Whether you realize it or not, superstitions are still a big part of the society we live in today. Back in 2014, a study by Statista concluded that the most common belief in the United States centered around the old adage “find a penny pick it up, then all day you’ll have good luck”, with around 33% of respondents reportedly believing in the age-old superstition. Despite the fact that a good chunk of people will dismiss any belief in superstition when questioned, it’s rather interesting that when challenged to break a mirror or walk under a ladder, the same naysayers will refuse and recoil in horror.
The psychology and science of superstition are, therefore, a fascinating a subject and, over the years, the film industry has played on it more than most by bringing our biggest fears and superstitions to life on the big screen. With that being said, below is a look at how the horror film genre has managed to explore and feed on our most widely believed superstitions.
Animals and The Horror Movie Genre
By now, we’re probably all aware of the mystery and superstition surrounding black cats and how they can be seen as omens of bad luck if they cross your path. However, the horror genre went one step further than that with the release of the 1981 movie “The Black Cat”, whose lead character can communicate with the dead as well as being able to control the mind of his adorable, furry feline (who is black as you’ve probably guessed). Many of the “accident” victims in the movie are full of prominent scratches on them, which really gives the impression of a black cat gone rogue and perpetuates the stereotype of bad luck associated with the animal.
Many consider Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” to be one of the most brilliant and haunting horror movies of all time and special editions of the film still retail well on marketplace sites such as ebay.com. Birds have had a long standing association with death and many different birds and other animals are the subject of superstitions all around the world, with various cultures adopting different approaches according to their own beliefs. As can be seen in this betway.com casino article the Kareke bird is the subject of much superstition in New Zealand, while a bronze statue of a boar housed in Florence, Italy, will allegedly bring good luck to those who rub its snout. Whether they be associated with good or bad luck, animals have an important role to play when it comes to horror movies feeding on our own superstitions and this can be seen on a global scale.
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Otherworldly Figures and Other Characters
Fans of horror and superstition will be well aware of the infamous”Bloody Mary” game which requires the participant to recant phrase while bravely gazing into a mirror in a darkened room before being greeted by the supernatural entity. However, it seems that in the 1992 movie, Candyman, lead actress Virginian Madsen didn’t get the memo and consequently paid the price after uttering the name Candyman three times and summoning what has to be one of the most terrifying horror movie villains in the genre’s history.
More recently, the remake of Stephen King’s IT had both adults and children on tenterhooks and ensured a good few sleepless nights for those who watched Pennywise nonchalantly dragging children into the sewer. Clowns have long been a phobia for a number of people and the 2017 release of IT brought clowns to the forefront of popular culture and remains one of the most popular films on platforms such as Google Play and YouTube.
Horror Movies Require Us To Believe
It is in the best interest of horror movies to make us believe in what we are seeing to some extent in order to be successful. If you take a look back through the annals of horror movie history, the best films are the ones based upon characters and superstitions which are, in the main, entirely believable. From the weapon-wielding murderers of Scream and the Friday The 13th franchise to the psychotic on-screen personas of Hannibal Lecter, Leatherface and Norman Bates, it’s possible to envision scenarios where these characters could exist and wreak havoc and this element of realism is a fine line which the horror movie genre has traversed for years with aplomb.
Fear Drives Irrationality
It’s difficult and ultimately wrong to chastise or criticize anyone for the beliefs they hold as long as they’re genuine. The fact that some people still believe that stepping on cracks in the sidewalk can bring you bad luck is a testament to how fear can really alter our way of thinking and it’s this irrationality that the horror genre attempts to exacerbate with the on-screen manifestations of our superstitions. If Nobel Prize winning physicist Niels Bohr could get on board with a little bit of magical thinking then are the rest of us really that immune?
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