Hypnosis In Horror – You are getting very scary…

About Dexter Williams

img_8263.jpgAn award-winning screenwriter who has been writing screenplays for two decades.  He has a huge love for the horror genre and has written five feature film scripts and four short film scripts.  One of his feature film scripts, “Demon Crystal”, was recently optioned by Pulse Pounding Productions.  Virtually all of his scripts have been recognized by major film festivals.

Guest Blog by Dexter Williams

Hypnosis In Horror – You are getting very scary…

I consider horror to be the very best genre in the world, and I consider hypnotism to be the most intriguing subject in the world.  When the worlds of horror and hypnotism come together, they make for a very potent combination.  Believe it or not, it has been that way since Hollywood started making horror movies.  And it was a count from Transylvania that started this unlikely cinematic trend.

In 1931, Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi was introduced to audiences as the definitive Count Dracula.  With his cold-eyed stare, he hypnotized his victims and turned them into mindless slaves.  And of course, he soon transformed them into vampires.  He was the first vampire to use hypnotic powers, but he would not be the last.  Five years later, the world was introduced to “Dracula’s Daughter”.  She had the powers of hypnosis as well, but her hypnotic tool of choice was a shiny round golden ring.  It was one of the few horror films in which a female put people under her hypnotic control.

Through the years, hypnotism has played a small or large role in many horror films.  A few examples are: “The She-Creature” (1956), “The Undead” (1957), “Horrors of the Black Museum” (a Hypno-Vista film from 1959), “The Hypnotic Eye” (1960), and “Devil Doll” (1964).  These films reflected the fact that hypnosis was a male-dominated field, with a male hypnotist hypnotizing female patients (or test subjects).

There are some horror movies from the 1980s and 1990s that greatly influenced my wanting to combine scares and the power of suggestion.  1987’s “Anguish”, a movie-within-a-movie from Spain, had Zelda Rubinstein of “Poltergeist” playing a controlling mother who used hypnosis to make her son steal other people’s eyeballs and return them to her.  She uses her voice and a metronome to induce the state.  Another film from 1987 was “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”.  In this film, a metronome with an LED light was used to hypnotize the patients at a psychiatric hospital into entering the dream world in order to take on the film’s main antagonist Freddy Krueger.

1999 saw the release of two very chilling films from different countries.  First there’s “Stir of Echoes”, a supernatural adapted for the screen and directed by David Koepp (“Jurassic Park”, “Secret Window”) and based on the novel by Richard Matheson.  The hypnosis scene in this film has the lead character played by Kevin Bacon (“Tremors) getting hypnotized by his sister-in-law played by Illeana Douglas (“Cape Fear”) into tapping into his ability to see ghosts; he later has visions of a teenage girl who disappeared a while back.  Next there’s “Saimin”, a horror film from Japan, in which the hypnotist character (using a solid lighting flame) may be linked to a string of bizarre suicides.  There is another scene from “”Saimin” in which a spinning spiral is used to hypnotize a patient that is quite eerie and surreal.

Last year (2017) saw the release of the much talked-about very successful satirical horror film “Get Out”, written and directed by Jordan Peele (who won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for the film).  Hypnosis plays a pivotal role in this film’s story, most notably the scene in which Daniel Kaluuya’s main character gets hypnotized by the psychiatrist mother of his white girlfriend, played by Catherine Keener.  Keener uses a cup of tea stirring it with the click of a spoon to induce the hypnotic state and lead Kaluuya to what she calls in the film “the sunken place”.  That was a very chilling scene in the film.

Virtually all of the horror screenplays I have written, both features and shorts, have hypnotism playing a pivotal role.  Hypnosis is a subject that has fascinated me since I was a teen, and writing it into screenplays was a natural progression for me.


First, I want you to consider “Enslavement”.  That is a feature script that took me just two weeks to finish, and it’s the first of my horror scripts to include hypnotism.  In the story, a dangerous Goth girl hypnotizes a shy high school student into joining her sinister goddess-worshiping cult.  The 1996 teen horror film “The Craft”, and especially Fairuza Balk’s amazing performance, was a major influence on “Enslavement”.  Mind manipulation is taken to a terrifying level with this story, which is a cautionary tale about hypnotism being used for all the wrong reasons.


Now, consider “Mistresses of Sleep”.  In this particular story, a young lady receives an unusual invitation to visit one of three mysterious hypnotists to unlock the secret of her recurring nightmares of death and destruction.  Why three hypnotists?  I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that reincarnation is in the mix.  I wanted to explore the concept of hypnosis and reincarnation in a way that has never been done before, and of course make it scary.

Mixing horror and hypnotism is a concept Hollywood films should explore more.  Doing so will no doubt cast a frightening spell on moviegoers who have the stomach to go see these films.


~ by Sumiko Saulson on July 16, 2018.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: