this gap of information.
Horror Symbolism Hints at Secret Drives of Characters
In my article entitled, “Psychology of the Horror Movie Killer’s Weapon,” I discuss this aspect of horror symbolism in greater detail. I point out how a horror movie killer’s weapon gives an explanation of the drives and desires of the horror movie antagonist. Horror symbolism points to psychological issues of proximity, anger, and fear through the type of weapon that a horror movie killer uses, and how he or she uses it.
Horror Symbolism is Used to Give a Greater Moral to a Horror Movie
Many times, horror movie directors find that they want to give a moral to a horror movie, but do not want to come out blatantly and tell the audience. A perfect example of this was discussed in my article, “The Symbolism of Sex in Horror Movies.” In this article, I point out how many horror movie directors will kill off characters that have just had sex. This is a way of pointing out that sex can be dangerous, and even kill you.
Horror Symbolism is Used to Honor Other Movies
From time to time in a horror movie, you might find a character walking by a hockey mask on the wall. You might see a character watching a horror movie on TV. You might happen to catch a glimpse of a horror movie poster on the wall of a character’s bedroom. These are all nods from one director to another as a sign of respect through the use of blatant horror movie symbolism.
The next time that you watch a horror movie, see if you can pick out the points of horror movie symbolism. You might be surprised by all of the information that you will figure out about your favorite horror movie antagonist.