Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Media Studies

Reader 1

Jennifer Friedlander

Reader 2

Carlin Wing

Reader 3

Kevin Wynter

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Using Sigmund Freud’s theory of ‘return of the repressed’ as a theoretical basis, this paper takes a case study approach using three critically acclaimed horror films. These films include Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1974), Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), and Ari Aster’s Midsommar (2019). With use of each film, the interaction between the repressed trauma of the protagonists’ and the film environment is explored, utilizing the notion that repressed trauma will always manifest itself as a symptom of the unconscious mind. Supporting theories include Slavoj Zizek’s notion that dreams must be read in terms of their form, stemming from Freud’s theory of dreams as the most direct route to unconscious material, which is used in relation to the dreams of both the protagonist in The Shining and Midsommar. Zizek’s “The Truth Arises from Misrecognition” also plays a large role in understanding the interactions between characters and environment within the filmscape. Finally, Robin Wood’s notion of basic and surplus repression in regard to the horror film exemplifies the importance of particular environments both in the formation of repressed trauma and the processing of it. The findings of this paper demonstrate that the horror film environment is particularly conducive to expressing the manifestations of repressed trauma and highlights the implications of repressive Westernized societies that encourage unhealthy manifestations of trauma rather than productive ones.