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Why Horror Seduces$
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Mathias Clasen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190666507

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190666507.001.0001

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Hack n’ Slash

Hack n’ Slash

Halloween (1978)

(p.125) Chapter 11 Hack n’ Slash
Why Horror Seduces

Mathias Clasen

Oxford University Press

John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) kicked off the slasher film wave with its disturbing depiction of Michael Myers’s killing spree in a small American town. This chapter argues that Halloween’s emotional and imaginative power has its wellspring in human nature. The film’s horror scenario—the threat of being killed by another human—reflects an evolutionarily ancient hazard, one that has left deep traces in our constitution. Conspecific predation has been a constant danger of social life for millions of years, and the film effectively evokes that danger in a contemporary setting. Halloween gets its power from depicting, and aligning audiences with, likeable and peaceful characters in quiet and safe suburbia, which is suddenly infested with a homicidal agent, Michael Myers, who is simultaneously subhuman and superhuman. Myers became a horror icon because he is a supercharged representation of an ancient danger, a hostile conspecific outside rational reach.

Keywords:   John Carpenter, Halloween, slasher films, Michael Myers, conspecific predation, horror icons

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