Brooding Men and Unholy Births: Parthenogenesis and the inter-generational transmission of abuse in The Brood and Men.

                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.”
Brooding Men and Unholy Births: Parthenogenesis and the inter-generational transmission of abuse in The Brood and Men.

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Ellie and Sandie from “Last Night in Soho”

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!

Soho 1

                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.

Continue reading “Fiction’s Fearless Females: Ellie and Sandie from “Last Night in Soho””

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Ellie and Sandie from “Last Night in Soho”

Saturday “Slash-back”: Resonant Violation and My Young Obession with Scream (1996).

Scream One

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.

Continue reading “Saturday “Slash-back”: Resonant Violation and My Young Obession with Scream (1996).”

Saturday “Slash-back”: Resonant Violation and My Young Obession with Scream (1996).

No Sweet Dreams about Nightmare Alley

nightmare-alley-2

      I am writing about the unsettling new Guillermo Del Toro film at 5:22 a.m. on Christmas morning because after an eight-month hiatus, it’s the only time I’ve been able to set aside for any reasonable amount of “extra” writing or “pleasure” writing.  I haven’t slept all night, because for the first time in a long time, I’m setting the day aside (Christmas) to do whatever I’d like to do, among and between zoom calls and visits with people and things of that nature.  It is a fitting reflection of my life, I think, that I plan on writing about deceit, manipulation, murder, and our innate fascination with “difference,” vaguely signified, at 5:30 a.m. on Christmas morning.  Indeed, if I had a definable brand, I think this post would reflect it quite clearly.

Continue reading “No Sweet Dreams about Nightmare Alley”
No Sweet Dreams about Nightmare Alley

Dalek and Us: Grey Areas, Otherization, and Monstrosity

Not all monsters are evil, to be sure. But we often assume they are. My dissertation, and thus my primary work of scholarship right now, focuses on monstrosity, but monstrosity and evil often correlate in pop culture representations.  Shortly after I started my blog, when I was a neophyte blogger and had not yet entered a PhD program, I had a profound interest in cultural manifestations of evil: who do we call evil, who gets to make that decision, what are the consequences of the word “evil,” and how do we navigate the fine line between excusing evil and seeking to understand it? Nurse Jude, played by Jessica Lange, says with her usual self-assurance in Season Two of American Horror Story, “All monsters are human.”  At the same time, writer Stephen T. Asma, in his book On Monsters, highlights the precarious nature of assuming a correlation between monstrosity and innate evil with his concept of “accidental monstrosity,” a phrase he uses to describe those who, after a slip and a slide in the wrong direction, become monsters without meaning to.  Monstrosity and evil, in any case, have one thing in common: both are massive umbrella terms that encompass multiple gradations and examples within their denotations. 

Continue reading “Dalek and Us: Grey Areas, Otherization, and Monstrosity”
Dalek and Us: Grey Areas, Otherization, and Monstrosity

Norma Bates: Fiction’s Fearless Females

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”
Norma Bates: Fiction’s Fearless Females

What is Beetlejuice without Beetlejuice?: Thoughts on Death, Patriarchy, and Capitalism.

Beetlejuice One

I live diagonally across the street from a cemetery. On my more or less daily quarantine walks (note: I started writing this piece in mid-March 2020) I circle the suburb across the street from me, and I consider, often, walking into that sprawling, silent space of the graveyard, navigating the maze of granite and marble while I both recognize the (ephemeral, fleeting) moment and admit, to myself, that a headstone that will stand in for all the components of my life is my irrevocable fate.  I’ve dreamt about graveyards multiple times; in my dreams they represent the bleak and macabre, but also the unavoidable.  As a child I used to bemoan not just my inevitable death but eternity; the prospect of endlessness was too frightening to fully accept.  I believe, now, that time is a construct that makes life more comprehensible to finite beings; to that end, eternity is less the condemnation of disastrous endlessness and more a contrived concept that we use to try to understand the workings of a universal consciousness that is always beyond our complete grasp.  Of course, I hadn’t considered all that around age seven or eight, when my mind was reeling with a problem that resisted a solution: an eternity of anything sounded awful, but there was no alternative to eternity.  Even if humanity disappeared (a terrifying thought), time would still go on – and there was at least some possibility, I reasoned, that my soul would have to experience eternal time.  If not, eternal nothingness sounded even scarier.

Continue reading “What is Beetlejuice without Beetlejuice?: Thoughts on Death, Patriarchy, and Capitalism.”

What is Beetlejuice without Beetlejuice?: Thoughts on Death, Patriarchy, and Capitalism.

My First Viewing of Freaks (1932)

Freaks Three
Cleo faux-flirting with Hans in Freaks

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)”

My First Viewing of Freaks (1932)

Dani from Midsommar — Fiction’s Fearless Females

Dani Midsommar 5
Dani and her emotionally distant boyfriend, Christian

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”

Dani from Midsommar — Fiction’s Fearless Females

Partying with Ma on a Sunny Summer Saturday

Photo Credit – Ma

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”
Partying with Ma on a Sunny Summer Saturday