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Themes of Horror

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By schesno88
Words 1080
Pages 5
A constant theme in many horror movies and poems is the presence of psychological torture. The most sadistic and cruel inflictor of pain is often our own mind, and when someone manages to manipulate us on a mental level, we are at our most vulnerable. Edgar Allen Poe was a master at painting vivid storylines of people going insane with the prospect of their own doom. Hollywood has combined classic fear-inducing plots with gruesome special effects to bring that same mentality to audiences. In the short story by Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado”, the main antagonist effortlessly manipulates and traps his victim. In much of the same way, the gory “Saw” franchise focuses on a madman who sees himself as a vigilante and takes justice into his own hands by torturing his victims on both a mental and psychological level. “The Cask of Amontillado” and the “Saw” movies share the combined use of entrapment, manipulation, and psychological and physical infliction of pain while being at polar extremes in the methods used upon their victims. Entrapment plays an important role in both horror sagas. In the story of the Amontillado, Fortunado is taken deep into the vault. As the two walked deeper down, Fortunado was repeatedly asked if he wanted to turn back “We will go back; you will be ill and I cannot be responsible. Besides there is Luchesi” (Poe), but his pride and vanity drove him on farther into the catacombs in search of the Amontillado. Fortunato was led into a niche where instead of the Amontillado stood two iron stalls with a short chain attached. Quickly the links were thrown around Fortunado’s waist and locking him in. Then the killer uncovered a quantity of building stone and mortar and proceeded to wall up the entrance permanently trapping and burying alive Fortunado within the vault. The Saw movies follow a similar pattern of traps and situations. Often victims would wake up trapped in the “games” of a genius engineer known as the Jigsaw Killer. Sometimes waking up with contraptions attached to their bodies including “the reverse bear trap” and “the death mask” ("Traps - Saw Movies"), both of which were placed around the victims head and would snap if a key was not used to unlock it before time ran out. Unlike Poe’s story, Saw takes a more gruesome form of entrapment. The victims are trapped within torture devices where they must solve riddles, often of which involve some form of extreme torture and suffering to pass. Almost all of the unwilling participants fail to complete there tests and are killed by their traps. On their pursuit for revenge or vigilante justice, both killers manipulate their victims as well as the environment to set up their murderous plans. In Poe’s story, the driving force for the antagonist is revenge that he seeks. “A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong” (Poe). In order for his plans to work and no witnesses to be found the killer sends his servants home, eliminating any possibility of coming to Fortunado’s aid. He also manipulates the state of mind of Fortunado by playing on his pride and competitiveness along with continuously giving him wine to the point of drunkenness as they walked down the vault. Fortunado only wakes back to sobriety when it is too late. Either by himself or with the help of his apprentices, Jigsaw manipulates almost every detail in his games. He manipulates the environment so the only means to escape are through torturous games testing far beyond the limit a human being can endure. The victims are almost always drugged in some way only to wake up within an environment where Jigsaw pulls all of the strings like a puppet master. As one officer describe Jigsaw, he "liked to book himself front row seats to his own sick little games." Psychological and psychical infliction of pain resonates through both horror tales. In “The Cask of Amontillado”, the infliction of pain comes as Fortunado awakens from his drunken state only to find himself shackled and being buried alive by a man who he considered a friend. We can only infer what went through the mind and body of Fortunado during his last moments of life before all the air in his tomb ran out. Feelings of fear, confusion, betrayal, sadness, and bargaining must have rushed through his mind while his body, left in the dark room with only a fleeting torch, choked to death on the last remaining pockets of air. In the Saw series the level of physical and psychological pain is taken to extreme levels. Jigsaw’s traps are seen in his mind as rehabilitation for people who he feels have no appreciation for life. “He has taken it upon himself to act as the judge, jury, and executioner of the people that he decides to torment” (Poupard). Strapped into his sadistic torture mechanisms the victims are forced to choose between putting themselves through incredible pain and mutilation or face imminent death. They are given the ability to escape, but many failed to perform their tasks and were brutally killed. For example, in one case a man strapped to a device called the “venus fly trap”. He task was to use a scalpel to remove a key that way implanted behind his eye. He was not able to do it and the trap, consisting of two clamps with nail spikes around his head, slammed shut killing him instantly. Other traps include “the angel trap”, “the razor wire maze”, the “furnace” ("Traps - Saw Movies") and other sadistic contraptions meant to challenge the victims will to live. These horror tales terrify us because of the fear that any one of us could be a victim. The fear of death and having another control our lives takes the power out of our hands and into the hands of the puppet master (Poupard). These stories serve as a reminder that although the stories are decades apart theme of entrapment, manipulation, and infliction of pain still strikes fear into us.

Reference Page:
Poe, Edgar Allen. "The Cask of Amontillado." Literature.Org. Knowledge Matters LTD, n.d. Web. 21 Oct 2010. ;. Poupard, Vincent L. "Why the Saw Movies Scares the Hell Out of Us." (2007): n. pag. Web. 18 Oct 2010. ;. Traps - Saw Movies. sawfilms.wikia, n.d. Web. 20 Oct 2010. ;.

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