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Posted by Gina Freitag
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The Aging Men of Horror

By: Maddi McGillvray 

Although elder horror narratives typically project anxieties of growing older onto women, there are some films that also delve into the horrors of men’s aging. Unlike representations of elderly women in horror that emphasize the grotesque bodily consequences of aging, elder horror films about men tend to focus more on their loss of power, agency, and sense of masculinity. The following films not only feature older male characters as victims and/or villains, but their aging is often what drives them to commit heinous acts violence and murder. 

Psycho II (1983)

A polarizing sequel in comparison to Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic film Psycho, Psycho II continues Norman Bates’ story, only now he is an aged man who is tormented by his past. Norman is released from a mental health facility and makes his way back to the infamous scene of the crime, the Bates Motel. This journey home seems to set into motion a midlife crisis for Norman. His behaviour veers between childlike immaturity and those of an aged male killer. Rather than displaying dominance over the family business, Psycho II follows an older Bates as he attempts to situate himself in a world that no longer wants him—both because of his criminal past, but also because of his age. 

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

This cult horror film is about two elderly residents of an East Texas nursing home who battle it out against an ancient Egyptian mummy that prays upon the souls of the aged. One of the men, played by Bruce Campbell under some serious makeup and prosthetics, insists that he is Elvis Presley and changed places with one of his impersonators so he could live a normal life. The other is an older black man who believes he is President John F. Kennedy. While the film’s premise is quite absurd, it expresses real fears of men have about growing older, as both characters suffer from frailty, a loss of dignity, and impotence.

Don’t Breathe (2016)

This home invasion film centres on a nameless blind man who terrorizes a group of young intruders that break into his dilapidated house in an attempt to rob him. Unbeknownst to the robbers, the blind man is hiding a terrible secret in his basement. He swiftly goes from a defenceless older victim to a detestable monster when they (and the audience) discover why he is so protective of his space. He has been keeping a woman, who accidentally killed his daughter in a car accident, chained up in his basement and has impregnated her so he can have another child. 

The Hunger (1983)

While the vampires in The Hunger are ageless, unlike typical vampire lore, they are not immortal. Because of this, the film’s vampires are desperate to maintain eternal youth, and attempt to do so by fitting into the Manhattan club scene of the 1980s. Miriam Blaylock is a vampire who feasts on the blood of her victims, a process that stops them from aging, until she has had enough of them. She has grown uninterested in her lover John, who ages rapidly over course of the film: he starts developing wrinkles around his eyes, his hair is thinning, and he painfully suffers from wasting away in an undead state. He seeks the help of a doctor, who believes she has discovered the secret to obtaining eternal youth, only to fall for Miriam’s charm and dangerous desires. 


Join me on Thursday, November 26th for my Black Museum lecture To Grandmother’s House We Go: Elder Horror in Found Footage Films and stick around for the live group chat as we watch The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014, dir. Adam Robitel), available to stream on YouTube or Amazon Prime (US).

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