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Course Catalog

Psychology of Horror Film  

This course is 5 weeks, 2.5 hours per week. November 11th is skipped for Veteran's Day. Why are people so eager to watch monsters and murderers stalk through haunted houses and jump out of dark corners? Aristotle thought that people were attracted to scary stories because it gave them a chance to purge their negative emotions - catharsis. Horror films are also a reflection of our societal fears. We have mutant monsters rising in 1950s, slasher films as a mistrust in authority figures stemming from Watergate and Zombies as a reflection of viral pandemic fears. Horror movies require us to face the unknown - to understand it and make it less scary. They allow us to see our fears and put them into context, and in doing so, they shape our belief systems, how we see each other and ourselves. Week by Week Outline Week One - Origins of Horror in film. Literature. Nosferatu, Dracula, Frankenstein clips Feature. Psycho – 1960, Alfred Hitchcock Week Two – Teen-age horror, the birth of the slasher film. Scream, Texas Chainsaw clips Feature. Halloween – 1978, John Carpenter Week Three - The Monster within. Rosemary’s Baby, Cat People, Turn of the Screw, The Shining clips Feature. Silence of the Lambs – 1991, Jonathan Demme Week Four – Cross-over of horror and sci-fi. Godzilla, Invasion of Body Snatchers clips. Feature. Alien – 1979, Ridley Scott Week Five – more recent trends in Horror. Social issues, race. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night clip. Feature. Get Out – 2017, Jordan Peele Objectives of the Course Horror film is all about Psychology. We will look at the question “Why do we enjoy being frightened?” Freud posited that horror came from the “Uncanny” - emergence of images and thoughts of the primitive id that were being suppressed by the civilized ego. Jung thought that horror movies tapped into primordial archetypes buried deep in our collective subconscious. There’s something about horror that speaks directly and instinctively to the human animal. By viewing clips and feature films, we will explore the psychology of horror. What scares us and why do we crave this fear? (Hint: watching films is a safe way to approach these fears.)


This class is not available at this time.