Horror films and writings are usually always portrayed as stories of good versus evil. However, the horror genre has long been a focus of feminist theory (Krahn). There have been many criticisms of the genre, from the representation of women, the explicit violence against them, and the ongoing objectification of them by both men and society (Krahn). Horror films and writings are often known for portraying women as objects, rather than subjects, to convey a story’s narrative. For example, women are often labeled as secondary objects to aid a main protagonist or are added for decorative purposes.
“Good” female characters are also generally portrayed to be young and attractive (Krahn). Horror films and writings are also known to represent women as weak and vulnerable, powerless, or hyper sexual objects of pleasure and desire. The characteristics of this genre can be seen in the short film “Ahalya” directed by Shujoy Ghosh, the short film “Human Form” directed and written by Doyeon Noh, and the short story “The Youngest Doll” written by Rosario Ferre. For example, the short film “Ahalya” portrays a woman who is used as a seductress to entice victims for her husbands plans. The short film “Human Form” depicts a young girl who’s vulnerability to the beauty pressures of her society ultimately leads to her downfall. Finally, “The Youngest Doll” shows a woman who is depicted as an adornment and is trapped in and consumed by the confinements of her society.
Overall, the true horrors that horror films depict are the portrayals of women in stereotypical fashions such as being hyper sexual objects of desire, or vulnerable victims or adornments trapped in and consumed by the confinements of their societies. The short horror film “Ahalya”, directed by Shujoy Ghosh, shows the true horror of how women in horror films are depicted as hyper sexual objects of desire and pleasure. In this film, the goal of Ahalya’s husband, Goutam Sadhu, is to use her beauty and body to entice men into becoming the next victims for his dolls. This can be foreshadowed by the audience by taking notice of how all of Sadhu’s dolls are young men.
Goutam Sadhu’s wife, Ahalya, is first introduced to the audience, and to the police officer, as a seductress. She is depicted as young and beautiful, and invites a stranger into her home while she is wearing only very little clothing. The audience can see this is done purposely to entice the police officer from the start. This is proven when she is walking and the police officer is shown to be eyeing her body (Ghosh, “Ahalya”). Ahalya and Goutam Sadhu begin to set the tone to entice the police officer when Ahalya is portrayed to be much younger than her husband and is pushed to be with younger men. This is shown when the police officer mistakes Ahalya for being Goutam Sadhu’s daughter and when Goutam Sadhu states, “I am also tired of telling this girl she should move on…find somebody who has more life in him…God knows what she sees in me” (Ghosh,”Ahalya”). Sadhu further sexualizes Ahalya by adding, “And it is not as if I am very good in bed” (Ghosh, “Ahalya”).
Throughout the film, Ahalya continues to be portrayed as a hyper sexual object by the way she uses her body to seduce the officer. For example, this is seen when her hand touches the officer’s as she is handing him tea, when her bare feet brush against his legs, and by the multiple times she makes eye contact with him (Ghosh,”Ahalya”). Goutam Sadhu further pushes Ahalya’s sexuality onto the officer by stating, “Beautiful isn’t she…All my creations are because of her” (Ghosh,”Ahalya”). At the end of the film, after successfully depicting Ahalya as a hyper sexual seductress to the officer, Goutam Sadhu uses the temptation of being with Ahalya to tempt the officer into believing his crazy story of the magic stone. This is shown when Goutam Sadhu states, “Use the stone and pretend you are me…And then go and return my wife’s mobile” (Ghosh,”Ahalya”).
The possibility of sleeping with Ahalya is enough to entice the officer. When the officer finds Ahalya she is laying seductively on her bed and the officer realizes he has become Goutam Sadhu. The officer gives in to his final temptation after Ahalya states, “And why did you lie that you are not good in bed…Get rid of him quickly and come up at once”, which causes the officer to meet his fate of becoming the next doll (Ghosh, “Ahalya”). Overall, Ahalya’s character is the perfect example of how women in horror films are depicted as being hyper sexual objects, using their bodies for evil instead of good.
The short film “Human Form”, directed and written by Doyeon Noh, is a Korean body horror film that shows the true horror of the vulnerability of women to become powerless victims to the tragedies of objectification and vanity in their societies. The main character, Inhyung Chung, is isolated in a world where everyone wears the same surgically-altered appearance, which is the utmost depiction of beauty. Inhyung Chung is victimized by this society and is obsessed with obtaining the same artificial face that everyone else has. In the beginning of the film, it is clear that this definition of beauty is drilled into little girls’ minds from a young age.
This is shown when Inhyung Chung is shown as a child drawing distorted images of women’s faces, and her mother praising them by hanging them on the wall. The film shows that all of Inhyung Chung’s drawings on the wall depict the same distorted face, which shows the audience that the young girl is trained to see only one form of beauty (Noh,”Human Form”). Inhyung Chung’s obsessiveness with the stereotypical beauty standards of her society is shown to the audience when she is introduced as a teenager and she is staring at her face in a mirror, waiting to go to the plastic surgeon with her friend. The obsessiveness with sameness is further depicted when Inhyung Chung gives her lollipop to her friend and she takes out her own lollipop to compare it with Inhyung Chung’s (Noh,”Human Form”). This is a great example of showing how the young girls want to fit in as much as possible, even through small, silly things.
When Inhyung Chung’s family deny her from surgery money, it can be interpreted that they are trying to protect her for as long as possible, realizing their own mistakes and the evils that their society has forced upon vulnerable young girls. For example, when Inhyung Chung asks for surgery her female family members state, “What is wrong with your face…You are just a kid there is no rush” (Noh, “Human Form”). Inhyung Chung leaves her house and walks with a hoodie over head, almost trying to hide her face from the rest of her society, since it does not meet the beauty standards. Desperate to do anything to fit into society, Inhyung Chung notices a flyer that reads, “Research participants needed for plastic surgery” and submits herself to be tested on, like an object (Noh, “Human Form”). The male doctor is shown to take advantage of the young girl’s desperateness and vulnerability by mutilating her face and, essentially, killing her. The true ending of the film remains a mystery.
However, it can be interpreted that Inhyung Chung did not survive the surgery when the doctor states, “Miss can you hear me…can you open your eyes…I am in trouble” (Noh,”Human Form”). The most horrific part of the film is when no one notices that the girl sitting at the dinner table is not Inhyung Chung, but instead, just another Korean girl with a standardized, surgically-altered face. Overall, this film depicts that one of the true horrors in horror films is the vulnerability and weakness that overcome women when they are trying to fit into their societies. The horror short story “The Youngest Doll” by Rosario Ferre also portrays that the true horror in this story is how women are depicted as adornments trapped in and consumed by the confinements of their societies. Ferre’s story depicts an aunt who’s beauty was taken from her by a prawn bite and can, therefore, no longer fit into society. This is shown when the author writes, “She had been very beautiful, but the prawn that she hid under the long muslin folds of her skirt had stripped her of all vanity” (Ferre 163).
The author demonstrates that because the aunt is no longer beautiful, she is no longer worth anything to men or society. This is shown when the author writes, “She shut herself up in the house, rejecting all suitors” (Ferre 163). Therefore, the aunt projects the beauty that was taken from her into meticulous dolls for her nieces, which earn her the “respect and reverence of the whole family” (Ferre 164). However, the reader soon notices the women in the story are no different than the beautifully crafted dolls that end up being used for money and decoration.
At this point, attention is turned to the youngest girl and her life as a newlywed, as she quickly discovers her husband has little emotional substance and is predominantly concerned with materialistic desires and appearances. For example, much like the doll her aunt makes of her, the youngest girl is given away in marriage and put on display as a decoration and a statement to the community. For example, the doctor makes her sit on the balcony everyday so that “the people passing on the street would be sure to see that he had married into society” (Ferre 166). Similarly to how the doctor uses the youngest girl to make money, he also tries to sell pieces of her doll. This is shown when he “pried the eyes out of the doll with the tip of his scalpel and pawned them for an expensive gold pocket watch” (Ferre 166).
Trapped and controlled by her society, the youngest girl becomes more and more like her doll and less like a human. This is shown when the author writes, “The youngest girl continued to sit on the balcony, motionless in her muslin in lace, always with her eyelids lowered” (Ferre 167). The author also mentions that when patients sat near her they “perceived around them a peculiar smell that made them involuntarily recall the slow suppuration of a sweetsop” (Ferre 167). Later on, the youngest girl was said to have kept the same “firm and porcelain skin” that she had when she was younger, even as her husband was growing older (Ferre 167).
In the moment that the doctor hears water in the youngest girl’s body instead of a heartbeat, the reader realizes that the youngest girl can no longer escape the transfiguration into a decorative object, or a doll, which was destined to her from the confinements of society. This is finally proven at the end of story when the doctor approaches the youngest girl and the author writes, “The doll opened her eyelids and out of the empty sockets of her eyes he saw the furious antennae of the prawns begin to emerge” (Ferre 167). In the end, this film depicts how the youngest girl was used as an object and a decoration, and was ultimately consumed by the confinements of her society. Overall, horror films and writings are often criticized for their stereotypical treatment and portrayal of women. In horror, women are often depicted as weak objects of society and are only worth anything if they are young and attractive. Therefore, it can be argued that the true horrors depicted in horror writings and films are the portrayals of women in stereotypical fashions such as being hyper sexual objects of desire, or vulnerable victims or adornments trapped in and consumed by the confinements of their societies.
The short film “Ahalya” directed by Shujoy Ghosh, the short film “Human Form” directed and written by Doyeon Noh, and the short story “The Youngest Doll” written by Rosario Ferre all provide evidence depicting the treatment and portrayal of women in horror films and writings. The short film “Ahalya” portrays a hyper sexual woman who’s body is used and sexualized to entice men into becoming her husband’s victims. The short film “Human Form” depicts a weak young girl who’s vulnerability and desire to fit into society ultimately leads to her to her downfall. Finally, the short story “The Youngest Doll” portrays a woman who is perceived as an adornment and is so trapped and confined by her society that she ultimately becomes what she is perceived as. Overall, horror films and writings need to start breaking the stereotypical perceptions of women, and show them not as objects, but as people.