Not surprisingly, many horror movie villains suffer from serious mental illness, mental disorder, or physical ailments that can cause them to behave strangely. Become monsters who commit atrocities against innocent victims, stalking, murdering, raping, molesting and bullying their prey.
Sometimes a vicious cycle of torture, misery, insanity and criminality is created in which the victim becomes the victim of other victims who are often just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their actions are so horrific that some people confuse their actions with demons, immortal goblins, mutants, ghosts, or demons themselves.
Although these films often allow supernatural and natural possibilities to explain the description of events, medical science usually allows for only one cause, although the cause, mental illness, applies to the villains and victims of films like Stephen King’s enormous, which take many forms to carry out, all horrifying and terrifying.
From a psychiatric perspective, the portrayal of mentally disturbed characters in horror films, as in other cinematic genres, is often “wildly inaccurate.” Nevertheless, Rutgers University students in Professor Anthony Tobia’s REDRUM course watch horror movies, including Psycho (1960), Halloween (1978), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
Tobia instructs them to avoid taking “the movies at face value,” and to, instead, “focus on an abstract and symbolic understanding of the plot summary or aspects of character analysis . . . germane to [discussions of] a full spectrum of mental illnesses.”
The class determined that, as a result of having killed his sister Judith, Michael Myers (Halloween) suffers from conversion disorder (the sudden onset of the experience of blindness, paralysis, or other symptoms), which is manifest in his inability “to speak after murdering his sister,” and from voyeurism and autism.
After his escape from a mental hospital, Myers returns home, seeking to kill his other sister Laurie Strode, whose surname differs from that of Michael and Judith because, following their parents’ murders, Laurie was put up for adoption.
His stalking of her and his attempts to kill her cause Laurie to suffer from stress, but her therapist informs her, in Halloween II (1981), that she suffers from the same “illness” as her brother. However, if Tobia’s students are correct in their diagnosis of Michael, it is unclear what the therapist meant, since Laurie is not shown as suffering from conversion disorder, voyeurism, or autism.
Perhaps the therapist was referring to the diagnosis of Sam Loomis, Michael’s psychiatrist, who identified him as “pure evil,” although such a diagnosis is not, of course, strictly speaking, in any volume of the profession’s “Bible,” the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).