How Horror Movies Conjure Nightmares out of Human Sexuality

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Violence and sex have always gone hand in hand, for as long as horror has existed. As the narrator explains in the 1965 film Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill!, “While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains…sex”. From the moment Bela Lugosi seduced his first maiden in the 1931 Universal monster movie Dracula, penetrating her flesh and sinking his fangs into her supple skin; since Lon Chaney Jr. unleashed the beast within in 1941’s The Wolf Man, falling in love with a girl while simultaneously hunting down prey at night; all the way till Laurie Strode embodied the final girl in John Carpenter’s Halloween, setting the standard for yonic symbolism in slasher cinema, sex and violence have always been intertwined.

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But of all these analogies, perhaps the most fascinating, and one of the more modern examples of how these two incendiary sins overlap is the slippery slope experimentation and self-identification through sexual awakening and the tendency towards violence during adolescence.  

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In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock unleashed Psycho onto the masses, an unconventional and shocking thriller about the consequences of a sexually confused man faced with the possibility of a carnal encounter. It all starts when a woman named Marion Crane steals $40,000 from her boss, switches cars, and rides off into the sunset in the hopes of skipping town with her lover Sam. She just wanted to stop and take a little rest at the Bates Motel, but little did she know that a killer lay in wait, and he has not only the keys to the establishment but access to the secret peephole in Marion’s bedroom.

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Norman Bates is his name, and after growing up in an abusive household with his mother as his only company, Norman goes a little mad when his only friend passes away. Norman quite literally internalizes his pain, taking on the role of his mother after her death, dressing up in her garments and talking to himself in her voice. On this lonely stretch of highway, in this desolate area, there’s no one around to witness his odd cross-dressing behavior, but when Marion arrives and provides a sense of sexual excitement in Norman’s otherwise vanilla, hum-drive life, the mother inside of him simply won’t stand for the inappropriate arousal and decides to remove the sickening thoughts from Norman’s brain by physically removing Marion from the earth. 

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