PROJECTIONS: Women in Horror Films

Six-week evening course exploring the haunting role of women in horror films from a psychoanalytic perspective.

Loading Events
  • This event has passed.

1 October, 2018, 7:00 pm - 5 November, 2018, 9:00 pm

£75 - £100

Book Now
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. (2015)

The horror genre in film follows from the literary tradition established by Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley, eliciting physiological and psychological reactions through suspense, gore, the macabre and the supernatural. Horror films transfix and terrify audiences in equal measure, unfailingly achieving suspension of disbelief because fear is a universal emotion.

The position occupied by female characters in horror cinema is often ambivalent, ranging from victims of violence to perpetrators of dread. In The Question of Lay Analysis (1926), Sigmund Freud wrote, “The sexual life of adult women is a dark continent for psychology.” Even at the end of his life, Freud was preoccupied by a question that never left him: “What do women want?” – the mystery of feminine jouissance persisted with the advancement of psychoanalytic thought. This perception of ‘the unknown’ frequently drives the depiction of women in dark tales.

Relying in part on Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection, we will investigate cinematic representations of female bodies that appear paradoxically fragmented, decayed and impure, as well as wholesome, nurturing and attractive. Kristeva defines horror as a breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of boundaries between self and other. The abject disturbs identity, borders and rules – horror films portraying unclean and taboo elements of womanhood reveal the entwined dual system of Eros (beauty, sexual awakening, child birth) and Thanatos (disease, destruction, death).

Other concepts in the series will include Freud’s uncanny, Jacques Lacan’s mirror stage, and R.D. Laing’s ontological insecurity. It is sometimes claimed that the portrayal of women in horror films is misogynistic, but here the proposition is that the horror genre affords us an indispensable language for approaching the complex dimensions of feminine subjectivity.

Please note: This topic was taught at Freud Museum London last year but the current course presents an entirely new film selection (all titles below). Advance viewing is optional, bespoke montages will be shown during weekly sessions. Content warning: graphic imagery will be presented – viewer discretion is advised.

Week 1: IDENTITY – Eyes Without A Face (1960), The Stepford Wives (1975), Martyrs (2008)

Week 2: LOVE  – Audition (1999), Trouble Every Day (2001), Hounds of Love (2016)

Week 3: PREGNANCY – Inside (2007), Prevenge (2016), mother! (2017)

Week 4: POWERS – Phenomena (1985), American Mary (2012), Excision (2012)

Week 5: VAMPIRES – Dark Shadows (1991 USA TV Series), The Addiction (1995), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

Week 6: DEMONS – Jennifer’s Body (2009), Satanic (2016), Under The Shadow (2016)

PROJECTIONS is psychoanalysis for film interpretation. PROJECTIONS empowers film spectators to express subjective associations they consider to be meaningful. Expertise in psychoanalytic theory is not necessary – the only prerequisite is the desire to enter and inhabit the imaginary world of film, which is itself a psychoanalytic act. MARY WILD, a Freudian cinephile from Montreal, is the creator of PROJECTIONS.


1 October, 2018, 7:00 pm
5 November, 2018, 9:00 pm
£75 - £100
Event Category:


Freud Museum London
20 Maresfield Gardens
London, NW3 5SX United Kingdom
+ Google Map
020 7435 2002

« All Events