Two girls burst into a room in a state of apparent terror
. The room is pitch black, a darkness
that strains the eyes, with the exception of small hazy beams of light sneaking in through scattered holes in the opposing wall. The beams prove futile in relieving the oppressing darkness. Seemingly wet black chains dangle menacing
ly from the ceiling. Amidst these bloody
chains lurk a pair of gruesome
pillars, also chained to the ceiling, slowly spinning. Creeping in circles, the pillars morbid
ly display an array of bloody hooks, blades, and spikes, amongst even more tainted chains. From the shadows
enveloping the room, stalk four other horrid forms. One girl tries to turn back but the door had closed, locked behind her.
"Oh, no boxes", proclaims a pale form walking through the chains, referring to small gold puzzle boxes. The boxes act as keys to the doorways of Hell
, which could send the vile creatures back. "Such a shame", he patronizes. The demon
figure, dressed in black leather, looks to have dozens of nails driven into his head along a grid cut into his scalp and face. His voice is low, powerful, and assertive, but disturbingly calm. The girls are frozen in place, their eyes giving away their horror
Does this sound anything like the start of a nightmare
you have ever had or heard? Would it be such a scene to wake you from slumber, jumping up in a cold sweat? These types of nightmares are the stuff great horror films
are made of. And why not? Tim Dirks , a private film
historian, points that, "Horror films effectively center on the dark side
of life, the forbidding, and strange and alarming events." This scene from Clive Barker's (Hellbound) Hellraiser II
(1988) depicts the world of the nightmare
rather vividly, and it is but a short excerpt. Many people watch and even crave films that depict the same nightmares that frighten them, but do not understand the implications or even why. According to film historian Stanley J. Solomon , "The nightmare film represents our own subconscious desire
to confront our inevitable dread
." I believe most people, myself included, desire to confront their fears
. Fears can make a person feel weak, so many of us want to overcome them. Some of our greatest fears come from our nightmares. So, how can we overcome our nightmares? Horror films. The detached nature of the movie watching experience can safely frighten us, and thus entertain us. That in which we indulge for entertainment
is also therapy
When my nights are riddled with nightmares, the themes are based around death
, horribly disturbing occurrences, or both. When the disturbing visions
snatch me from slumber in a panic, I am left engorged with foreboding dread. There I sit in my bed, sweating, laboring for breath, eyes searching the pitch for some tangible source of my fright. The shock of my nocturnal visions
leaving me uneasy for the night
's duration. My since acquired love of horror films
has helped to alleviate the shock of my nightly visions. The gruesome films that bombard my eyes and permeate my brain desensitize
my sufferance to these ghastly images. Thus, the mental apparitions
of my dreams no longer shock me. I can always say to myself, "Eh, I've seen worse in the movies."
In the before mentioned scene of "Hellraiser
II", I witnessed one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen. A former psychiatrist
, who had been mutilate
d and transformed into one of Hell's demons, was slaughtering and overthrowing the four other demon
s, reverting them back to the mortal humans they once were. The doctor
was held in the air by a giant tentacle
clutching his head. About six thin wires were stretched across his face, cutting into his pale skin. More bloody snakelike tentacles sprouted and shot from his palms baring sharp blades and other such devices. He had killed two demons already. One more projectile tentacle shot forth, impaling the third demon, vile and deformed- having his bloody face stretched tightly back on either side to the back of his head baring incessantly chattering teeth. He was left hanging upon one of the bloody pillars that hung from the ceiling, spinning menacingly. As the pillar turned once, twice, three times, the hideous demon was again what he once was, an innocent
ten year old boy
. The boy slumped dead and bleeding against the pillar. The idea that a mere child could be killed and changed into a grotesque hellish demon
such as this tears at every sense of moral decency
in my being. However, being able to see such a thing in a consequence free environment has allowed me to moderate my horror at such an atrocity
. I was given, as Soloman claims, "Protected access to a nightmare world otherwise shunted outside of civilization."
In addition to its nightmarish qualities, "Hellraiser II" deals with a much more potent subject: religion
and, more specifically, Hell
. These are themes that have riddled my own mind for many years. As a boy, I grew up a Mormon
. I have since sought out, researched, and experienced many religions from Buddhism to Wiccan Witchcraft, searching for answers. To this day, I have found none. I can not assuredly say that I believe in God
, the Devil
, or Hell
; nor can I honestly say that I do not. However, by being aware of the possible existence of it all, the idea of Hell scares me much more than I would ever like to admit. The uncertainty is frightening. Who is to say that Clive Barker, the writer of all five "Hellraiser" movies, has not depicted Hell in its ruthless
reality? If so, that is a horrid thought. I pity the poor sin
ning fools sent there, but more so, I fear my own sins may be my one way ticket. This fear has emerged from time to time, usually in my nightmares, leaving me to shudder and weep in shame and guilt. Because this fear thrived on uncertainty, I looked to good hellish horror films, unknowingly, to alleviate the apprehension. The film I have discussed gave me a possible answer to what lies below in the Terrestrial Kingdom, Hell. Being that fear is half apprehension, my fear was consequently diminished. With many known possibilities in mind, I need not worry what awaits, rather whether it even exists and awaits at all.
Solomon claims, "The conjuring up of monsters
of the mind and the objectifying of them in the cinema
is a symbolic
form of exorcism
." True to this concept, I believe a good horror film can ease the apparitions haunting
- quell the nightmares. It can desensitize
through the safety net of the third person. And yes, it can even sooth the apprehensions around religion- comfort the fear of Hell and damnation
. It can do all these things while still entertaining us, but we do not give it credence for such. Rather, we see and understand these exorcisms in a much deeper corner of the mind. They are not as effective if we are conscious
ly aware of and, consequently, deliberate with them. We must attack our fears where they reside; for this purpose, Horror films are quite adequate.
, Tim. "Horror Films." Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. Ed. Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Longman, 2000. 787-792.
). Dir. Tony Randall. Perf. Clare Higgins and Kenneth Cranham. New World Pictures/Cinemark Entertainment, 1988.
, Stanley J. "The Nightmare World." Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. Ed. Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Longman, 2000. 793-800.