Coming of Age in Horror: A Mini Discussion

Last month I watched a foreign horror film through Shudder: Blue My Mind.

The film, released in 2017, is a coming of age film about a young woman experiencing some significant changes that isn’t just puberty. What I enjoyed about the film is that our young protagonist is fighting so hard to be normal. She wants to be normal so bad. She’s hanging out with a new group of friends who do the typical teenage things a la drinking, sneaking out, drugs. I basically called this film Thirteen meets The Little Mermaid but darker.

And it got me to think about this idea sketched out in my little idea journal. Coming of Age themes in horror.

So we’re going to discuss that.

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Growing up is not easy.


Growing up and then going through puberty is the worst. But what happens when throughout puberty, the universe throws ANOTHER wrench at you? You get films like Blue My Mind, Jennifer’s Body, Raw, It Follows, Let the Right One In, IT, The Witch, Carrie, Ginger Snaps, Stand by Me, Phenomena (or Creepers) and many, many more.

carrie_1So then I wondered, what makes this topic in horror work or popular? The simple answer I have: growing up and experiencing those changes is scary. I cannot speak for the male species but for young girls growing into women, it’s… a whirlwind experience. The first period. Hormonal changes. Feeling like you’re the only one in the world, especially when it can start so young at the age of maybe 10 or 11. If you combine that with horror, you’ve got something worth talking about or at least experiencing through film. We want to fit in, we want to be normal. There’s nothing wrong with being normal but there’s also nothing wrong about standing out in a crowd either.

gingersnaps5Ginger Snaps was released in 2000 and is a film about two teen sisters (Ginger and Brigitte) who are obsessed with the macabre, with death. They create films and photography based media of their obsession. One night, they are attacked by a creature, Ginger especially is harmed but it triggered something within her. For some reason, her attack had started her very first period or menstrual cycle if you’d like that term. Her hormones went wild, wanting to experience the attention of guys which is confused for really wanting to tear flesh apart, in Ginger’s terms. Somehow I’m also thinking of the film Raw (a film where a young woman, a vegetarian, forced to eat meat and becomes addicted to actual flesh) and that can be thrown into this topic.

phenomena_5Blue My Mind follows that same trajectory, except instead of a were creature, she becomes a mermaid, something she was BORN with, not an outside influence. And if we’re following that route, Carrie does the same. It’s canon that Carrie is born with these amazing abilities, a product of nature and not nurture. And if you’re a fan of italian horror, Dario Argento’s Phenomena (or Creepers as another title) stars Jennifer Connelly, experiencing new abilities and communication with insects.

There’s something about the time period of growing up that makes us vulnerable. These are vulnerable times and I think that’s the big conclusion. Yes, these things changes can affect you as an adult but children and young adults… a different ballgame. It kind of fits my own personal theory that when we’re younger, we tend to believe in anything, we believe goodness in people, who are our friends, who can we trust, we’re seeing or experiencing things (on a supernatural level) because we’re “open”. The naivete is still present.

thecraft_4And if anything, certain things happen: the literal sense is a transformation will take place. Or the gaining of some kind of special ability to coincide with puberty, hormones, the critical developmental stages.

In conclusion of it all is… we want to see if the person will come out on top? Will they accept their fate or fight against it and possibly lose? Do they come out as a new person with growth or revert? Or maybe they don’t grow at all.

Are there films that you can think of that fits the “coming of age” category?

I can throw out Disturbing Behavior, ANOES 2: Freddy’s Revenge (I can see why), The Lost Boys…  The Faculty as just a handful off the top of my head.

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