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The Wicker Man

Posted on August 3, 2015

Sacrifice and the Horror Film: The Wicker Man and The Cabin in the Woods

Dawn

Sacrifice is a central component of the horror narrative. We’re not talking about heroic self-sacrifice here (though that is sometimes on display): rather, horror films dramatize some seemingly primordial need, which runs through stories of the very earliest human cultures, to sacrifice others. Sacrifice is usually about appeasing “gods”—indeed, William Harmon has written that sacrificial killing is “inherent in the religious worldview.” The motif of blood sacrifice, though, has “frequently been disguised or attenuated” in the modern world, Harman continues. [i] And here’s where the horror film comes in, with yet another of its crucially important cultural functions. The horror film represents both the persistence of blood sacrifice and its “attenuation” or “disguise.” Sacrificial violence is indulged in, yet is displaced from the realm of the real to the realm of film (although the line separating those two realms is often much thinner than we might think).

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