How Horror Movies Exploit Common Superstitions

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Halloween might be over, but a love of horror and supernatural stories will linger on all year long. In fact, horror movies are among the most profitable film genres of all time. From King Kong to ‘80s slashers, horror movies typically have a low budget and a high return. They’re basically Hollywood gold.

Since their creation, horror movies have taken advantage of our deepest fears and social anxieties. And they’ve exploited long-held superstitions from around the world like black cats and broken mirrors to give us goosebumps. For some obvious examples, just take a look at The Black Cat (1981) or the Friday the 13th film series. But common superstitions are found all over horror movies in big and small ways.

Here are some of the most common superstitions featured in horror movies:

The Number “13” Is Unlucky

In horror movies, you want to be cautious of the number 13 in general, but you especially need to be wary on Friday the 13th, which is seen as an unlucky day. This superstition inspired the Friday the 13th film series, a series that follows a masked serial killer named Jason. Although the films don’t have much to do with the day itself, they used the superstition to get a catchy title that would instill fear in moviegoers before even sitting down to watch the movie.

Fear of the number 13 is also present in movies that take place in hotels, like The Shining (1980), 1408 (2007), and Vacancy (2007). Hotels are typically very superstitious places, but one of the most widely practiced superstitions is the fear of a 13th floor, which is why many hotels go right from 12 to 14 on walls and elevators. Hotel superstitions like this make hotels a great setting for horror movies.

Black Cats Bring Bad Luck — Or Death

Fear of black cats dates back centuries. Many cultures consider black cats to be unlucky or even demonic, which is why they’re often associated with witches. If a black cat crosses someone’s path, this can range from being simply unlucky to being a death omen.

black cat

Photo by Eduardo Mallmann on Unsplash

Black cats have appeared in numerous horror movies. They might be in the background as the companion of witches, or they might be the central figure in a movie. For example, in The Black Cat (1981), an unusual black cat is suspected of murder. Then there’s Cat People (1942), which focuses on a woman who turns into a violent black panther when angry.

Watch Out for Signs of the Devil

Many different signs of the devil are featured in horror movies, but one of the most commonly featured superstitions about the devil is the number “666.” This number is considered to be the “number of the beast,” so its presence in horror movies often means that the devil will make an appearance in some manner, such as through demonic possession.

This superstition has been a huge inspiration for movies like 666: the Devil’s Child (2012), The Omen (2006), Route 666 (2001), and 666: The Child (2006).

Don’t Say Bloody Mary

The Bloody Mary legend is frequently featured in films and TV. Although the stories differ depending on who is telling it, the superstition typically revolves around not saying “Bloody Mary” while looking in a mirror. In many horror films, groups of friends will test whether or not this superstition is real by chanting “Bloody Mary” into a mirror three times. And because it’s a horror movie, they’ll likely come face to face with Bloody Mary, who will end up killing them.

Bloody Mary has inspired films like Bloody Mary (2006), The Legend of Bloody Mary (2007), and Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005). The legend has also been featured in numerous TV shows like Supernatural, The X-Files, and Ghost Whisperer.

Superstitions and horror movies often go hand in hand. Next time you’re at the theater for the latest horror flick, see how many superstitions you can spot.

About Bat 7555 Articles
I love prosthetic effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 2, Yakuza Zero and Alien: Isolation