Beyond Horror: Surviving Sexual Abuse in Carmel Winters’ Snap

Publication Date


Document Type

Book Chapter


In the traditional ghost story, the cause of the haunting is frequently revealed to be the neglect, abuse or murder of a child. This preoccupation with the victimization of children carries over into horror literature and films, in which children are abusers, as well as abused haunters, as well as haunted. The genre has a history of unsettling the notion of childhood innocence through the trope of the ‘evil child’, whose malevolence may be inherent or the result of familial or social influences. But while evil children who terrorize adults have pervaded popular culture since the second half of the 20th century, vile adults who menace children have always been a staple of ghost stories and horror films. Usually male with supernatural powers, this figure — whom I label the ‘spectral abuser’ — cannot be defeated. Through the spectral abuser’s indestructibility, horror films incite our fears about the spectre of child abuse, particularly about our ability, as individuals and in a wider social and cultural context, to protect children. Horror films do the cultural work of addressing child abuse, primarily by invoking it and suggesting the inability to eradicate it, thus containing our fears within the sensational world of the narrative and enabling us to dismiss them, to some extent, as the stuff of scary movies.

Original Citation

Vejvoda, K. (2015). Beyond horror: Surviving Sexual Abuse in Carmel Winters’ Snap. In B. Monahan (Ed.) Ireland and Cinema: Culture and Contexts, (pp. 47-56.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137496362.0009