"It is women who love horror. Gloat over it. Feed on it. Are nourished by it. Shudder and cling and cry out—and come back for more." -Bela Lugosi
Trigger Warning: Mentions of trauma and suicide.
Some horror stories exist on the pages of a book.
Some on television screens for the world's entertainment.
Some reside only in an artist's imagination.
Then there are the real ones—the horror stories of our lives.
My experiences. My fears. My traumas.
Everyone has a story to tell.
Abuse, neglect, and death... It changes us. It morphs us into new beings. It changes our views of the world and our outlook on life.
Maybe that’s why I love horror so much.
Because behind all the blood and gore, there’s a story that resonates with the emotionally scarred child in me. There’s a part of my life I can’t get back, and I watch it as it comes to life on a liquid crystal display, hoping to gain some sort of closure even though I know a movie will never truly give me that.
There’s an odd comfort in knowing my trauma is universal, but also a discomfort in that as well.
It’s comforting because I’m not alone. I see people that are experiencing what I'm going through, and it allows for me to escape this world and move into theirs for as long as the movie lets me.
But it's also discomforting because I know how painful certain events can be and how hard they are to overcome.
Horror movies always heighten trauma in a way that makes it intangible but relatable at the same time.
It's metaphorical in a way I wish my trauma was—in a way I know my trauma will never be.
The Witch (2015) Directed by Robert Eggers
The Witch is a folktale that takes place in 1630's Puritan New England. The movie follows a girl named Thomasin after her family is exiled from their village. Paranoia mounts when Thomasin's baby brother goes missing, and the family realizes there's something dark and sinister lurking in the woods that could be the cause of it.
In The Witch, Thomasin is shunned by her loved ones after her brother goes missing. Her family blames her for what happened, but what they don't understand is that there is something supernatural that caused it.
Like Thomasin, I have always felt like an outsider even in my own family. Maybe it's because of my trauma that makes me feel like I don't belong, or maybe it's because I, too, grew up around religious fanatics that I was never able to assimilate with.
But her family never tries to understand her story about how her brother's disappearance wasn't her fault.
They dismiss it, and they dismiss her.
By the end of the movie, she joins a group of witches by signing the devil's book and leaves her family behind after choosing a dark path.
She finds a new family, for better or for worse.
Midsommar (2019) Directed by Ari Aster
Midsommar takes place in rural Sweden and follows the story of a graduate student named Dani. She embarks on a trip to a small Swedish village with her boyfriend and his friends, but they quickly find out this idyllic place is not what it seems.
The beginning of Midsommar is brimming with tragedy as Dani's sister commits suicide and takes their mother and father with her.
To try and cope with what happened, Dani goes on a trip to Sweden with her boyfriend, Christian, and his friends to experience the infamous midsummer festival.
Dani's emotions are all over the place, and her boyfriend continuously gaslights her throughout the movie, trying to make her feel like she shouldn't be showcasing her unstable emotions even after what happened to her family.
I remember watching this movie and automatically understanding what it's like to have someone gaslight you to the point that you feel like you're going crazy.
Emotional abuse and death trauma is what drives Dani to join a Swedish cult by the end of the movie.
She's indoctrinated, yet it feels unnervingly right.
This cult is the only thing that showed her any ounce of understanding—and a sense of belonging that was never given to her anywhere else.
And isn't that what we trauma survivors want?
A sense of community from those around us.
A home with no judgement.