But one needs another means to explain why horror movies incite such horror in their viewers. Sure, they mix the familiar and pleasant that comes with images of children and childhood with the inhospitable and irrational that confuses and unsettles us. But there’s more. Enter Kristeva’s work on horror and the abject.
Kristeva also recaps on Freud’s uncanny, then elaborates on his theories when she talks about how abjection differs from uncanniness. The “natural” order would stipulate that a child receive all the gifts, objects, and food, showing the child’s “failure to recognize its kin.” And this point in her theory, Kristeva gets at the prospect of lack of desire, which, for her, means that humans shed a defining attribute: desire. Those without desire become objects themselves abject to the “clean” and upright world. A child who shuns, then goes on to persecute its parents, brothers, strangers, and the world on the whole, then becomes inherently and categorically abject.
In sum, children represent the innocent, the malleable, the genesis of what we are to become, and when viewers are given the opposite, a child who rejects mother, father, the clean, the viewer receives a mimetic personification of the abject, the antithesis of norm. Sadistic, murderous, sycophant children, therefore, represent all that can tear us apart.
- The Bad Seed
- The Omen
- The Exorcist
- Who Can Kill a Child? (¿Quién puede matar a un niño?)
- Rosemary’s Baby
- Children of the Corn