The Reflection Of Society’s Fears In Horror Movies

Horror Movies Reflect the Fears of Society

There have always been horror stories to scare people. The stories have changed over time to reflect what the society is afraid of. This trend continued through the silent-film era and into the age of CGI. Any good horror movie will target an existing fear in the audience. Horror movies in the last century have reflected our fears about nuclear radiation, communism and war.

Nuclear radiation is the first example of fear that horror movies portray. Both countries were greatly affected when the United States bombarded Hiroshima & Nagasaki, Japanese cities to end World War II. The bomb’s aftermath devastated Japan. Godzilla was a film made by Japanese filmmakers in 1954, about how radiation caused by an atomic explosion led a lizard, which then attacked Tokyo. In America, fear grew even more with films like Beginning of The End or Them! (Swain, 2013). In Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, one of the world’s most famous horror films (1968), the nuclear radiation was the catalyst for the apocalypse. These movies encouraged the public to explore the possibilities of the possible aftermath of an nuclear bomb.

McCarthyism and communism were the next fears that America focused on after radiation. Americans feared that communism would spread from Russia to Cuba and then onto the US mainland during the Cold War. Joseph McCarthy, in his pursuit of communists both in government as well as the general public, only increased this fear by causing widespread hysteria. McCarthyism instilled a fear of beings that looked like humans but were really evil. The movie shows a stereotypically American small town slowly being taken over by a mysterious humanoid group that has been taking over the bodies and minds of American citizens. Body snatchers, as they are called, had no interest in a normal American society. Instead, they were interested only in taking it over. Even though the body snatchers looked like Americans, their main goal was to gain followers and eliminate diversity in society. Both characters were similar to McCarthy: they panicked and tried to get help only to discover that everyone had already moved to the other side.

In the 60’s, Vietnam was declared war. This war changed the social fear to wars and the slaughtering of American young men. The first war to be shown on TV was the Vietnam War. In response to the horrors of the news, movies began showing more gore. The gothic style of scary films that left everything to the viewer’s imagination was more prevalent before this period. However, the newfound tolerance to violence and gore led to an explosion in slasher horror films. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho is an excellent example. This film is about Norman Bates. A seemingly normal motel owner, Norman Bates hides the body of his mother, but he also dresses as her and murders people. The Vietnam War is reflected in this movie both visually and symbolically. Norman Bates’ disguise of his mother as an elderly woman represents the guerrilla war used in Vietnam. The infamous shower scene shows Norman killing a woman while wearing the nightgown of his mother, who had died. The scene was still the most graphic murder depiction of the time, even though the blood on the screen was actually chocolate syrup.

In 20 years, the public began to fear a new invisible evil: the AIDS disease. In the 1980s, the unprotected sexual activity of heterosexuals and homosexuals in large cities like New York City and other big cities became more unsanitary. AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency) was a disease that could be transmitted through sharing bodily and blood fluids. AIDS used to be associated with homosexual relations between men, which only exacerbated the homophobic attitudes of the time. The body’s immune response becomes too weak once the disease has been contracted. AIDS has no known cure. AIDS, at the time, was a shaming disease as well as a horrifying one. As a result, filmmakers tried to hide the horrors in AIDS as regular horror movies, mainly to warn teenagers. The first victims of 1980s horror flicks like Friday 13th and halloween were almost always teenagers involved in sexual activity. As a result, many people believed that Jason Voorhees’ and Michael Meyers’ killers are actually AIDS. Nightmare on Elm Street 2 Freddy’s Revenge is the best movie that has a killer representing AIDS. AIDS in this era was associated heavily with gay men. Therefore, it’s no surprise that there is a prominent homoerotic storyline. The main character spends some time in a homosexual bar as a way to escape Freddy Krueger – a killer who represents the AIDS Virus. Freddy Krueger’s girlfriend is also a deterrent to the narrator. The 80s saw a rise in teenage independence and horror films focusing on AIDS.

Horror films have been around for a long time to shock the public and to warn them. It is still the main goal to appeal to people’s fears. Horror movies in the last century have dealt with fears like communism and war violence, as well as the radiation from an Atomic Bomb.


  • kaylarusso

    Kayla Russo is an educational blogger and volunteer and student. She is a 27 yo educational blogger and volunteer and student who loves to help others learn.



Kayla Russo is an educational blogger and volunteer and student. She is a 27 yo educational blogger and volunteer and student who loves to help others learn.

You may also like...