Aesthetics of Fright

Why horror? When discussing Freudian question of how dominant ideology is transmitted, it is easy to look at the case of the horror film. Why do we seek out fear and are willingly frightened? Ultimately, how is the repressed represented in horror films?
For this we could look at Barry Grant and Christopher Sharrett’s essay Aesthetics of Fright. They discuss the body genres associated with horror such as pornography, and excessive violence of sex with phallic images. These genres all correspond to man’s innate nature to witness something taboo.
Horror films exploit the fear and anxiety of death but never actually put us in any kind of danger. Sitting in a movie theater we know that we will ultimately be safe. This sense of security is what blocks the true id, Other and monster from getting to us beyond the screen.
The essay goes on to discuss the portrayal of the repressed in horror films and from what we know, Freud’s definition stems from the Uncanny. His definition supports that negative aesthetics are feelings of repulsion and stress which take the form of the repressed.
Grant and Sharrett divide repression in horror films into two main groups: basic and surplus repression. Basic repression develops when we learn to postpone gratification and surplus repression must remain specific to a particular culture. From these two groups horror films split into reactionary and apocalyptic forms.


  • Monster is simply evil
  • monster is usually non-human
  • repressed sexuality and confusion with sexuality
  • Christian figures are prominent


  • Shattering of ideology
  • Emphasis on familiarity of the monstrous
  • Normality as a manifestation

There is much to be learned from the commercial platform of horror films today. It was quite interesting to find that fear can be categorized.

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