The Abject in Horror Film

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Words: 592 |

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3 min read

Published: Mar 6, 2024

Words: 592|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 6, 2024

Horror films have long been captivating audiences with their ability to elicit fear, shock, and disgust. Within this genre, the concept of the abject has gained particular attention among scholars and critics alike. Derived from the French philosopher Julia Kristeva, the term "abject" refers to those objects, experiences, or behaviors that disturb our sense of order and cleanliness, provoking a visceral reaction of horror and repulsion. This essay explores the presence and significance of the abject in horror films, examining its role in creating an atmosphere of terror and its ability to delve into deeper psychological and cultural anxieties.

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Before delving into its presence in horror films, it is important to establish a clear understanding of the abject. According to Kristeva, the abject exists at the boundary between the self and the Other, challenging our sense of identity and normalcy. It is that which threatens to disrupt our organized and coherent sense of the world, bringing forth anxiety and fear. The abject can manifest in various forms, such as bodily fluids, decay, death, or taboo behaviors.

Horror films often utilize the abject as a central element in their narratives and visuals. By presenting audiences with disturbing and repulsive imagery, these films aim to evoke a deep sense of unease and fear. One notable example is the body horror subgenre, which focuses on the physical transformation and degradation of the human body. Movies like David Cronenberg's "The Fly" or Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" depict grotesque bodily mutations and mutilations, challenging our ideas of beauty and bodily integrity. Furthermore, the presence of bodily fluids, such as blood, vomit, or excrement, is a recurring theme in horror films. These bodily fluids represent the breaking down of boundaries and evoke a primal reaction of repulsion. Films like Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead" or David Lynch's "Eraserhead" use exaggerated and excessive portrayals of bodily fluids to intensify the sense of the abject, heightening the atmosphere of horror and discomfort.

While the abject serves as a tool to evoke fear and disgust, it also holds deeper psychological and cultural significance. By confronting our fears and anxieties surrounding the abject, horror films provide a cathartic experience, allowing us to confront and process our own repressed fears and desires. These films explore societal taboos, challenging established norms and beliefs. Furthermore, the abject in horror films often reflect cultural anxieties and collective fears. For example, during periods of social unrest or political turmoil, horror films may incorporate themes of violence, chaos, or supernatural entities to channel and express societal fears and uncertainties. These films become a mirror of our collective subconscious, reflecting the anxieties of the time.

As the horror genre has evolved over time, so too has the portrayal and interpretation of the abject. Contemporary horror films have pushed the boundaries even further, exploring new realms of abject horror. Movies like Ari Aster's "Hereditary" or Jordan Peele's "Get Out" delve into themes of psychological trauma, familial dysfunction, and racial anxieties. These films challenge traditional notions of the abject, uniting the supernatural and psychological horror to create a deeper and more complex sense of unease.

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The presence of the abject in horror films is undeniable. Through its use of disturbing imagery, bodily fluids, and taboo behaviors, the abject creates an atmosphere of terror, evoking fear and repulsion in audiences. Beyond its ability to shock and scare, the abject also carries psychological and cultural significance, providing a platform for exploring and confronting our deepest fears and anxieties. As horror films continue to evolve, the abject remains a powerful and compelling element, inspiring both horror and introspection in equal measure.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Abject In Horror Film. (2024, March 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 13, 2024, from
“The Abject In Horror Film.” GradesFixer, 06 Mar. 2024,
The Abject In Horror Film. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 Jul. 2024].
The Abject In Horror Film [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 06 [cited 2024 Jul 13]. Available from:
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