Horror films and how they exploit mental health issues - Halloween Special.

by - 13:18:00

Hello everyone, hope you're feeling spooky! So as today is Halloween I thought I would do a special blog post. Let me know in the comments below what you are doing for Halloween or have done - I know most people probably had Halloween parties last weekend! My plan for tonight is order a pizza, stick on one of my favourite films The Nightmare Before Christmas & carve a mini pumpkin we bought. Perhaps have a glass of wine too.

Today's post is about horror films with the theme of mental health. You're probably aware but so many horror films are based on some sort of mental health issue. They often don't represent them in the correct way as they are made for entertainment purposes and exaggerate it a lot. I'm not saying that you shouldn't watch horror films - as hey I watch them too! But I thought I'd look into them more seriously. I studied film at university and this is a super interesting topic, I don't want you to think I'm ruining your fun of watching horror films because I'm not trying to do that - this is just something that is not really talked about so I thought I'd write a small post on it! (Please read this disclaimer before continuing). 

If you want a read into horror films exploiting mental health issues then have a read of this article as it's a pretty good one.


Horror films - mental illness themes


Sadly, in most horror films it is often common that someone has been released from a psychiatric ward and then they end up going on murderous rampages and enjoy killing people. It comes across that someone with a mental illness is scary and the 'normal' folk should fear them because hey, they're most definitely going to stalk and kill you. There are so many stereotypes when it comes to the portrayal of mental illness, the obvious one being the depiction of psychological disabilities as a source of violence or brutality. A lot of horror films tend to glamorise mental illnesses, let's look at some examples:

Psycho (1960) - 

A great film directed by Alfred Hitchcock based on a novel of the same name written by Robert Bloch in 1959. The main plot of the film (without spoilers - although I'm sure many people have seen this film), a secretary called Marion Crane ends up at this secluded motel and the motel's owner is Norman Bates who ends up recreating his mother in his mind so he dresses up as her and that is when he becomes violent. It's known as one of Hitchcock's best films and it's a really good one to watch, the cinematography is brilliant. After doing some research this is what I have found on the mental illness theme:

There's very strong evidence that Bates has dissociative identity disorder - this is suggested as he flicks in between his own identity and his dead mother's identity. This could be seen as the film glamorising the mental health illness, and ultimately creating this stigma around it. If you think about the name of the film 'Psycho' does that mean having a dissociative identity disorder makes you a psycho? However we know that Bates does some violent things and he is a dangerous man - hence the name of the film I suppose. There's plenty of research out there that show the majority of people with a mental illness are not violent or dangerous, but films don't depict them that way. Obviously this is done for 'entertainment' purposes and they like to make films have an interesting psychological twist that you perhaps didn't see coming - Shutters Island is a good example of this.

"If you were asked to name someone with a mental illness in a movie, the chances are that a crazed killer or deranged psychopath would spring to mind." 



Split (2016) - 

Split was directed by M Night Shyamalan and is quite a popular film - I'm sure plenty of you have seen this one. This is also a psychological horror thriller film - and although popular, there's a lot of negative reviews about the way they show the mental illness. The plot of the film is a man has 23 different personalities and he ends up kidnapping three teenage girls, and one of his darker personalities results in his eventual transformation into a merciless and cannibalistic sociopath. 

Many professionals and people who suffer with DID say the film stigmatises the disorder and has a negative impact on those that have the condition. This movie in particular (and the majority of films that have a character with this illness) implies that someone with DID can be violent - if you research into the disorder most experts say that those people are more likely to hurt themselves than others. Films like this add stigma to the mental illness and unfortunately leads viewers to have the wrong idea of it.  

Have a read of this article written by someone who suffers with Dissociative identity disorder.

Reading through this article I understand completely that it must be hard to watch a film that portrays the mental illness in a negative light - seeing the person on screen who suffers with it being dangerous and violent is going to be an upsetting thing to watch.

They do also mention that the director had clearly done some homework and showed the growing acceptance. I also read a comment that mentioned that after watching the film it made them want to research dissociative identity disorder and that they knew the film was going to sensationalise the illness but it intrigued them to read about it - which is a great positive! But not everyone is going to think like that.


Other films that are similar and many find problematic and stigmatising are:


Friday the 13th (1980)
Halloween (1978) 
The Shining (1980)
Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

The list could go on and on.. there's also remakes of some the old classics too. 

This is another great article about horror films depicting mental illnesses.

Although there are plenty of other films from different genres out there that are not guilty of stigmatising mental illnesses and do a pretty good job! 


Some examples are:

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) - Pat played by Bradley Cooper plays a character that has bipolar disorder, and Tiffany played by Jennifer Lawrence who suffers with depression. I would recommend this film - it's a great one.

A Beautiful Mind (2001) - Nash played by Russell Crowe is someone who suffers with paranoid schizophrenia and suffers with delusional episodes. Another great film.

Rain Man (1988) - This films brings the character Charlie played by Tom Cruise together with his brother he never knew about called Raymond played by Dustin Hoffman. He soon discovers Raymond has an autistic savant syndrome and adheres to strict routines. Definitely worth a watch.




I'm hoping most people that watch these horrors/thrillers don't think too much into the mental illness the main 'villain' suffers and rather is more intrigued by it and then does further research into it online so you can find out what it's actually like. It is sad that the film industry shows mental illness in such a negative light, it glamorises it, it brings more stigma around the illness and it's hard to see for those that do suffer with it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and perhaps has got you thinking more about it! Let me know in the comments below you thoughts and if this is something you have looked into before!

Chat soon, have a great Halloween ❤


Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

--

Some links may be affiliate links so I can get a small amount of money through them at no extra cost to you. 


😊Links: 
Donations - paypal.me/chloechats


You May Also Like

31 comments

  1. Great Post! I never really thought of it that way, although, there have been times during horror films where I find myself actually sympathizing with the villain. A great example of this would be in Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween where they go into the life of Micheal BEFORE he became a killer. My heart ached, and while the end result was extreme (and that's ok, because it's fiction'), a part of me was like... well no wonder, poor thing. It's important to know what's fact and what's fiction when we are talking about things like this. Just like we know that if we see someone doing something in a movie, that it's not safe for us to do it in real life, we need to know that just because someone's situation in a film turned into them doing something horrific, it doesn't mean that's what it is like for most real people in that same place.
    Great Read thanks for sharing!
    Kat
    https://boozyhousewife.family.blog/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's an interesting topic! Not spoken about much but when you go searching for it there's a lot out there on it! I haven't watched Rob Zombie's Halloween remake yet, I have heard some great things about it though. Exactly, we have to remember that films glamorise, exaggerate and don't always give out correct information! Thank you for reading! xx

      Delete
  2. I don't really watch scary films because I'm a huge chicken but you are right! It definitely does the job with stigmatizing those with mental health and it's unfortunate just because it's Hollywood's job to really exaggerate and bring the horror factor out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for reading! You're definitely right, it is there job and they want it to be a good watch for the viewers - perhaps theres better ways they can go about it xx

      Delete
  3. The stigma is very much still real for mental health, and horror movies definitely don't help! I get that they're for entertainment purposes, but the message behind them will stick with people. Really interesting post! x

    -Charlotte / myownblogofthoughts.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really is! Yeah definitely, I'm sure there are better ways that these films can go about it as well, thank you for reading! x

      Delete
  4. I'm not a huge fan of horror films, I jump at the slightest thing and I hate waiting for the unexpected in those films! I love Rain Man, it's such a good film and gives an amazing insight into Autism, I've worked with kids with Autism so I know how much of a strict routine autistic kids have to follow, a great post Chloe! xx

    Lucy | www.lucymary.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They can definitely be terrifying haha, I can watch some but I do struggle sometimes! Rain Man is such a great film, thank you for reading! xx

      Delete
  5. Loved this post, I won't lie, I saw the adverts for 'Split' and it made me uncomfortable from that. I don't do horror films so haven't watched it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah it's not a great film in my opinion anyway, I'm sure there's people out there that like it. Thank you for reading! xx

      Delete
  6. Chloe, from where you get such ideas?
    I believe that you are loving to watch horror movies and not only watch but feel like you are in the character. Lol, thats why you have observed it.

    Interesting post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This isn't a subject that many talk about but I found it really interesting! It's true, these horror films are made purely for entertainment purposes but it's not great for people that suffer with these mental health illnesses and have to see these kind of things! Thank you for reading xx

      Delete
  7. This is a really interesting post Chloe! I'm glad you mentioned Split, I saw this film a few months ago and thought the ending was awful. Why did they need to make the main character so crazy and violent with super power strength. It portrays people with personality disorders as being like monsters just for the sake of entertainment. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, such a thoughtful and well written post <3 xx

    Bexa | www.hellobexa.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Yeah exactly, these films can still be a good watch without the main characters going on a violent rampage, it's sad that films don't think about it more. Thank you so much, I'm glad you enjoyed reading it <3 xx

      Delete
  8. Great post Chloe! and so true! Ive always been drawn to psychological thrillers, and some horror movies because they are so captivating! I took a few courses at the university to learn to critique film and art because I’ve always loved pointing out the unrealistic or confusing bits. I now know how to look for hidden messages, and how to look at the directors point of view through his visual storytelling. Directors do things for visual impact over being accurate all the time! I think film is meant to be entertaining and not realistic at all, but that 100% creates problems because humans are easily manipulated and that has huge REAL life consequences!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Definitely agree, it's totally understandable why films do it but they could definitely go about it a different way, thank you for reading :) xx

      Delete
  9. Great post!! I never thought about this. Cool perspective of horror films. I have yet to see Split but I want to sooo bad!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! It's something different to look into, not many people talk about it! xx

      Delete
  10. Great post! I'd never thought about horror films in that way before. I've not watched many (too scared) but you are right. The shining sprung to mind as soon as I read the title of your post. Rain man is a great film in a more positive vein ��

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Yeah it's not spoken about much, but I feel it's an important subject! Love Rain Man! xx

      Delete
  11. This is such an interesting topic, I completely agree that the tone & acting isn’t always quite right with horror films portraying mental health. I agree also with the films you’ve stated as helping to remove stigma around mental health. I still reread Silver Linings Playbook as I find it so refreshing. Great post as always Chloe!
    Jess xx
    www.jessicakatie.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed reading it! Silver Linings Playbook is great, although I haven't actually read the book only watched the film! I'm guessing it's pretty similar though! Thank you <3 xx

      Delete
  12. Really interesting read! I'm not really into horror films but one you could add to your list is Hide and Seek (2005) I can't explain why too much without adding spoilers but grief and mental health are a big theme. Scared the crap out of me when I was a teen lol x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Ah okay I've not heard of that one! xx

      Delete
  13. This is such an amazing blog post. I've never read any like it! I am an avid horror fan and as someone who's had quite terrible mental health for the past 10 years, yet never been officially diagnosed, I had never thought about the portrayal of mental health particularly in scary movies. Definitely gave me something to think about!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww glad you enjoyed reading it! It's definitely something that gets you thinking, I found it so interesting to research about - for a while I hadn't really seen anything on this before! xx

      Delete
  14. This is such an interesting post and topic, I'd never really considered how damaging some of these portrayals of mental illness could be. Conversely, I love how the Babadook portrays depression/grief in a really interesting way, without stigmatising it.

    Sarah
    http://yellowfeatherblog.com

    ReplyDelete