bruce kawin, “the mummy’s pool,” 1981

one goes to a horror film in order to have a nightmare—not simply a frightening dream, but a dream whose undercurrent of anxiety both presents and masks the desire to fulfill and be punished for conventionally or personally unacceptable impulses. this may be a matter of unconscious wish fulfillment, following freud; of confronting a hidden evil in the culture, as in ‘alien’ or ‘the stepford wives’; or of voyaging through the land of the dead and indulging a nostalgia for ritual […] horror films function as nightmares for the individual viewer, as diagnostic eruptions for repressive societies, and as exorcistic or transcendent pagan rituals for supposedly post-pagan cultures. they can be analyzed in all these ways because they represent a unique juncture of personal, social, and mythic structures and because each of these structures has a conscious/official and an unconscious/repressed dualism, whose dialectic finds expression in the act of masking.