5 Terrifying Uses of Sexual Symbolism in Horror Films
Sex and film go together like sex and dressing rooms or sex and portable toilets. And a lot of times it's pretty awesome, like in the cinematic tour de force that is Joanna Angel's entire career. But other times it becomes weird, like in Lars von Trier's Antichrist or Howard the Duck. But there's something even more insidious than a Willem Dafoe BJ on a scary tree, or Lea Thompson fucking a duck, and that's the subtle and generally-less-than-subtle symbolism that filmmakers will toss into movies that aren't even about sex.
Sexual imagery is amazing at eliciting a physical and emotional response from a viewer, one that probably mixes arousal and revulsion. Why revulsion? Because penises and vaginas have very clear and defined roles in our lives, and when you start making them do other things (symbolically), shit gets weird. Trust me, I'm an Internet comedy writer. I know what I'm talking about.
The most infamous example of sexual imagery run amok is the result of disturbing artist H.R. Giger and director Riley Scott. The entire Alien franchise is nothing but dicks and butts and vaginas that want to hump you into oblivion. It's not enough that it's sexual imagery; it's sexual imagery that wants to hurt you so bad, you feel like you're watching Prometheus.
We've told you before about how the aliens are just giant penises with even smaller penises in their constantly ejaculating mouths, and how the chambers in the alien pilot vessels are all accessed through giant vaginas, but if you try to actually add up all the imagery in just one Alien movie, you'll be up to your neck in labia and foreskins before the third act. Look at the face hugger. It's an ass with a vagina on the bottom and penis fingers. The vagina is actually at the end of a penis that gets forced down your throat once the penis fingers hug your head and squeeze its butt-body all tight against you. It then proceeds to peen-vag your throat so hard that you end up with a baby penis-headed monster inside you that explodes its own birth canal out of your chest.
So ... was it good for you?
The alien Queen has a giant vag chute that deposits gross eggs everywhere, each one a big, green seed pod with huge labia on top. Whenever someone gets close enough to stimulate them, the labia spread wide open. The Queen's tail is a massive dong that rips Bishop in half through the process of penetrating him -- he gets fucked right in half!
The entire franchise is built on a foundation of sexual terror: the fear of being violated by the Other, by something different from oneself, in a violent and uncontrolled way. The aliens are a semi-organized and inexplicably intelligent species of interstellar rapists that will violate you to death and actually use your violation to fuel the cycle by producing another of their kind from your pain. As Alien 3 made abundantly clear with the alien/dog hybrid, the alien offspring is partially born of the genetics of its host animal, meaning your little rapist baby is literally, genetically a part of you. You're not just victimized once, you're forced to partake in the victimization of another generation of victims. That's even worse.
The Predator's Face
The only real reason to have the Predator meet the Alien species is to compare vaginas. The Predator is the ultimate misogynist vagina dentata monster, an advanced alien hunter with unstoppable technology, a pathological need to kill, and, hidden beneath its armor, a screaming, fang-filled vagina mouth that mocks you with the sound of your own laughter and curse words.
Look at the original Predator film: the manliest men in the history of all time, plus Hawkins, with massive guns in a hot, steamy jungle. It's sweat and muscles and massive barrels on the hunt. But the thing they're hunting is also hunting them, watching them as they fumble about through the woods chasing their own tails, learning about them, playing with them until it decides to make its own move and start picking them off one at a time. The entire movie is an "alpha male's" skewed perspective on dating -- women on the prowl, using and abusing men who, despite all their power, still fall victim to the sly and subtle cruelty of the pussy. And that's all it is, it just has a vagina face. There's nothing else feminine about it because the entire female has been reduced to one body part that now has teeth in it.
Fap ... fap ... fap ... fap
At the very end, the most dominant of males must face off directly with the beast, look it in its true face, and finally use his own cunning, fighting subtlety and subterfuge with subtlety and subterfuge, to destroy it. And the final showdown has the hero staring in bewilderment, asking, "What the fuck are you?" because he can't even figure out what the thing he's been after for so long is or what to do with it. And how does it respond? Derisive mockery, followed by an over-the-top explosion. It is the irrational woman making fun of him and then going ballistic.
You may think I'm really reaching here, but so many scenes parallel this hunter/prey sexual relationship, it's uncanny. Consider Mac firing blindly into the woods as he's joined by the rest of the group -- a whole platoon of men shooting their weapons off aimlessly, being led by their dicks, if you will. And when the creature finally does bleed, who notices? The woman. If it bleeds, we can kill it -- its blood is a sign of weakness now. How this movie hasn't caused a feminist film critic to explode is beyond me.
The Starship Troopers Brain Bug
Starship Troopers is a mind-boggling mix of satire, boobs, and terrible acting. It curiously melds to form a very fun movie to watch, just so long as you've had a cocktail or two ahead of time to help ameliorate all the Casper Van Dien and Denise Richards you're going to have to endure. If the two of them got together to perform Waiting for Godot, Godot would show up halfway through and punch them both in the neck.
Against the backdrop of an interstellar war against bugs who, for whatever reason, decided to team up despite being different species and having nothing that appears to be on par with human-level intelligence or civilization at all, we're eventually introduced to the brains of the whole bug operation, the cleverly named brain bug, which is the unit that coordinates bug efforts and seems to have some cunning and military planning skills, so good for him. Also, he's a giant turd with a vagina face that houses a secret splooge-covered stab-cock that can eat brains. That's pretty dramatic.
Go on, push it in real deep. Get a little slimy.
The entire brain bug body is rendered as amorphous and vaguely gross. It looks kind of like CG intestine, if nothing else. Only the face, with many eyes surrounding its terrifying vagina maw, has any definition, and capturing this thing is the biggest coup for the human military in the entire film. Capturing this magnificent space twat is what turns the tide of war and gives humanity the advantage. And how does that even occur? Doogie Howser has to use some goddamn superpowers to figure it out. You need a gay man using government-honed psychic abilities to understand space vag, because otherwise it's not just a mystery, it's a sinister, all-intelligent, and devious one responsible for countless deaths and, somehow, the destruction of Buenos Aires.
Also, if you're caught alone with it, it will stab you in the brain with its Bowie dick and suck your brains out. If it literally fucks with your head, it will then be able to figuratively fuck with everyone afterward by using your knowledge against you. Did the same man who wrote Predator write this? Surprisingly not. But the same conclusion can be drawn here as in Predator -- the vagina is a mysterious hole that will lead to your destruction unless you have superpowers to overcome it.
Evil Dead Vines
One of the most disturbing scenes in The Evil Dead was made somewhat more cringe-worthy thanks to the evolution of special effects in the recent remake, and that's the forest rape scene. If you're not familiar, allow me to cause you some discomfort -- there's a scene in both the original and the remake in which a woman flees dark forces in the woods, only to have vines come alive and bind her at the wrist and ankle while an extra vine then proceeds to sexually violate her. Last time I was in the woods, I was promised a hand job from a fir tree, but all it did was steal my wallet.
There are probably enough scholarly papers out there to fill a bottomless pit about how pretty much anything in a film longer than it is wide is a phallic symbol. I don't buy that at all. Everything can't be a phallic symbol; sometimes rectangles and tubes and rods just fuckin' happen, and we need to deal with that without presuming the world of shapes is trying to buttfuck us all the time. That said, when a vine literally rapes a person, it's a phallic symbol.
Yeah, you know what I mean.
The sexual symbolism is elevated beyond the mundane symbolism of gun as penis or car as penis. (Note: Every gun and car is a penis in movies. In any movie when a gun is mounted on a car, it's penises mounted on penises. If the car is driving around the parking lot of a high-rise building, it's penis cubed, and there's so much meta-cock on the screen, you just turned ever so slightly gay. Oddly, this applies even if you're a woman.)
If nature itself can be a penis, we're all doomed to be humped endlessly everywhere we go. Worse than this is the cold brutality of it -- a dried up, rough, and sliver-filled piece of wood entering your zone of no slivers.
If you're ranking off-putting sexual symbolism, the bottom rung is just unattractive symbolism, like a penis with a wart. The next level is violent, with any rape symbolism, because it makes us feel vulnerable, violated, and disgusted. Then there's the level populated by awful, non-sexual items penetrating our orifices against our will guided by the unseen forces of evil. That shit just ain't right.
Dead Alive Rebirth
If you've never seen Dead Alive (aka Braindead), you're probably less attractive to the opposite sex than you think you are. Please see it immediately. It's an early effort by Peter "Lord of the Rings" Jackson and shows that, without a multimillion-dollar budget and a gaggle of digitally shrunken actors, his real passion was grotesque insanity. Such a good movie.
The basic story is about how a Sumatran rat monkey causes zombism (makes sense) and how our hero's atrociously overbearing and horrible mother becomes the victim of this creature and then becomes an undead monster, spreading her undead disease all willy-nilly while her son tries to contain the problem and also date a local girl. It's charming, and it culminates in a lawnmower massacre the likes of which you've never seen.
I'm about to spoil the end for you, so that's your fault for having never seen it if you haven't, but the final scene finds the hero's mother, now a giant-boobed, two-story monster, forcing her own son back into her undead womb in a way that never fails to make me laugh. This is followed shortly thereafter by him cutting his way out again and being reborn in a deluge of gore and guts. He births himself from his undead monster mother's insides, forcing a new birth canal with the help of a crucifix he uses to cut her apart. Should any of us ever have to actually see the creation of a man-size vagina cut from the inside of a giant, rotting mother-monster with a symbol of the Christian religion? Probably not, but it made for a hell of an ending.