Darkness into Light: An Introduction to the Four Tissue Types of Horror Cinema

  • Larrie Dudenhoeffer


What is so horrifying about horror films? A number of theorists attempt to answer this question in a number of different ways. Those who approach these films from a psychoanalytic standpoint, as does Robin Wood, for example, often draw attention to the relationship of the cinematic experience to such Freudian orthodoxies as the revelation of sexual, violent, or self-destructive desires in the unconscious that remain inadmissible to the ego’s self-concept; the repetition of certain traumas, such as the symbolic threat of castration, in order to master them; or the sense of the uncanny, of “something from ordinary life that is familiar, yet alien and frightening.”1 Wood writes that the viewer of a film sits in darkness, which invites a “switching off of consciousness,” so that the relaxation of its censorship functions can admit desires to “emerge in disguise,” as fantasies that only seem silly or trivial, “innocent or apparently meaningless.”2 He takes this analogy further so as to define horror films as “collective nightmares,” as reactions to unconscious desires that, in a culture that values family, monogamy, cisgender identification, and the redirection of surplus sexual energies, must appear as monstrous, disgusting, or criminal to the viewer.3 The monsters or villains in these films, according to Wood, represent “the return of the repressed,” in that they embody the sexual differences, racial or ethnic markers, ideological alternatives, or same-sex desires that might seem to their viewers abnormal, uncomfortable to think about, or even sinister.4


Tissue Type Motion Sickness Narrative Structure Evil Spirit Horror Cinema 
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© Larrie Dudenhoeffer 2014

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  • Larrie Dudenhoeffer

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