I didn’t grow up fat. I was a hefty baby—a 9-pounder, to be precise—and at different points in my childhood, a chubbier, sometimes stockier kid, but never fat, per se, and for the first half of my 20’s, I was 5’3” and 125 lbs, give or take – a frame that we offhandedly consider average in our society, but that is actually well below the average female frame. And while I’ve heard that it’s fairly “normal” to be a size 16-18, four years after gaining most of my weight, my emergence into a larger body is still a sometimes strange, uncomfortable, jarring experience, and I’ve only recently started to identify as “fat.” Once I realized that I officially qualified (it’s kind of like realizing you’re an alcoholic, which I discovered so many years ago—suddenly, you just know), I wasn’t too hesitant to call myself what I felt I was, on twitter, and now on my blog. It can be intimidating to try to appropriate, to try to re-claim a term that’s been used for years to oppress larger women and shame overweight people, but it’s also liberating to say “this is me—not the whole of who I am, but part of how I identify, nevertheless.”Continue reading “The Thrill of Shrill”
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”
There are probably a lot of reasons why Wicked was my favorite book to read with my students during my Reading the Monster course. This assertion may be surprising, on the one hand, because Wicked doesn’t fall under the traditional “horror” umbrella like many other texts on the syllabus. And, as is obvious from reading this blog, I’m an avid fan and proponent of what might be called, more specifically, “art-horror”—the creation of fictional horrific events, morphed into cinematic and literary experiences. Conversely, there’s so much imagination, and so much problematization (a la fiction) packed into Wicked, that Gregory Maguire’s book provides plenty of fodder for speculation, discussion, and debate, even as it delights, challenges, and entertains—all on a fairly consistent basis. What’s more—and this may be a far from ancillary point—I taught Wicked after my dreaded comprehensive examination was (more or less) over, so I had more time to put toward lesson planning and making the text particularly engaging to students. The emerging result, for me, was a stronger interest in a text that I already enjoyed, but that I didn’t fully appreciate until reading a second time.Continue reading “Teaching Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: Fate and Free Will, Determinism and Destiny”
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”
As I’ve been off working hard at life, Hollywood has been working even harder to create a deliciously rich amalgam of Spring horror movies and to thus to pull me back toward my long-neglected blog. The list that Michael and I started composing after watching horror movie previews turned out to be too noteworthy to ignore. Couple that with the fact that I’m feeling chatty lately (more in the mood to shout from a roof top, less in the mood to crouch in a corner) and you have a recipe for my first self-composed blog post in exactly three months. I don’t claim this to be an exhaustive list of all-things-horror being released in the next few months, but I’m trying to be fairly thorough with the rather abundant supply of scary that’s headed toward the theaters. The first two entries on this list are films I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks, and the rest are films that haven’t been released yet, but that I’ll be sure to see when they are released. For your ease-of-reading, I’ve arranged the films by release date, accompanied by trailers. My discussion, of course, will be slightly more thorough for the two films I’ve already seen. In any case, here they are: five films to consider if you need a (decidedly terrifying, unnerving, exhilarating) movie night any time soon.Continue reading “A Horrific Spring: Recently and Soon-to-Be Released Horror Movies”
As a child, I was mildly afraid of a lot of things—dark basements, mean dogs, the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys—so it’s always a bit difficult for me to think of one thing that scared me, or at least one thing that has a decent story behind it. Then I remember the time my mother and grandmother dragged me on a ghost tour in Gettysburg, PA when I was about ten years old.Continue reading “What Scares Us: Briana’s First Fright”
It seems only appropriate that my first fear is attributed not to a George Lucas film, but instead a film from his friend and early rival, Steven Spielberg.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking – Jaws. After all, I live in Massachusetts where Jaws was filmed and we have great white sharks often roaming our nearby beaches in the summer.
No, my friends, you are wrong. Instead, my first fear that I can remember is E.T.Read more
Well, unsurprisingly, it’s three in the morning and I’ve decided to write a blog post. You see, I was reading On Monsters: An Unnatural History of our Worst Fears by Stephen T. Asma, and his writing is so fluid, his stories so interesting, his points so insightful, that I got inspired to write. In general, I find that as I read more for my comprehensive exams, I tend to get so enthusiastic that I feel I absolutely must release some of my excitement through writing. And, I have the perfect fodder for a blog post this evening. Michael and I went to see a showing of Escape Room tonight, and we both really enjoyed the film. Given that I’ve been reading about monsters and horror non-stop over break, my mind started playing with the movie in light of what I’ve been reading, and I jotted down some thoughts earlier. So, here’s what will probably be a fairly short little post on Escape Room. I’m not one for rating or grading movies, so while I won’t give it a rating, I’ll say it’s an interesting example of a horror archetype we’ve been seeing a lot of recently, and it’s a genuinely engaging film with (my favorite!) mostly likable characters! As such, I highly suggest you check it out. But…I’m no good at writing without spoilers, so those will inevitably follow this paragraph. Beware!!Continue reading “Escaping the Atypical Monster in Escape Room”
As the song goes, I don’t know much about history, but I know – especially after reading W. Scott Poole’s Monsters in America – that the 1960’s were a turbulent era: America was 15-20 years past WWII, but still dealing with the anxieties that accompany the use and proliferation of nuclear arms as the Cold War mounted. Vietnam had started, and according to Poole, American soldiers were often times literally getting rewards for how many Vietnamese citizens they could kill. Of course, this was the era of Civil Rights, and second wave feminism was also in full swing. Birth control was invented in 1960, making sex less formidable, and the Black Arts Movement started around 1965. Despite a struggle for rights by many groups, racism, sexism, and homophobia were pretty rampant. In the horror world, Psycho launched the interest in “maniac” killers in 1960, and The Exorcist was released in 1973. Serial killer lore and urban legends were on the rise. In 1968, censorship ended in Hollywood, making the modern horror fare we watch today possible.Continue reading “Analyzing American Horror Story Asylum: Episode One”