I sat on Michael’s couch for a while tonight, next to his wise, oversized unicorn, Justin, biting my worn-down acrylic French tips and oscillating between potential writing projects. I settled on a blog post, since it’s been quite some time since I wrote on my blog, and I decided to put a classic 1979 Cronenberg horror movie (The Brood) in conversation with the recently released horror film Men because they were both on my mind, and I couldn’t decide which one to write about. I’m finishing up my section on The Brood for chapter two of my dissertation, and I went to see Men with Michael, Jaelyn, and Ryan a few weeks ago, a riveting film that we followed up with a long conversation outside the theater in the cool Erie late-May weather about what it all means and how it—Men—re-enacts contemporary phenomenon.Continue reading “Brooding Men and Unholy Births: Parthenogenesis and the inter-generational transmission of abuse in The Brood and Men.”
Every year a group of bloggers and I write about fearless fictional women to celebrate International Women’s Day. Each of these bloggers will be featured on my blog this year. The blog-a-thon started with Michael of My Comic Relief and, after my post, will go on to feature Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2 and Jeff of The Imperial Talker. Here’s my contribution to the Blog-a-thon this year!
Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho opens in the warm home of a quaint British town, a home where main character Eloise basks in her vintage-inspired bedroom listening to music from the 60s. The opening scene is so reminiscent of life sixty years ago, in fact, that we may suspect that we are in 1961, not 2021, and because of Wright’s ability to establish a scene we may also feel like we’re temporarily inhabiting a much more idyllic time period than our own. Certainly, that is what Eloise/Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) imagines, the main character who we meet in the film’s beginning. Ellie has just been accepted to fashion school, and we get the impression, based on her excitement, that a glittering life in Great Britain’s fashion hub looks just as perfect, just as idyllic, as the 1960s do in her eyes. But sometimes attractive surface appearances mask a more insidious lurking reality—a fact which may be true of Soho in general, and is definitely true of Soho in the 60s, a reality that Ellie will soon find out.
I don’t remember how many horror movies I’d seen when Scream first came out in theaters, but I’d probably watched at least Kubrick’s The Shining and Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula – the first two horror movies I recall seeing – in the tiny t.v. room of my family’s old house on East Gore Road before settling down in the theater to see Wes Craven’s post-modern masterpiece. The original Scream came out in 1996, when I was twelve years old. I don’t remember the “build-up” to the film the way I remember the anticipation preceding, say, the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project (and my concomitant let-down when I was less than scared by the film), but I definitely remember the general reaction to the shockingly grotesque introduction that the film provides.
One thing worth noting about the horror genre is that it produces images that resist quick mental erasure. From the statuesque model who turns into a decrepit, decaying old woman in the infamous shower scene of The Shining to the bloody womb hanging limply outside the skin of Nola Carveth in The Brood, horror does nothing if not supply us with grotesque images of often monstrous women. Psycho’s Norma Bates, then, is no exception. In Hitchcock’s original film, Psycho, we see Norma not as a mommy so much as a stereotypical mummy; all that is left of her is a skeletal, eyeless frame and some tousled hair pulled back in a bun. We hear her character, and therefore understand her character, only through Marion Crane’s ears as the delusional Norman voices her from afar in the antiquated Victorian house on the hill outside Bates Motel. But Norma is a famous mummy, and a famous mommy, to be sure, one who lingers in the mind of the viewer long after the theater lights go on, and one who has lingered in the cultural imagination now for sixty-one years and counting. Significantly, Norma Bates didn’t get to speak for herself until 2013, when the hit TV show Bates Motel rescued and re-invented her character through Vera Farmiga’s portrayal of her as Norman’s mildly cooky but vivacious and loving mom. As a woman who navigates an excruciating past, a corrupt, drug-infested city, and a psychotic son with surprising sangfroid, Norma Bates in Bates Motel is who I choose to feature this year for the annual Fiction’s Fearless Females blogathon.Continue reading “Norma Bates: Fiction’s Fearless Females”
Before I started studying horror as a path toward getting a doctorate, I’d never heard of Tod Browning’s Freaks. In fact, I’d only vaguely heard of Tod Browning. I’d seen his 1931 rendition of Dracula, featuring Bela Lugosi, one fall night quite a few years ago, when Tinseltown was doing a double feature of Browning’s Dracula, followed by the far superior Spanish version of the film shot the same year (on the same set, but at night, with a different director). I suppose back then I thought of myself as a bit of a horror connoisseur, but perhaps I was basking in my own ego – and that ego was eclipsing all my knowledge of what I didn’t know. Because what I’ve learned since I started reading about horror is that Tod Browning is considered a central auteur in the horror field. In terms of horror cinema, he’s easily one of the genre’s founders, and with good (varying) reasons. Continue reading “My First Viewing of Freaks (1932)”
Warning: Because of the film I’ve decided to talk about, the following subject matter will be unavoidably uncomfortable and dismal. Second Warning: If you’ve not yet seen Midsommar and you want to see it, well, first of all, get to it 🙂 (it’s free on Amazon Prime), and second, you may encounter some spoilers. Okay, you’ve been warned, onward: Continue reading “Dani from Midsommar — Fiction’s Fearless Females”
Michael and I were just sitting around on a slow Saturday afternoon, without much on the agenda. While horror movies tend to be night-time fare for us, the feeling of an afternoon movie on a warm June day just sort of says summer vacation (present summer vacation for me, imminent summer vacation for Michael), so we decided on a 12:10 showing of Ma. My excitement about the film was considerable, but my trepidation about the film regarded the possibility that all of the really shocking, provocative elements of the film may have already been showcased in the trailer – I thought. I was prepared – similar to the situation I experienced with Brightburn –to see a film that didn’t offer much beyond the preview attractions. And while it is true – we get a glimpse of a lot of gore before the movie – there’s so much more to the film than the previews indicate, and Octavia Spencer captures a complex, layered, troubled character with unquestionable perfection. It’s hard to call Ma the best horror movie of the spring, with gems like Us and Pet Sematary gracing the screen, but it can certainly compete. As a heads-up, I have all but given up on writing spoiler-free reviews, so my apologies, but spoilers will abound in this piece.Continue reading “Partying with Ma on a Sunny Summer Saturday”
Well, the long-awaited evening arrived. I’d been looking forward to Brightburn with at least tenuously high expectations since Michael told me about the premise oh-so-many-months ago. The film’s situation sounded fascinating – an inversion of the Superman mythos, in which Superman is embodied in an evil 12-year-old child – and the previews looked plenty scary. Couple that with the fact that I really like Elizabeth Banks – and she’s one of the main forces behind Shrill, a show I’ve been singing the praises of a la twitter for months – and this was definitely a film I had to see when it came out. “How about we see it Saturday” Michael suggested sweetly. I replied, “I’m going on Thursday night when I get off work, whether you go with me or not.” So, I’m not quite sure if I would have put my money where my mouth was – I don’t go to the movies alone much, and I hadn’t asked anyone else along – but luckily, Michael capitulated, and after a quick four hour shift at Torrid, I met him at the coffee shop across the street and we zipped to Tinseltown, where we were two of six people in the theater to see one of the first screenings of Brightburn.Continue reading “Feel the (Bright)Burn: Strengths and Shortcomings of the Inverted Superman Mythos”
It is just a screen. I tell myself. Nothing but some actors playing out a ghost story on the screen. You’ll be 35 years old in a couple months—you can do this. My self-assurance slowly lapses into condescension as I secretly lambast myself for being so afraid. After all, do I not write on a horror blog? Am I not focusing my dissertation on some element of the horror genre? Some of this stuff is, indeed, second nature to me –werewolves and vampires have never scared me, and I’ve seen The Shining at least fifty times by now—but something about a well-made ghost movie, one that I haven’t already watched on repeat, really has the ability to de-stabilize my zen. With the right directing and producing – the appropriate manufacture of jump scares – I can find myself fighting the urge (and sometimes giving into the urge) to cover my ears and eyes as I’m watching a particularly suspenseful horror film. It’s rare that I react this way, but it does occur—which, I might mention, is another reason I love the horror genre. For as many of these films as I’ve seen, the right one still has the power to scare the $#!+ out of me.Continue reading “A Macabre Mother’s Day for a Macabre Horror Mother: Contemplating the Woman in Black”
One of my favorite scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a two or three second shock during which a series of terrifying events happen. At this point in the film, Danny has been replaced by Tony, who’s saying “Redrum” in a voice that’s robotic at first and amplifies in intensity and urgency as Jack’s presence gets closer. As Danny—or “Tony,” his psychic alter-ego—screams “Redrum,” Wendy reads the words backward in the mirror. The camera pans in on the word “murder” written in childish handwriting with blood-red lipstick. Almost as soon as we, the viewers, read “murder” in the mirror, we hear the unnerving sound of an ax chopping through wood and the camera moves to Jack, who wields the huge, sharp, silver device and uses it to slice through the wooden door of the caretaker’s quarters, where Danny and Wendy reside. As if this nexus of sensation weren’t enough to alarm us, the viewers, and pull as even a little more deeply into The Shining’s sinister, unpredictable world, Wendy’s voice intercepts this moment with a simultaneously frenetic and bone-chilling scream—a scream that we’ll hear different variations of for the rest of the movie. In turn, we, as the viewers—at least a little bit—start feeling Wendy’s maddening fear, and our cognition is ultimately forced to accept a mis-en-scene and narrative moment that’s eliminated anything reassuring or comforting for us to latch onto. We are, in a sense, in the void, and we are there with Wendy.Continue reading “Fiction’s Fearless Females – Wendy Torrance”