News Behind the Madness: A Dive into the Psychological Realities of Horror Movie Characters
Behind the Madness: A Dive into the Psychological Realities of Horror Movie Characters
Many horror movie villains can suffer from serious mental illness or physical illnesses that cause bizarre behavior. We have compiled psychological analysis of the characters in the most famous horror movies for you.
Michael Myers and Laurie Strode- Halloween (1978)
Rutgers University students examined the Halloween movie in Professor Anthony Tobia's class. The class determined that Michael Myers suffered from conversion disorder, manifested in the form of 'selective mutism,' as a result of killing his sister Judith. After escaping from the mental hospital, Myers returns home with the intention of killing his other sister, Laurie Strode. His pursuit and attempts to kill her cause Laurie considerable stress, but her therapist informs her in Halloween II (1981) that she suffers from the same illness as her brother. However, if Tobia's students are correct in their diagnosis of Michael, the therapist's intentions are unclear, as Laurie is not portrayed as having conversion disorder, voyeurism, or autism in the film.
Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling- Hannibal (1999)
Dr. Glen O. Gabbard finds the psychology behind Hannibal to be quite contradictory and perceives the author's perspective on psychiatry as indecisive. He wonders whether readers will accept Harris's portrayal of a psychopath with mutually affectionate bonds. However, Gabbard explicitly sees Lecter as a character intended to represent a psychopath, aligning with the DSM's definition of antisocial personality disorder. Lecter exhibits cruelty, habitual disrespect, quick analysis and decision-making abilities, charisma, and superficial charm. Now, what about Starling's psychological condition? How did the conflict with Lecter impact the FBI agent? The Clarice series (2021) delves into the year following Buffalo Bill's killing spree, focusing on Starling rather than Lecter. It depicts Starling as someone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As viewers may recall, the screams of lambs slaughtered on her relative's Montana farm traumatized her in childhood, leading to nightmares.
Freddy Krueger and Nancy Thompson- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A Nightmare on Elm Street' narrates the story of several youths in the fictional town of Springwood, Ohio, who are murdered in their dreams by the ghost of a child serial killer, Freddy Krueger. Krueger, having been burned to death by the parents of the children he killed, somehow returns to continue killing their other children. Krueger's act of murdering children in their beds is rooted in his pedophilia. Despite having killed other children, Krueger sees Nancy as somehow 'special.' While other parents refer to him as 'Freddy Krueger,' Marge, Nancy's mother, referring to him as 'Fred,' brings back memories of her closeness to him. Nancy experiences frequent nightmares where she constantly tries to survive. This condition is referred to as nightmare disorder in psychology.
Leatherface and Sally Hardesty- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
In 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,' the antagonist Leatherface suffers from neurodegeneration. Additionally, he has a neoplasm, edema, and trauma in his nervous system. Leatherface's physical condition likely worsened due to bullying from peers during childhood. Born with a deformity and a skin condition, Leatherface endured cruel bullying and mockery due to his peculiar appearance. While not highly intelligent, he was acutely aware of the mistreatment he endured. Ashamed of his appearance, he started wearing a small leather mask to hide his face. This habit persisted into adulthood, and eventually, the mask became almost like a part of him. Sally Hardesty, the sole survivor of the massacre, loses her sanity, screaming about her experiences before becoming catatonic. Catatonia is a neuropsychiatric syndrome characterized by abnormalities in motor behavior, including immobility, mutism, or unusual movements outside the context of the environment (in more severe forms).
Regan MacNeil and Father Karras- The Exorcist (1973)
While writing 'The Exorcist,' author and screenwriter William Peter Blatty made an effort to evaluate the condition of Reagan MacNeil from the perspective of the priests who came to help her in a medical context. Blatty also suggested that what Reagan was experiencing might actually be rooted in a demonic situation. Her fragile mental state could have caused it. He stated, 'A being cannot invade a living organism or person unless the personality of that organism or person is already fragmented.' The film closely parallels the novel and also depicts the medical science's efforts to explain Reagan's condition. In the end, Father Karras succeeds at the cost of his own life. He accepts the devil's offer and allows the devil to possess him in exchange for releasing Reagan. Karras then jumps out of the girl's bedroom window and dies. The film hints at a conflict more explicitly stated in the novel. Karras, a victim of the neglect he showed to his seriously ill mother, who dies alone, tortures himself with the guilt of his mother's death. Focusing on the pain he feels about his mother's death, the devil torments the priest during the exorcism. Escaping from his own agony might be a secondary reason for the priest to accept the devil's challenge.
Jack Torrance and Wendy Torrance- The Shining (1980)
In both Stephen King's 1977 novel 'The Shining' and Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film adaptation, Jack Torrance, the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, appears to exhibit characteristics of paranoid schizophrenia. Torrance is portrayed as an isolated character experiencing delusions and hallucinations, perceiving himself as the target of evil influences, demons, and ghosts. He also begins to have hallucinations involving his 'five senses.' The depiction of Torrance's mental state in the novel and film suggests paranoid schizophrenia. If Wendy had sought psychiatric help for her husband instead of denying his problem, medication and psychological therapy might have been able to help him. Torrance, a malicious alcoholic, suppresses feelings of shame, guilt, self-hatred, and suicidal thoughts that come with the awareness of his failure as a father. Having learned from his own father to cope with life's ups and downs through alcohol and violence, Torrance accidentally breaks Danny's arm when he spills beer on Danny's manuscript. The consequences of Danny's trauma in 'The Shining' are explored in King's 2013 sequel, 'Dr. Sleep.' In a way, Danny becomes a father figure. He is an alcoholic and a drifter. Despite knowing he might need the money to support his child, he steals his lover's last money. His life is the essence of emptiness and instability. He moves from city to city, lives day to day, and has no fixed place of residence. He lacks commitment and relationships with others. In short, as a result of his experiences at the Overlook Hotel and beyond, Danny suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Andrew Laeddis and Edward “Teddy” Daniels- Shutter Island (2010)
'Shutter Island,' the film adaptation of Dennis Lehane's 2003 novel of the same name, captivates the audience with its surprising plot twists. Marshal Edward is on a mission to find a patient who recently disappeared from a mental hospital. His task appears to be uncovering the facility's 'expensive, state-of-the-art torture chamber.' During the final act of the film, viewers learn that the story is actually about Teddy's psychosis. As a World War II veteran, Teddy has experienced many traumas but managed to cope with this situation. However, he becomes both an alcoholic and a workaholic in the process. His coping strategies provide him with a sufficient level of emotional detachment, but they prevent him from recognizing another dangerous threat. His bipolar wife, Dolores, who committed murder by drowning their three children, did not develop post-traumatic stress disorder; instead, Teddy developed a delusional disorder. Despite remaining highly functional, he experiences intense and overwhelming delusions. This mental disorder directs the course of the film's narrative.
Rosemary Woodhouse and Damien Thorn- Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
'Rosemary's Baby' is the 1968 film adaptation of Ira Levin's 1967 novel of the same name. After moving to an apartment building with rumors of murder and cannibalism, Rosemary Woodhouse is sexually assaulted by a 'devilish entity.' As a result of the sexual assault, she becomes pregnant and believes that her child is the offspring of the devil. What she experiences could be postpartum psychosis. From a psychological perspective, Woodhouse is not only psychotic but also delusional. She believes that her baby is the devil's child. However, to some extent, she considers that her hallucinations might have been triggered or reinforced by the poisonous herbs given to her by her husband Guy and his family. Rosemary could be a victim of bipolar personality disorder.
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