Week 3: A history of Modern Horror

Question 1: King (2010) describes Horror as being defined through three basic elements. Explain, using references, what these three elements are. Think of a horror story you’ve read/watched/heard that makes use of all three of these elements and show how King’s definition is at play in that narrative

Horror movies and stories are regarded as always being a popular genre, although the subject and extent of the storyline shifts every so often as 10 to 20 years allowing for a new cycle of horror to arise (King, 2010). The first element of the horror genre identified by King is that which deals with the political and economic strains of a specific time. Books and movies are in turn written and directed to reflect the common anxieties experienced by society. An example of this is the horror movies that were popular in the 1970’s such as the haunted house horror that depicted the anxieties around class mortgage and equity that were affecting the average American household. Hendrix (2017) states the ’70s was an era of growing inflation and high-interest rates, which meant new homeowners during this time feared unimaginably was an icy house with a satanic voice that demanded them to “Get out”.

The second element of horror is the element of allegory. King (2010) states “an allegory is there only because it is built-in, a given, impossible to escape. The horror movie is portrayed in a way that is symbolic of the matters society feels under pressure to admit or address. It displays what society fear of happening, expressing to challenge or question the status quo both in a positive and negative manner. The horror films are created to allow for the viewer to conform to deviant behavior, suggesting the idea that becoming bad is not actually bad. If anything, the horror means it is ok to allow one to give in to fear or even join a mob (King, 2010). The allegory in a horror movie gives the viewer more than one interpretation of the storyline, for instance, the monster in “The Void” was a doctor, which may act as a warning sign that allows for the viewer to rethink the credentials of their current doctors.

The last of the three is the very fact of a monster is present. And each monster is created differently and specifically to suit each genre (Carroll, 2003). So, one can say monsters can also be allegorical as a symbol of horror (King, 2010). However, not all monsters are created to be evil like the Ogre Shrek in the “Shrek” movie who proves to humans he is not actually as bad as they perceive him to be and actually lives a similar lifestyle by marrying Princess Fiona and having a family.


Carrol, N. (2003). The nature of horror: In The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart. Retrieved from https://blacboard.aut.ac.nz

King, S. (2010). Danse macabre. United States, NY: Gallery Publishing Group.

The Void. (2016). The Void. Study Material

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