Full moon

Why is horror so popular?

It is now Halloween again, a holiday that is becoming more and more popular in Sweden. We ask Johan Höglund, associate professor of English literature and a member of Linnaeus University Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies – why is horror so popular?

"Horror frightens us by challenging the boundaries that control much of our lives, our society, and even our international relations. Horror like Stephen King's The Shining, for instance, deals with the disintegration of the boundaries of the core family. The vampire in Dracula questions the boundary between life and death. Films like Alien frighten us by breaking down the boundaries of sexuality. In Alien, both men and women can be raped and become pregnant, a pregnancy that also kills its host".

Is horror political?

"Horror can be seen as a map over government political and geopolitical boundaries. The horror movie The purge: Election Year is about shortcomings in American politics and about how the US as a state is collapsing. A lot of the horror that is produced in the US is apocalyptic and expresses worry over how the US as a global superpower and empire is falling apart. In particular since the terror attacks on September 11, this has become a recurring theme in American horror novels and horror movies. It is usually not stories about a single monster in a closet, but instead stories of how the entire continent perishes. The American horror culture of today actually has a lot in common with the imperialistic horror that was written in Britain during the 19th century. At that time, Britain ruled over close to 25 percent of the world's total land area, but the great empire was starting to fall apart. Thus, one can say that it is the boundaries of the empire that are collapsing, both in the horror novels of the late Victorian era and in the contemporary American horror".

What horror movie are you going to watch on Halloween?

"If I get to choose, I'll watch two; first the creepy Swedish-directed Lights Out that came earlier this year".

"And then Jennifer Kent's The Babadook from 2014. Smart, scary, psychological horror at its best!"