In the past I’ve written a bit about diversity in horror movies, but I neglected to mention disability when it comes to diversity. In the past, disability has been a mixed bag in horror. Some depictions were entirely inaccurate and used to instill fear (as in the depiction of a person with spinal meningitis in Pet Sematary). I’ve tried to collect horror here with positive (or at least, not damaging) portrayals of disability.
Duma Key by Stephen King proves that not all disabilities in King novels are problematic. The main character suffers an accident that leaves him with brain damage similar to a stroke.
I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson features a narrator who has severe cerebral palsy. She cannot speak and cannot move much on her own. So when her aide’s boyfriend confesses to her that he killed someone, she has no way to tell the secret, until a new technology allows her to communicate – and now her life is in danger.
Endurance by Jack Kilborn isn’t for the squeamish. A group of women, including a double amputee, gather to compete in an Iron Woman competition but find themselves at a backwoods hotel run by a murderous family. Let’s just say that if you lose both legs in a mountain climbing accident and get attacked by a mountain lion and still survive and do triathlons, one serial killer family is not going to keep you down!
Hush (2016) has at its center a woman who is Deaf, alone in her house and being stalked – only she can’t hear her stalker as he breaks in. This premise is quite similar to Wait Until Dark (1967), in which a blind woman is stalked. In this case, we are meant to feel her fear and share in the Deaf experience, where often the audio is muted.
A Quiet Place (2018) has another angle on Deafness. With a monster that hunts through sound, the family’s knowledge of sign language to communicate – because the daughter is Deaf – allows them to survive.
The Eye (2002) is an Asian horror movie about a blind woman who undergoes surgery to restore her vision. Once she has undergone the cornea transplant, however, she begins to see mysterious figures that no one else can see… (There was an American remake of this movie starring Jessica Alba, but the original was better).
I could write a whole blog post about damaging portrayals of disability in horror, but I think this is a pretty good list of horror that won’t make you cringe.
Even still, there isn’t much diversity among disabilities here – almost all of the movies I could think of had Deaf or blind characters. It’s been too long since I watched “Silver Bullet” to remember if the portrayal of a paraplegic was good or not, and I figured Franklin from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” wasn’t great inclusion since he gets killed halfway through the film.
Let me know in the comments if there are others I’ve missed!