As a writer who specializes in exploring the deeper symbolism to be found in horror movies and horror literature, I find it interesting that most people do not realize that the monsters that haunt our nightmares after seeing horror movies, or reading horror literature are symbols themselves. Monsters are one of the oldest types of horror symbolism as they have been haunting our subconscious for thousands of years.
The Elderly Are Right
One fear that many people have is that the old superstitions that their grandparents brought with them from the old country are real. Monsters in horror movies and horror literature like vampires, werewolves, zombies, and ghosts are all based on ancient superstitions and wives tales that have been mainstays in the older countries in the world almost since time began. These creatures scare us that these old superstitions and tales might be true, and would pull down the curtain of modern logic.
Modern science is the antithesis of those that believe that there might be monsters in the world. H.P. Lovecraft built his reputation on stories that told that there were creatures that time forgot. Monsters in horror movies and horror literature are the personification of the fear that science might not hold all of the answers and that our written history might have left certain aspects out. Cthulhu would be a great example of this.
Top of the Food Chain
Humans have believed that they were the top of the food chain for longer than the food chain has been in existence. Monsters in horror movies and horror literature that want to devour us like vampires and werewolves are a statement that we are not at the top of the food chain. Instead of being hunter/gatherers, we are gathered and hunted. Monsters are the personification of this ancient fear as well.
Personification of All Fears
At their core, monsters in horror movies and horror literature are personifications of the fears of humanity. While the first three fears might fit specifically into almost any instance of a monster in a horror movies or horror literature, it needs to be remembered that monsters are our fears personified and in the flesh.
Vampires symbolize our fears of having to give in to our sexual desires, or the sexual desires of others. Werewolves are a personification of not being able to control our inner rage. Ghosts are begat of the fear that there is not an afterlife. Creatures in the woods would be a symbol of our fears of what strange things we could come across when wandering alone. I could go on and on, but I think that you get the picture about monsters in horror movies and horror literature.
The next time that you see monsters in horror movies, or read about them in horror literature, think about what they are meant to symbolize. What fear is it that the director or writer is trying to tap in to? Is this a fear that you subconsciously share with others?