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
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.
W. Scott Poole quotes Judith Halberstam, who calls the monster a “meaning machine.” This observation seems to suggest that the monster is always overdetermined – that the monstrous body in a particular work can mean a variety of things in any given time and place. Poole agrees with Halberstam when he argues: “The subject of monsters contains too much meaning” and goes on to observe that “the very messiness of the monster makes it a perfect entry into understanding the messiness of American history” (xv). In Monster Theory, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen lays out the seven theses of the monster, and his first theses is that “the monster body is a cultural body” (4). Cohen also believes that we can read the monster, but the monster’s meaning always has a basis in the culture that surrounds it. While Poole asserts that monsters are indisputably real—created by material circumstances and producing material consequences – Calafell, who bases her readings heavily on Poole and Cohen, find the monster a useful metaphor for describing problematic identity relations in the United States; she seems to embrace both a metaphorical reading of the monster and the contention that monsters can be very real, at times.
When I ponder my love of horror, I trace it back to this crazy fear of death I’ve had since I was a child. Perhaps most of us are somewhat afraid to die, but for me, at points in my life, the fear has been quite stark. I wrote a little essay-type piece about it, since I’m trying to memoir more about my love of horror. The piece below is a little dark, and a little personal, but I was in the mood to write at 3:30 a.m. before going to sleep, so here it is.
On Christmas morning my parents and I packed the car and headed to Ohio to visit family. While many travelers are likely to bring a book with them on such a trip, I tend to be reading many books at once, and I always have trouble discerning what texts future Kalie will be in the mood to peruse, so I brought a bag of books, just to read in my hotel room post-Christmas day festivities. We got back to the hotel a little before midnight, and while my plan had been to sit down and read, it occurred to me that maybe I’d like to ramble on just a little bit about what I’m reading right now, instead of picking up a book ASAP. As such, I emptied the contents of my bag of indecision on the spare bed in the hotel room, and I snapped a picture of the books I’m going to discuss. Since my focal areas are horror, monstrosity, and madness, the books predominantly fall under those subject areas, with considerable variation under that broader umbrella.
Anthony Perkins is Norman Bates. Point blank. There are no two ways about it. Except, of course, when he isn’t Norman Bates. And what an unusual experience it is to envision someone else fulfilling the role, especially since it’s been years since I’ve seen the Gus Van Sant remake. The beauty of the comprehensive exam is that I can select the books I put on my lists (based on a unifying theme), and I was really excited to add Robert Bloch’s Psycho. Of course, I’ve seen the original movie many-a times, but I’ve never read the text, and like any horror fan, I was immediately interested in how the novel would compare with the film. I decided, then, to do what I did with The Shining. In “Let’s Not Overlook Anything” I blogged about the Shining in small increments and spent a considerable amount of blog space discussing one or two scenes. I decided I would do the same with the text Psycho – blog a little bit about each section as I read it. So this is my “insanely long series,” my observations about Bloch’s Psycho. And my first observation is that Bloch’s Norman Bates is fascinating.
Tonight, I laughed at my imminent comp exam as I nestled in a couch corner and picked up a book of Edith Wharton’s ghost stories. Had I structured my exam differently, it’s quite possible these stories would have made the exam cut, but as it stands they’re only extra, unrelated reading that’s taking away from the time I’ve been devoting reading The Gothic: A Very Short Introduction (which, by the way, is incredibly interesting in and of itself, but a harder piece about which to write a post). My sister bought me Edith Wharton’s ghost stories last year for Christmas, but it’s taken me an entire year to write about one for my blog. This evening I sat down to a rather chilling tale called The Lady’s Maid’s Bell, and I decided I’d write a bit about it. According to the text’s introduction, this is Wharton’s most ambiguous ghost story, and after reading it, I think I can surmise why. Since it’s hard to write about a story in much detail without giving away the ending, this analysis will contain spoilers. If I were a better, or perhaps a more careful writer, I would be able to produce analysis without spoilers. But as it stands, I think I’ll have to say a fair deal about the story to analyze it.
Of Shakespeare’s sister that Virginia Woolf imagines in A Room of One’s Own, Woolf speculates: “Perhaps she scribbled some pages up in an apple loft on the sly but was careful to hide them or set fire to them.” For some scholars of women’s literature, it’s fairly common to assume that there was a vendetta against the combination of women and work in Anglo-American history, and that stifling the ability to work– often forbidding, particularly, artistic expression – resulted in concomitant madness for oppressed women. It’s a common trope, although there were some significant historical exceptions to the rule. I’m not an expert on the subject, but I’ve heard that Jane Austen had to hide her manuscript whenever a guest entered her room. And one must wonder, as VW did, what happened to the likely expansive throng of brilliant, would-be productive women who weren’t given a voice prior to, say, the Romantic or Victorian eras – or later. As an unrelated heads up, there will be spoilers throughout this piece!
Kalie is living in a state of perpetual business with all her PhD work, teaching, lesson planning, grading, and working her other job. So, sadly, she hasn’t had much time for blogging lately. We haven’t even finished The Haunting Of Hill House yet! (Although we’re close.) However, it’s Halloween and this is a horror blog so I thought a new post was needed. With that in mind, this was the perfect day (and the perfect site) to discuss Al Ewing’s new series The Immortal Hulk, a comic unflinchingly merging the superhero and horror genre to uniquely unnerve its readers. It is legitimately scary…but not in a jump-scare way. The title’s true horror comes with what it forces the reader to consider and the dark, psychological unease rising from such contemplation. Continue reading “The Immortal Hulk: Rooting for and Fearing the Monster Within”→