Friday, January 22, 2010

Sex and Horror: It's all about the climax!

It begins with mood and atmosphere. It is ignited by tension. The body feels flushed, heart pounding, hands sweating, belly tickling, thoughts racing. The participant runs every scenario and worries about his ability to perform under stress. Soon, it closes in on him and there comes the moment where it all culminates in the great releasing reward.

Yes, sex and horror go hand-in-hand.

It amazes me how rarely moviemakers really get this concept. Oh yes, we have the sex-crazed teenagers in “Halloween” and other slashers, but there are few movies that know how to play the sexual tension with the horror to show how they complement one another.

When you think about, there is nothing more vulnerable than the intimacy and naked exposure of a sexual encounter and there is nothing more vulnerable and naked-feeling than something terrifying hunting you down. Both involve a certain amount of helplessness and handing oneself over to fate, trying to control that which is not controllable, and the desire to finally know—will it resolve my tension?

Look at the scene in “Legend of Hell House” when the psychic lies down in bed with the ghost, allowing him to make love to her as a show of being cared for, only to find he can now possess her. Now, that was more chilling, more potent than had she sat down and talked to him in a séance or perhaps been pursued by him in some dark and dreary hallway.

“Bram Stoker’s Dracula” with Keanu Reeves actually did a fair job of correlating the two genres. Vampire movies make it easier by creating a moment of exquisite pain intermingled with desire. The female characters and even the lead male character are helpless to the seductive powers of vampires. They portray the classic submissiveness of a successful conquest in domination and the mesmerizing of a person’s will with seduction.

Watching a truly well plotted horror movie is a lot like the sexual experience. The movie unfolds in a romantic setting, creating a mood. The characters come forth, filled with mystery and dark pasts that intrigue. Stimulating and unexpected moments interrupt their tasks, distracting their minds and drawing their attention with an obsession-like level as is find in new love. They contemplate it, brood about it; continually expose themselves to see if what they’re feeling is genuine and what they should do next. They come to believe this “thing” is the test of their mettle.

At the moment of climax, it’s about every moment of tension leading up to that point when the body is primed, the mind is wildly fluttering from thought to thought unable to stay on task, when desperation begins to give rise and the kinetic energy in the body needs release. The decision is made. There is no turning back. The person is no longer in control of the situation, but a victim to it, helpless, riding it out, unable to do more than gasp and scream, claw and hyperventilate, slowly coming down from the beast-like state to the gush of soothing relaxation after such exertion.

Perhaps sex and horror go together so perfectly in ways that romance and horror do not (ex.“Twilight”), because they are of equal intensity in different spectrums of the human experience, both create screaming and crazed behavior. They are not for the faint of heart (either genre), but when you find them blended together in a movie, it makes for a truly potent mix. Perhaps that's why "Twilight" was a watered down version of sex and a horror. It was neither one nor the other but a romantic mutt.

Note: I enjoyed "Twilight" as much as the other middle-aged women for the obvious reasons, but it served neither genre well. In a way, it was sort of the "Sleepless in Seattle" of horror movies.

p.s. I’m going on a ghost hunt with Julie from Above the Norm blog this weekend. I hope to have a post up about the experience on Sunday. No doubt, she will report on it, as well. I hope to show her a good and spooky time in the ghost hunting world.


  1. Oh i agree so much! Sex and horror go great together! If a movie- book has them in balance wathing or reading it feels like a fantasy taking shape and colour!

  2. Yes, Bram Stoker's Dracula was the first thing that came to mind as well when I read this post and possibly one on the best book-to-horror movie examples (ever?).

    I know, as far as books go, Clive Barker's writing is usually nothing but sex and horror and absolutely awesome horror at that. For some reason his movies never come out as well.

    If you're mentioning "Twilight" then I should mention trying "Blood and Chocolate" (I read it in middle school oh so many years ago and it is still one of my favorite YA horror novels) which is a great coming of age angst-filled werewolf tale. And a quick note: the book is NOTHING like the movie. "Bitten" by Kelley Armstrong is another good sex and horror book (by now you can see most of these are werewolf stories). Granted, I HATE romance so these have to be good enough to pique my interest.

  3. Another thing the two have in common: when done well, the "build-upcan be quite satisfying in and of itself. ;)
    There was a study in the 80's that revealed that people who were exposed to frightening images or horror movies found themselves more easily aroused afterwards.
    Fear, danger, and sexual arousal all cause the release of endorphins, adrenaline, and general hormonal uproar. A little discussed fact is that paranormal investigators (and yes, monster hunters!) often get literally "turned on" during or after their exposure to weirdness.
    (Maybe that's why I enjoy it so much?) :D

  4. Someone mentioned Dracula. Last year I bought a postcard at what was supposed to have been his headquarters in Romania.The picture of that postcard is a true combination of sex and horror; it shows Dracula with his sharp teeth examining with hungry eyes the young sexy lady he was probably going to 'make love' to.

    I wrote a tiny post on my visit to that place and surprisingly, it is the most readed post among the posts of my blog, probably because of this picture attached to it.

  5. Excellent job of analysis. The only thing I would add is the "taboo" factor. One of the common themes that runs through a vast swath of horror films is sex as a forbidden fruit that, should one be tempted to taste it, will be punished...usually in the most gruesome fashion imaginable! Sex pretty much equals death for at least one of the participants in, oh, probably 85% of all horror flicks.

  6. Bleaux Leaux;
    Yes, well, climaxes are referred to as the "little death." I think it's wild that you mentioned the taboo factor because I had written a comment about that with vampire movies and took it out when editing. It had to do with how women feel that sex with a vampire is okay because you're not in control and you're mesmerized so even "good girls" give in. I wrote about it once in a post about why women love vampires.

    I had a whole paragraph about "Blood and Chocolate" as an example of a movie that was absolutely made to have the sex and horror factor and how it became more watered down and so it was like a "Twilight" light version instead of what it was meant to be. In fact, the movie was neither romance nor horror. It failed on both scores. You really have to have that edge. Had that movie been an NC-17, it would have been ideal combo. Someone missed the boat but probably wanted to peddle it to adolescent girls and we know what that does to the quality of film... This is probably why I wrote erotic horror--no one seems to be getting the connection.

    Yeah, I agree. I can't imagine a good investigator of the paranormal not being a horn dog. They kind of go hand in hand. There's the darkness, the forbidden, the unknown, the sudden racing heart, it's total anticipation.

    I totally agree-books and movies that balance both is getting double climax for their buck.

    Vampires probably are one of the most favorite of all time in the horror class. They're sort of the reigning king of sex and horror, a regular poster child. I admit to watching everything on TV that comes along about Dracula, especially.

  7. HAHAHAHA! Funny title. But apt observations. ;)



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