Concept Of Haunted House: Threat Of Monster Provoked By Problematic Mother-daughter Relationship

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In any horror film, the presence of monster is a necessary part of the story because as Carrol states: “Monsters are natural subjects for curiosity; and they straightforwardly warrant the ratiocinative energies the plot lavishes upon them” (Carroll 5). In this essay, it will be discussed how monsters can differently create horror in the heterosexual nuclear family.

The Haunting (Robert Wise) and Carrie (Brian de Palma) are example of traditional horror and terror of Gothic where monsters have different appearances. In the first film, The Haunting, the monster is presented under the form of the house itself which is haunted and has a strong influence on the mental health of the protagonist which will be discussed furthermore. In Carrie, the monster is a leading character of the film, a female teenager who developed her telekinetic power during her first menstruation. Both films show a problematic mother-daughter relationship which is a representation of family horror. In the Hunting and Carrie, the protagonists are female which has a toxic relationship with their mothers. In order to understand their relationship, it is necessary to describe characteristics of the protagonists’ inner state of mind. Eleanor, the protagonist of the Haunting, is a vulnerable, desperate and naïve woman, she spent the last 11 years of her life watching after her demanding and controlling now-dead mother (The Haunting 1:15:40). She has no one who can take care of her, and for her sister, she is unwanted person in the house (The Haunting 10:59). On the other hand, Carrie, the second protagonist, is intimidated and weak person which is bullied by her classmates and her mother as well who is concerned that her daughter is full of sins. Despite the difference in age, both protagonists have enough similar inner state of mind and possess similar supernatural powers, therefore both are embittered against the world and the main reason of that is the mother’s influence.

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In the context of the movie, the settings play an important role to indicate the horror in family; the house metaphorically represents the violence in family. The house is an associated by the relationship with the mother. The haunted house, in the Haunting, named Hill House, pays more attention to Eleonor because she is more vulnerable than others which means she is the easiest victim: she is sensitive and does not have sense of belonging after the death of her mother which indicates she does not have anything to lose at the beginning of the film. The house plays on her emotions by taking the form of her mother and because the victims are mostly women, as we can see at the beginning of the film, it may be assumed that the house is concerned to punish women more than men. The house itself mysteriously wrote ‘Help Eleonor Come Home’ on the wall that give her the sense that she is wanted person there and house needs her, there: “House wants me” and “I don’t want to go away from here” (The Haunting 1:36:16). As a result, her obsession with the house distress her sense of normality by making her feel comfortable with abnormality. In contrast, in Carrie, the house represents different feelings to the protagonist even if they are represented similarly in both films: cold and dark even on sunny days; for the protagonist it is an unpleasant place to stay because of all the suffering that her mother inflicted on her (Carrie 14:23). As someone who is religious, her mother wanted to punish her daughter for having abnormal powers even if she has to kill her (Carrie 1:28:44). Another similar detail in the movies is that both protagonists die at the end, precisely, they kill themselves on the territory of the house, however in Carrie the house self-destruct after the death of the protagonist’s mother representing the self-liberation from the Evil in contrary to The Haunting where the house is staying “a living organism” and energizing itself by killing visitors using their vulnerability (Bunnell 88).

In both films, the heterosexual nuclear family is affected by the threat of monster. In the Haunting it does not clear whereas in the Hill House the protagonist’s mother ghost was really there or it was mind trick in form of projection of her guilt for not being with her mother when she was suffering because of lack of the medicament, but it is clear that the monster uses the memory of family problems against the main character which makes her innocent (The Haunting 1:15:40). According to Wood, “The child-monsters are all shown as product products of the family itself regarded as guilty or innocent” (Creed 77). In Carrie’s case, the protagonist’s mother herself creates a monster by abnormally mistreats her daughter and because of her dominance and constant bulling from the childhood, it makes difficult for Carrie to have the normal life like her classmates. Carrie’s mother projects her own guilt on her daughter because she could not stay innocent to the end of her life, therefore she punishes herself as well as her daughter to gain the God’s forgiveness (Carrie 1:26:48). Despite the fact that Carrie killed almost at school, she does not provoke the audience’s disgust.

In conclusion, the family horror is created by the presence of complicated mother-daughter relationships. In Haunting and Carrie, the protagonists suffers from problematic relationships with their mother which affects their life more precisely lead them to commit suicide. In both films, the representation of home is similar, however the meaning in the protagonists’ life is different. Therefore, the mother-daughter relationships are directly connected with the threat of the monster in the horror films.

Works Cited

  1. Wise, Robert, director. The Haunting. Argyle Enterprises, 1963
  2. De Palma, Brian, director. Carrie. Red Bank Films, 1976
  3. Carrol, Noël. “The General Theory of Horrific Appeal.” pp. 1–9.
  4. Bunnell, Charlene. “The Gothic: A Literary Genre’s Transition to Film.” Plank of Reason, pp. 79–99.
  5. Creed, Barbara. “Woman as Witch: Carrie.” The Monstrous-Feminine, pp. 73–83.


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