The Sexualization of Slaughter


Lauren Harrison, Writer

Sex kills. At least in horror movies, it does. It’s a known trope that the sinful act correlates with the death of a girl; unless you’re a “final girl” of course. As a “final girl” you exist solely to be the last survivor and trump over the enemy.

Usually, the story is centered around this one girl from her perspective, and is a woman who doesn’t need a man to save her, unlike a “damsel in distress.” A damsel in distress may survive. Thanks to  a man protecting her. For example, Lila Crane from the 1960 film “Psycho” who gets saved by Sam Loomis. Known as a final girl back then, would not be considered one now, as the trope has evolved into something of the girl saving themselves with independent skills, not relying on a man, using a weapon to defend herself is often even drawn towards phallic representations of men. Typically, even though the “final girl” survives, she is seen as weak and an object of desire throughout a film.

Women in horror movies will trip and fall, cry and scream, pathetically running away- dramatically. All while wearing skimpy pajamas, as shown in Tina Gray’s death scene from ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street” (1984). This is also known as “the Chase,” shots will be all about the body and blending sex and violence together. Once a girl gets caught by the villain, she is then “teased” in a perverse, brutal way. This entices the audience, as well as disgusts them at the same time.

Movies have gone from standard rape to rape-revenge films. In Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave (2010) a remake of the 1978 cult-classic. The story revolves around Jennifer Hills, a writer who travels to get peace and quiet to work on her next novel. She ends up being raped by multiple men, just barely escaping with her life. In the remake, the sexual assault scenes are more gruesome and barbaric than the original, including one man filming the rape of Jennifer.  Instead of relying on someone else to protect her, Jennifer sets out for revenge on all of the men, killing all of them in the most grotesque ways. This adds a new perspective of a woman, who takes a weakness she once had, and turns it into strength.

Scopophilia is deriving aesthetic pleasure from looking at something and from looking at someone, and often women being abused sexually in horror movies triggers this in people. People enjoy seeing women portrayed in that way. With a dominant male controlling them. They gain some sick pleasure from it. Sometimes subconsciously. It alludes to the fact that individuals desire a dominant male-society. It turns a woman into an object, a curious desire. Not just in with the villain is scopophilia seen, but in a female character giving up her virginity. There’s an eroticism in viewing, which is why pornography is so widely spread. This also, in turn, goes hand in hand with “the male gaze” in cinema. The dehumanization of women. Women are on screen for man’s pleasure, so to speak.

A “manic pixie dream girl” is in a film to help a stereotypical male protagonist in a mystical journey where they do nothing but sit pretty, and cater to his fantasies. She is a stock character, who has no real purpose. Always attractive, a perfect dream girl. Audiences love her because they either want her or want to be her. Angela Hayes from American Beauty (1999) is an example of a “Manic Pixie Dream girl,” she is used as an object of lust for the character of Lester Burnham throughout the film, and her role is only really skin deep, talking mostly about her looks and sex. She is enticing. However, she is just in the movie to further Lesters’ story.

In horror movies, a fine line is drawn between violence and sensuality. Both invoke similar feelings such as anxiety, and spiked heartbeat, and heightened perspiration. In a horror movie, woman portrays a fear of coming into their sexuality. Whether sexuality grosses big at the box-office or flops in the end, it seems like it has become a expected feature of horror films today.