For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.

Institutionalized Horror

by Mugino
Horror, a genre uniquely named for the viewer’s psychological response, is antithetical to rules of propriety, perhaps even more so than the most lowbrow of comedies. Fart jokes don’t elicit as much shock and revulsion as a dismemberment (at least not before all screens are equipped with smell-o-vision). Aside from reflecting contemporary mores by exploiting and violating them, horror movies also capture the sociopolitical anxieties of their time. Mental illness and the institutions that treat it — despite decades of reforms in psychiatric care — continue to suffer the indignities of horror cliches. Given the systemic abuses of centuries… Read more

Horror, a genre uniquely named for the viewer’s psychological response, is antithetical to rules of propriety, perhaps even more so than the most lowbrow of comedies. Fart jokes don’t elicit as much shock and revulsion as a dismemberment (at least not before all screens are equipped with smell-o-vision). Aside from reflecting contemporary mores by exploiting and violating them, horror movies also capture the sociopolitical anxieties of their time.

Mental illness and the institutions that treat it — despite decades of reforms in psychiatric care — continue to suffer the indignities of horror cliches. Given the systemic abuses of centuries past, when asylums were essentially prisons or playgrounds for barbaric experimentation, it’s not easy to cast off the shackles of shame.

For the untalented, the visceral terror of staring into madness also makes for cheap thrills.

Psychiatric hospitals, mental wards, and insane asylums — often abandoned derelicts of past nightmares revisited in the context of an arrogant, yet vulnerable, modern enlightenment — fuel the horror in the feature films listed below. Do the stereotypes propagate fear, or is it the other way around? Will there ever be a time when the genre ceases to be relevant?

Read less