Every Spooky Thing is Phallic

When you watch a slasher film, someone is going to get penetrated.

With a knife, yes, but I think we all know the real implications here: Knives, chainsaws, and the like are often used against (women) victims, and even vampire fangs, which penetrate the skin can be phallic in nature. Vampire kings often have castle towers, and victims in these films are more often than not young, sexual women.

After all, that’s why you never have sex in a horror film.

Unless the horror movie is Cherry Falls. Then you can have all the sex.

Unless the horror movie is Cherry Falls. Then you can have all the sex.

This is especially true of slasher films, which gave us the concept of the “Final Girl”–a pure female character who survives until the end because she upholds some form of “correct” behavior. In Halloween, she’s a sweet girl who works hard and isn’t a dirty loudmouth like her friend. In Friday the 13th she’s kind little Alice. In Wishmaster, she’s an innocent woman wracked with guilt over her parent’s death and who refused to succumb to the greed of wishes.

Which plays upon the “virgin/whore” dichotomy: Either a character is a raucous slut who deserves to get (excuse my language) metaphorically “fucked” by the overtly masculine (but apparently incapable of sex) bad guy, or she’s pure enough to make it to the end.

But masculine/feminine symbols don’t end with slasher films, or even the concept of the Final Girl. Bruce “Don’t Call Me Ash” Campbell’s character, Ash, in Evil Dead is not a woman, but he is the only survivor. Thrice. That doesn’t stop director Sam Raimi from making the most overt phallic symbol in a horror movie ever when he has a character who is literally raped by trees and thus turns into a Candarian Demon.


And so a woman becomes violated, and thus turns evil–despite being the only non-raucous person heading to the woods that day.

The problem with this concept being that it was not left in the 80s and early 90s: And is still played upon in films like All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, The Collection, The House of the Devil, and most obnoxiously the impending film Final Girl.

In fact, the concept of masculine sexual actions being represented in horror film as a way to kill women is so prevalent they even wrote a book about it, which is worth a read for anyone interested in film, horror, or feminism.

So next time you watch a horror film pay attention, because everything is phallic.



  1. From what I’ve seen and read, horror movies are mostly morality stories. The most moral characters survive…the ones that don’t do drugs or have sex or disobey their parents, like most of the teenagers in horror movies. Killing off the characters that make all the right decisions would go against the idea of innocence, and would change the meaning of the movie.

    Here’s a good list of the types of characters that won’t survive in horror movies:
    It’s basically everyone. My favorite is the guy who’s mad at everything. You guess he’s going to die pretty early on in the movie just so you don’t have to deal with him anymore.

  2. There’s also the late 70s-onwards trend of seeing the kill through the killer’s eyes (perfect example is the first kill in Halloween), which makes the viewer complicit to the act, and so the moral judgement.

  3. In high school my friends and I went on a 14 hours Grey’s Anatomy watching streak. If I remember correctly the first episode depicts a rape victim who is admitted into the hospital. About two days or so later, the rapist comes into the hospital with a crazy amount of bleeding on a certain phallic organ. When the rape victim goes into surgery the doctors pull out a part of a certain phallic organ from her stomach. In this case, the actual weapon is phallic. The idea behind weapons being phallic goes much deeper than horror movies. it can been used as an intertextual symbol tool that pins mens against women in society.

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