Sex. We all do it. It’s everywhere we look: in advertising, television, magazines and movies. More and more, we’re seeing sex featured in horror movies but more often than not, the act of sex plays a pivotal part in the horror theme.
The representation of sex in horror movies isn’t always the same. Sex has be used in many different ways to provoke a different reaction from the viewer. Let’s take a look at the various ways that film has used sex.
Some horror films like to use sex to lure in characters for subsequent torture. This is quite common in the genre such as Eli Roth’s Hostel where the male characters are keen to stay at a hostel in Bratislava where they hear that the women there are not only stunningly attractive but up for it as well. When they arrive, the girls are keen to have their fun with the boys but with an ulterior motive in mind. Another example is The House of 100 Eyes, where the film director and his wife lure in three teens to star in their adult movie only to have something more deadly in mind.
Sci-fi horror Species used the idea of a female alien wanting to procreate the basis for their horror plot, with star Natasha Henstridge killing those who do not match her specific needs.
Sometimes sexual entrapment is used as a tool to exact punishment on others after a traumatic experience, such as in Julia where the titular character actively flirts and engages in sexual activity with men to ultimately kill them after being brutally raped herself. This type of use of sex in horror leads us onto our next variation…
Unconsented Forced Sex/ Rape as the Horror Element
There have been quite a few horror movies through the decades that have used sex in the form of rape as the main horror element of the film. The most memorable that comes to mind is I Spit On Your Grave where a young woman is brutally gang raped and left for dead, only to exact a bloody revenge unto those who harmed her. This particular use of sex as the horror element has also been used in thrillers such as Gasper Noe’s Irreversible, F. Gary Gray’s Law Abiding Citizen and Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. In each case, the horrific sex attack often leads onto other horrors as an act of vengeance. Irreversible, Law Abiding Citizen and Straw Dogs all follow that pattern, as does I Spit On Your Grave. The act of rape causes such upset and anger that the subsequent revenge is more than justified in the eyes of the viewer. The more recent movies go to the extreme with the revenge plot, ensuring the deaths are as painful and grisly as possible. Who could forget the fire extinguisher scene from Irreversible?
Sexual Frustration and Identity
Some of the most memorable villains in horror have been fuelled by sexual frustration. Buffalo Bill of The Silence of the Lambs was frustrated both sexually and with his own identity, skinning women to make himself a female costume of his own to wear.
Norman Bates in Psycho is another notable character who’s sexual frustration manifested itself into violence.
Sometimes these types of villains are seen as tragic as they are experiencing something traumatic and therefore can be seen as a little imbalanced mentally. Though they inflict pain on others, they’re often seen as lost villains rather than a sane villain with vicious intent.
Self Destruction Through Sex
Sex has been used to illustrate self-destruction – a lack of respect for oneself. Canadian flick Thanatomorphose demonstrates this with a character who sleeps around and lets people treat her as an object, which results in the literal body decay of the character.
This particular type of use of sex has been mainly used in dramas such as Steve McQueen’s Shame.
Sex For The Fun of It
Sometimes two people just wanna get it on! Whether it be a steamy session on the backseat of a car or a sneaky quickie in their friend’s parents’ bed at a house party, a bit of nookie seems quite harmless but as a horror rule, the characters that do the deed are more than likely to be killed. Even Randy explained these rules in Wes Craven’s Scream yet characters in horror movies still fall into this same trap.
The use of an intimate couple as victims is usually a fun idea to set up a grisly scene. We’ve seen it in many movies such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Bay of Blood and countless B-movies including many exploitation films.
Friday The 13th slasher series is known for its villain killing those who are having or are about to have sex to the point where it’s not a true Friday the 13th movie without one of these scenes.
In IT FOLLOWS, the use of sex leads onto something quite disturbing…
After a date and seemingly innocent sexual encounter, 19-year-old Jay is left with an inescapable sense that someone, or something is following her. Jay and her friends team up to try and find ways escape the traumatising horrors that are always right behind them.
The breakout film from the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, It Follows is a suspenseful, beautifully shot, horror film that takes old, tired horror clichés and puts a smart, culturally relevant spin on them whilst maintaining a timeless class that the horror genre hasn’t seen for a long time. Teen sex, suburbia, murder, and nightmarish demons all take on a new layer of substance and style. Writer/Director David Robert Mitchell reminds us why these horror fundamentals are used so often and shows his peers how it’s done.