Warning: Spoilers Ahead for Episode 3 of American Horror Stories.
They say the third time’s the charm, right? Well no lucky charm nor rabbit is able to stop the macabre fate of the characters in the American Horror Stories’s third episode. A mad director seeking to cause real-life Horror through subliminal messaging, editing, and effects embedded in his movie titled Rabbit Rabbit. It’s a title that refers to an old superstition to remind children to “say their rabbits” for good luck. What’s most intriguing here is the episode’s connection to real life.
While Rabbit Rabbit is not an actual film, the episode touches on the very real subliminal imagery at the center of films like The Exorcist, as well the visceral reactions caused by them. Here’s just a few Horror films with subliminal imagery that have made a big impact in the genre.
Even today, The Exorcist is known as THE quintessential Horror movie riddled with subliminal imagery. Director William Friedkin still gets asked about every detail from the sound of bees buzzing to the iconic white face that pops up in frames that are gloriously heinous.
2008’s Cloverfield marked the return of the found-footage style in film made famous by The Blair Witch Project. This style was later utilized for projects such as The Poughkeepsie Tapes, VHS, and Quarantine. Director Matt Reeves, a monster-movie fan himself, inserted spliced frames into the film from the likes of King Kong, Them!, and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.
One could argue that the internet was created purely to hold all The Shining fan theories in one place. While second-long frames might be not present here, there’s no shortage of subliminal imagery that fans have found over the years in everything from the film’s production design (hotel hallways) to framing. There’s even a documentary titled Room 237 about all the messages.