Images of blood, vomit, pus, shit, and so forth, are central to our culturally/socially constructed notions of the horrific. They signify a split between two orders: the maternal authority and the law of the father. On the one hand, these images of bodily wastes threaten a subject that is already constituted, in relation to the symbolic, as “whole and proper.” Consequently, they fill the subject—both the protagonist in the text and the spectator in the cinema—with disgust and loathing. On the other hand, they also point back to a time when a “fusion between mother and nature” existed; when bodily wastes, while set apart from the body, were not seen as objects of embarrassment and shame. Their presence in the horror film may evoke a response of disgust from the audience, situated as it is within the symbolic, but at a more archaic level the representation of bodily wastes may evoke pleasure in breaking the taboo of filth—sometimes described as a pleasure in perversity—and a pleasure in returning to that time when the mother-child relationship was marked by an untrammeled pleasure in “playing” with the body and its wastes.
The modern horror film often “plays” with its audience, saturating it with scenes of blood and gore, deliberately pointing to the fragility of the symbolic order in the domain of the body which never ceases to signal the repressed world of the mother. This is particularly evident in The Exorcist, where the world of the symbolic, represented by the priest-as-father, and the world of the presymbolic, represented by woman aligned with the devil, clashes head on in scenes where the foulness of woman is signified by her putrid, filthy body covered in blood, urine, excrement, and bile. Significantly, a pubescent girl about to menstruate played the woman who is possessed—in one scene blood from her wounded genitals mingles with menstrual blood to provide one of the film’s key images of horror. In Carrie, the film’s most monstrous act occurs when the couple are drenched in pig’s blood, which symbolizes menstrual blood—women are referred to in the film as “pigs,” women “bleed like pigs,” and the pig’s blood runs down Carrie’s body at a moment of intense pleasure, just as her own menstrual blood runs down her legs during a similar pleasurable moment when she enjoys her body in the shower. Here women’s blood and pig’s blood flow together, signifying horror, shame, and humiliation. In this film, however, the mother speaks for the symbolic, identifying with an order that has defined women’s sexuality as the source of all evil and menstruation as the sign of sin. The horror film’s obsession with blood, particularly the bleeding body of woman, where her body is transformed into the “gaping wound,” suggests that castration anxiety is a central concern of the horror film—particularly the slasher subgenre. Woman’s body is slashed and mutilated, not only to signify her own castrated state, but also the possibility of castration for the male. In the guise of a “madman” he enacts on her body the one act he most fears for himself, transforming her entire body into a bleeding wound.
—Barbara Creed, Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection