Standing under a bucket full of pig’s blood at prom like the titular character in Stephen King’s Carrie (1976) or caked and madly laughing in the back of a pickup truck as Sally does in the conclusive minutes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), there is something darkly alluring about the rendering of both the cognitively disturbed and the final girl. There are so many ways that these most traumatic of situations—escaping a killer, for instance—have been beautified for the big screen. As haunting as these horror movie moments are, the skin-crawling visual effect of a blood-drenched hero is still striking. It takes the runway “wet look,” hair pasted down as if just stepping out of the shower in Hitchcock’s Psycho, one disturbing step further. The appeal is hard to place, perhaps because it feels wrong to idolize trauma—fictional or not. Still, the vampiric effect of on-screen blood makes us catch our breath, cover our eyes and contemplate exactly what it means to be drop dead gorgeous.
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