Phobias in Horror Movies

closeup of brown spider

Because horror movies weren’t scary enough, let’s toss in some phobias

One of the best ways for horror movies to trick our little squirrel brains into being terrified by pixels on our screens is through the use of our own irrational fears. Most humans in the world have at least one irrational fear and horror movies know that. Here are some of the top phobias that are used throughout the genre.

5. Cacomorphobia – the fear of clowns

close up of creepy clown face smiling menacingly at the camera to play on phobias of clowns
Jumbo, the killer klown from Killer Klowns From Outer Space (image credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.)

There is a massive divide between people– you either hate clowns, or you’re insane. Why the hell did people ever hire strange men to paint their faces and entertain children? After John Wayne Gacy, that shit should have been made illegal. The number of creepy clowns that have been featured in horror movies ranges from the silly, but horrifying gang of extraterrestrial clowns in Killer Klowns from Outer Space to the recent sadistic creepfest that is Art the Clown from Terrifier. Don’t even get me started on Pennywise.

4. Pediophobia – the fear of dolls

older man and woman tucking a pale faced doll into bed
Brahms’s parents tucking him into bed in The Boy (image credit: STX Productions, LLC.)

Listen, people who collect dolls are out here asking for some vicious victorian child to haunt them. That’s really all I should have to say, but I’ll go on. The horrifying, unblinking eyes of dolls pop up in several horror movies with one of the most well known being Billy the Puppet in the Saw franchise. Pediophobia also covers the fear of children, so I’ll go ahead and say that the film The Boy was created solely to cause those suffering from this phobia to weep softly.

3. Cynophobia – the fear of dogs

a St. Bernard covered in blood tries to bite his way into a yellow car. People with phobias of dogs beware.
Cujo trying to break into the car of his victims (image credit: Lionsgate)

Can’t relate, I think dogs are the best, but we’ve added this one to the list because of that son-of-a-gun Stephen King. This man managed to create a fluffy boy that manages to haunt my nightmares. The reason Cujo is so effective is because our title character starts as a very well behaved dog that you’d trust with your young son, but then turns into a beast whose bark rattles your bones. For other dog lovers out there, comfort yourself by knowing the dog actor was such a good boy.

2. Somniphobia – the fear of sleep

man with knives for fingers tries to kill a young woman while she screams in horror
Freddy trying to kill Nancy (image credit: New Line Cinema Entertainment, Inc.)

Being vulnerable is hard for anyone, it’s even harder to put yourself in a vulnerable position while a killer hunts you. Psychologically, this fear is worse since the longer you stay awake, the more your mind starts to play tricks on you. One of the best examples to use this phobia has got to be the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, but it’s used throughout several popular horror films. And honestly, who can blame them, no rational person is settling down for a nice nap while being chased down by an undead pedophile with knives for fingers.

1. Claustrophobia – the fear of confined spaces

two women crouch through the tunnel of a cave, making the audience with phobias of tight spaces uncomfortable
Juno and Rebecca walking through the caves in The Descent (image credit: Celador Films)

The number of movies that utilize this phobia is astronomical, even if they only use it for a second. However, it’s the films that use it as a main plot point that really makes your skin crawl. Movies like The Descent and As Above So Below use claustrophobia to make their audience feel just as trapped and suffocated as the characters on screen. Okay, I’ve gotta go outside and breathe deeply now. 

Alright, we made it through. This has been my top phobias used in horror movies. Let us know if there are any great movies that use the phobias we listed or if we missed any other important fears.

By Joey Warren

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