Is murder sexy?

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John Carpenter, the director of Halloween, once said, “If I ended the sexual revolution, I apologize!”

Most horror fans probably won’t wonder why Carpenter might be accused of such a thing. In Halloween, arguably the mother of slasher movies, almost every victim has just had or is going to have sex, and that trope has become a fixture of slashers, and horror movies in general. So of course the accusation that these movies are anti-sex or conservative was inevitable – it does imply a punishment, that characters get what’s coming to them for engaging in sin.

Which is not to say that 'Halloween' was the first.

Which is not to say that ‘Halloween’ was the first.

The connection of sex with murder and death in horror is so strong at this point that a sex scene actually creates an expectation of violence in horror audiences.

Sex is about as common as a subject matter in horror as it is in comedy, which is saying something. But why is that? I think you can definitely get some mileage out of some of the points I made in my article about the connection between horror and comedy: both genres play on audience anxieties, and sex is a pretty universal source of anxiety, one way or another (though America’s puritanical tradition probably makes that particularly common for us).

There’s absolutely more to it than that, though. As I said before, it’s not just that horror movies depict sex or sexual people – it’s that sex acts (or implications thereof) are followed by murder and gore. Sex and death are juxtaposed or even implicitly equated to each other.

The theory behind this really clicked for me while watching “Forever”, an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where a character named Anya spelled it out. She says this to her boyfriend after a character’s recent death:

Well, I just think I understand sex more, now. It’s not just about two bodies smooshing together. It’s about life. It’s about making life … I’m not ready to make life with you. But I could, we could.

The point is that while sex doesn’t always result in life, it is symbolic of it. It’s an essential part of the circle of life – as is death. Sex is a creative force, and death is a destructive one.

It Follows Review

Just take a look at It Follows, one of the best recent horror films that happens to directly tackle this connection between sex and death. Like all well-executed themes, the concept works on a surface, plot-level: like an STD, you become a victim of “it” if you sleep with someone who sees it. On a symbolic level, I’ll let David Robert Mitchell, the director, explain:

For me, it’s not just that the characters have sex and are then put in danger. In the film, sex is more symbolic of life itself—just the act of living opens ourselves up to danger.

Different films might be interpreted differently, but I think that’s the ultimate statement on the subject. Life necessitates a certain amount of danger. Sometimes that danger is herpes, and sometimes that danger is being targeted by a serial killer with mommy issues. So it goes.

 

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I saw 'Mars Attacks!' in theaters when I was five. I still think it's the greatest horror movie for five year olds ever made.