Free «Art and Design: Horror Films» Essay Paper

Art and Design: Horror Films

Perhaps, horror films represent the genre that requires the greatest cooperation from the viewer. It is impossible to frighten an individual without a knowledge and understanding of their perception of reality. Thus, a movie about the cannibalism can hardly be recognized as a horror in a savage tribe of cannibals. The fear effect is based on the most inappropriate, unconscious things. After World War II, the humanity started to develop space programs. At this time, many sci-fi authors discussed a possible contact with extraterrestrial civilizations. Not everyone was excited about this option, and many people were afraid of a possible conflict with aliens. Among many other horror sci-fi movies, The Thing by John Carpenter is rather famous. The parasitic alien form of life that can imitate other organisms is one of the best visualization of paranoia in the modern cinema, which is masterfully presented by Carpenter in his movie.

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First, it is necessary to conduct a short analysis of the target audience. While the story was written and published in 1938, its primary audience was a small group of fantasy fans. However, after World War II, the new wave of technological development attracted the mass attention to the space themes in all spheres of life. The first artificial satellite, the first man in the space, and the first expedition to the Moon – all these events were widely covered by the media. Probably, there was no person who would not know the latest space-related news.  Thus, hot discussions of the future human perspectives in space became the breeding ground for various mental disorders, including paranoia. Moreover, xenophobia acquired a new shape. Carpenter made his film on the base of the old novel and visualized society’s fear of the unknown and strange in it. The movie was made for a wide audience. The main character is performed by Curt Russell who is known for playing the roles of common men, somebody next door. Thus, almost every viewer could understand the feeling and the action of Russell’s character. Consequently, one would say that Carpenter understood the fear of the entire generation.

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The movie supports and nourishes the paranoiac ideas and shapes the new type of danger. Mainly, this paranoia is based on the idea that an alien creature can imitate any life form. It probably has its original form, but in the movie, it takes the form of people and dogs, which makes the film so scary. In his article dedicated to horror movies, Telotte discusses the idea of idolatry since people are used to idolizing movie villains. However, he supposes that evil creatures in these movies are too disgusting to be someone’s idols. This sentence sounds arguable: for example, the xenomorphs from the Alien franchise are widely isolated. What is more, the excitement with these perfect deadly creatures starts from the certain characters of the franchise. However, the Thing from Carpenter’s movie cannot be idolized. It does not have a shape. At the end of the movie, this creature takes the shape of the alien humanoid; however, it is unclear, if it is a natural form of the Thing or just the shape of another victim. Every living being can be a hostile alien life form. Thus, the absence of a certain shape destroys the perspective for idolatry and feeds the feeling of paranoia in the audience.

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When speaking about the shape of evil, one should highlight the issue of identification. The problem of identification occupies the dominating place both in Telotte’s article and in Carpenter’s movie. People usually believe what they see. If they see a cow, it is a cow. However, Carpenter destroys this kind of faith, and in such a way, he demolishes the cornerstone of people’s worldview. As Telotte writes, “By film's end we are afraid not to see, to turn our eyes away; for fear that this "thing" which has several times seemed vanquished will rise again, once again to threaten our precariously stable world.” Carpenter proposes a new attitude to danger. Thus, it is better not to see any creature, no matter how hostile it is, or see dead bodies. Any living thing that a person sees can be the enemy that will try to defeat them. At the beginning of the movie, a man is shown trying to shoot the dog. Other men think that he is crazy, so they kill him and give shelter to this dog. However, the subsequent events force these people to change their attitude. Thus, this friendly dog would appear to be an enemy, while the insane man had simply tried to save everybody. The viewer experiences the same transformation. The culmination of this idea is the blood test. The survivors invented a method to find hidden enemies in the group. The problem is that the infected human does not understand if they are infected, or the Thing perfectly imitates human behavior. Thus, the real nature of every team member is revealed at the moment of the blood test. Carpenter creates a great atmosphere of suspense and fear in this scene. The idea is simple - one should check everyone because anyone can be the enemy.

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Another aspect that is worth mentioning is the visual representation of the monster. In another article, Telotte tells that horror is the reflective art. Shortly, the author represents their personal fears when visualizing the horrible things. The scariest thing in Carpenter’s movie is the incomplete transformation. Half-alien half-dog or a partially transformed human body look rather horrible. Returning to the theme of the idolatry, it is possible to feel excited looking at the xenomorph because its form is perfectly dangerous and, correspondently, beautiful. At the same time, partly transformed bodies in Carpenter’s movie cannot be considered beautiful. They are disgusting; they look like a nightmare of the modern human. Nevertheless, this is the power of this movie. In the 20th century, there were plenty of sci-fi books and movies, even comics. Human artists developed hundreds of possible humanoid and non-humanoid images of alien. It was hard to imagine an alien life form that could be terrifying for a sophisticated viewer. The alien enemy in Carpenter’s movie is so disgusting, especially because it does not have its own shape as it is an ugly transformation of the human body that looks as if it has been half-digested. In one scene, the American team explores the dead body from the Norwegian base. They see a normal human set of organs - the liver, the heart, and the brain. However, the body is damaged, the face is deformed, and it looks quite horrible. Thus, Carpenter has understood what looks terrible in the 20th century and has visualized it in his movie.

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Horror movies always try to reflect the existing fears of their target audience. The target audience of The Thing (1982) is a wide group of people of different education, occupation, age, and living standards. The popularity of the movie proves that xenophobia has no social, age, and gender borders. The movie reveals the unconscious fear of the unknown and supports the paranoiac ideas of the time of its creation. Even though these ideas are not equal to mental disorders, the can support then. On the other hand, the visualization of fear can calm down the viewers with the feeling that they are prepared for all unsuspected challenges. Therefore, The Thing by John Carpenter reveals some fears related to space exploration and represents a perfect visualization of paranoiac ideas. 

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