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”
When I sat down to write my very first post for Just Dread-full (an event that took place over two years ago), I wrote about the first episode of American Horror Story: Haunted Hotel. Of course, I’d intended, at least perhaps, to watch more episodes than the first, but I found (as is often the case for me) that I was so excited to write, that I wrote my blog post after episode one had aired. Now, over two years later, another American Horror Story blog post is born from similar circumstances. I’m watching a variety of films and T.V. shows for my Independent Seminar, and after watching the first couple selections, the urge struck me. I thought: I should watch more shows on the list before writing my weekly response, but, I really want to write. And so, this post is born, and it should give me some ideas or preparation for my imminent writing assignment. I watched the 1959 film Suddenly Last Summer today, along with the first two episodes of American Horror Story: Asylum. Now it’s time to consider how madness is spatialized in this film. Some related questions might consider how space is organized in terms of “madness,” so-called, and what space reflects about our conceptions of madness. Continue reading “A (Perhaps) Unlikely Comparison: Suddenly Last Summer (1959) Meets American Horror Story Asylum (Episodes 1 & 2)”
For an Independent Seminar on horror and monstrosity, I sat down (again) to watch the very classic and very canonical The Blair Witch Project, a film, not surprisingly, about witches, and one situated at the inception of the found footage trend in filmmaking (a trend I address in other posts). Of course, I’ve written about this film before, some time ago, but I really only scratched the surface of its depth and what it has to offer us, as both a piece of criticism and a manifestation – a cultural artifact signaling the historical location of the late 90’s and what questions that location raised. Needing, I thought, to narrow my focus for this film (and, perhaps, for all the texts I’ll encounter this week that deal with witches) I started with what I thought was a very important question: What is “the witch,” so called? What surrounds her, perhaps, and what does she tell us? I think putting a variety of texts about witches in conversation with one another could yield rather interesting answers to this question, but I’ll start with The Blair Witch Project, which offers us a turn-of-the-century glimpse – based off, in the film, age-old lore – of what “witchiness” is, how the witch reveals herself, and what she’s (frighteningly) capable of. Continue reading “What is the Witch? — Part One: The Blair Witch Project”
Well, it’s official. I’ve written an uneven 73 posts on Just Dread-Full since the blog’s inception in late October of 2015. Now, before I continue, I had a different introduction written in this piece, but the ghost of Miss Jessel is apparently bitter about how I depicted her in my piece on The Innocents, because she’s crawled out of the movie and consumed my laptop. Really. Michael and I lost my laptop in the transition from his parents’ house to his house (one of us was carrying the bag). We, and his parents, have searched every conceivable place, and it’s simply disappeared. As such, I’m typing from his laptop, and I have to start this piece over again.
The local theater was showing a Thursday night preview of Crimson Peak two nights ago, before the actual release date on Friday. With no hesitation, I was there. Without question, my favorite subgenre of horror is the ghost story, and Crimson Peak primed us to expect some phenomenally creepy ghosts through its ghoulish previews – previous that show portions of skeletal apparitions grasping arms or swaying across the floor. Vampires are fun, witches are cool, and stories about the devil can be pretty scary, but nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to a good old-fashioned ghost story. And Crimson Peak taps into a horror film phenomenon that never fails to dispense fear in generous, indulgent doses: the phenomenon of the female ghost.
Watching American Horror Story isn’t like watching a typical horror movie – say, one produced by the growing Blumehouse franchise. Many Blumehouse movies provoke terror with every unexpected light flicker or distant thump; some magic happens in the production of these movies, a magic that can leave even the most jaded horror fans titillated. But then, that’s probably not the point of American Horror Story, a show that seeks to shock more than scare, to entice more than terrify. While in most horror stories, the characters are vehicles for a terrifying plot, American Horror Story: Season Five: Haunted Hotel, is a complex character study, rife with flashbacks and interspersed with random acts of violence committed on sometimes transient characters. If the goal of Season Five is to make viewers grit their teeth and cover their eyes, goal not met, American Horror Story. But I don’t think that is the goal of American Horror Story – or any contemporary T.V. Horror, including Showtime’s new hit, Penny Dreadful, which is equally exciting and worth discussing. American Horror Story – and especially Season Five, Haunted Hotel – seeks to take the taboo, the abhorrent, the grotesque, and dangle it in front of your eyes playfully, forcing you to admit that while, yes, the show could be scarier, it’s taking classic horror to a new, temptingly obscene plane. Continue reading “Gore Galore: The Delights and Downfalls of American Horror Story: Season Five: Haunted Hotel”