Download American Horror Film: The Genre at the Turn of the Millennium PDF

TitleAmerican Horror Film: The Genre at the Turn of the Millennium
PublisherUniversity Press of Mississippi
ISBN 139781604734546
CategoryArts - Film
File Size2.5 MB
Total Pages286
Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION: They Don’t Make ’Em Like They Used To: On the 
Rhetoric of Crisis and the Current State of American Horror Cinema
Part One: BLOODY AMERICA: Critical Reassessments of the Trans/-national and of Graphic Violence
	THE AMERICAN HORROR FILM: Globalization and Transnational U.S.-Asian Genres
	A PARISIAN IN HOLLYWOOD: Ocular Horror in the Films of Alexandre Aja
	"THE POUND OF FLESH WHICH I DEMAND": American Horror Cinema, Gore, and the Box Office, 1998–2007
	A (POST)MODERN HOUSE OF PAIN: FearDotCom and the Prehistory of the Post-9/11 Torture Film
Part Two: THE USUAL SUSPECTS: Trends and Transformations in the Subgenres of American Horror Film
	TEENAGE TRAUMATA: Youth, Affective Politics, and the Contemporary American Horror Film
	TRAUMATIC CHILDHOOD NOW INCLUDED: Todorov’s Fantastic and the Uncanny Slasher Remake
	A RETURN TO THE GRAVEYARD: Notes on the Spiritual Horror Film
Part Three: LOOK BACK IN HORROR: Managing the Canon of American Horror Film
	AUTEURDÄMMERUNG: David Cronenberg, George A. Romero, and the Twilight of the (North) American Horror Auteur
	HOW THE MASTERS OF HORROR MASTER THEIR PERSONAE: Self-Fashioning at Play in the Masters of Horror DVD Extras
	"THE KIDS OF TODAY SHOULD DEFEND THEMSELVES AGAINST THE '70S": Simulating Auras and Marketing Nostalgia in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse
	AFTERWORD: Memory, Genre, and Self-Narrativization; Or, Why I Should Be a More Content Horror Fan
Document Text Contents
Page 143

a n d r e w PaT r i c k n e l S o n1 1 0

While Loomis’s ultimate inability to effectively treat Michael is a gesture in
the direction of commentary on the unaccountable nature of evil, the dominant
current of the remake flows unquestionably toward explanation and explication.
The lengthy prologue of Michael’s traumatic childhood shows us the origins of his
iniquity, and the connection between the violent manifestations of his boyhood rage
and his later atrocities is reinforced through formal continuity. Those same formal
strategies are used to accentuate the adult Michael’s already imposing physical size,
erasing all questions as to the nature of his strength and resilience. Finally, further
motivation for Myers’s bloody homecoming is provided by the movie’s adoption of
the original series’ conceit that Laurie is, in fact, the killer’s baby sister. This, in sum,
erases all hesitation that Myers may or may not be a supernatural phenomenon.
Whereas the new Loomis believes he “failed” Michael by not being able to help him,
the original Loomis knew he couldn’t help Michael and dedicated himself to keeping
Myers locked up.
With all of that said, a question remains: to what degree are these features the
product of Zombie’s authorial vision, as opposed to being symptomatic of larger
trends and transformations in the horror film genre, American cinema, or even
American popular culture at large? In order to properly consider this matter, we
need to expand the focus of our inquiry to include an examination of the broader—
and comparable—generic contexts of both the remake and the original Halloween.

S l a S h e r S

As much as Carpenter’s Halloween is regarded, rightfully, as an important
work of horror cinema—or cinema in general, really—it is also part of a larger
phenomenon: a cycle of American horror films released in the 1970s and early 1980s
that we now refer to as slashers. Although not without precedent within the horror
genre—Carol Clover has noted affinities between the cycle and Alfred Hitchcock’s
1960 film Psycho (16), while Andrew Tudor describes slashers as a “youth-focused”
variant of a common “terrorizing” horror narrative (198)—the original Halloween,
together with Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), has been held by
most scholarship as one of the two movies that inaugurated the cycle by establishing
its narrative and thematic conventions.1

In general, slasher movies concern teenage protagonists who, while partaking
in a ritualized activity—babysitting, camping, prom night, a road trip—are terror-
ized by a villain unknown to them, who often goes about murdering the members
of the group in a physical fashion using a variety of physical implements. The main
protagonist of slasher pictures, as detailed most thoroughly by Clover in her semi-
nal book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in Modern Horror Film, is often a
virtuous (although not necessarily virginal) female.

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To d o r o v ’ S fa n Ta S T i c a n d T h e u n c a n n y S l a S h e r r e M a k e 1 1 1

A likely objection to this description of the cycle is how, by emphasizing aspects
like physicality and materiality, it excludes one extremely popular movie that is fre-
quently included in discussions of the slasher movie: Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on
Elm Street (1984). This is deliberate on my part. Without denying the similarities
between the first Elm Street film and earlier horror movies like Halloween and Fri-
day the 13th (Sean S. Cunningham, 1980), I would argue that the picture’s emphasis
on family—both the threat to the collective family unit and conspiratorial efforts
by adults to protect their children from external threats—makes it more akin to
movies like The Omen (Richard Donner, 1976) and Craven’s earlier works The Hills
Have Eyes (1977) and Last House on the Left (1972). As Pat Gill has observed, the
imperiled teenagers in slasher pictures have “no hope of help from their parents”
(18). Furthermore, the explicitly supernatural characteristics of A Nightmare on Elm
Street make it both unlike the initial slasher movies and, as I shall detail shortly, part
of a subsequent development in the horror genre.
By chance—or perhaps a more sinister force!—Zombie’s Halloween is also part
of a cycle of horror movies: in this case, a cycle of slasher remakes. Recent years have
brought us new versions of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Marcus Nispel, 2003),
When a Stranger Calls (Simon West, 2006), and Black Christmas (Glen Morgan,
2006). Looking ahead, a remake of Prom Night (1980) will be released in the spring
of 2008, and updated takes on both My Bloody Valentine (1981) and Friday the 13th
are currently in development.
Here we are presented with an opportunity to pose two further questions:
Are any other movies from the original slasher cycle also examples of Todorov’s
fantastic genre? If so, is the uncanny nature of the new Halloween—with its more
communicative narration and emphasis on overt display—common to other slasher
remakes? A sampling of classic slasher films and their recent remakes sheds light on
this question.

Black Christmas
In Black Christmas (Bob Clark, 1974) the members of a sorority house are terrorized
over the Christmas holiday by “Billy,” an unseen murderer who alternates between
menacing the coeds with threatening, sexually explicit phone calls and killing them
off, one by one. Although comparatively neglected in scholarship, Black Christmas is
considered by some to be the first slasher film. Interestingly, it anticipates Halloween
in a number of ways. For example, the movie makes extensive use of a mobile cam-
era—here using a wide-angle lens, which creates a distorting effect—accompanied
by heavy breathing to represent the killer’s subjective point of view. What I would
like to highlight, however, is the film’s ending.
After finally determining that the threatening phone calls are “coming from
inside the house!” the police rush to the sorority—but not before Jessica kills her
boyfriend Peter, whom both she and the police believe to be the killer. A distraught

Page 285

i n d e x2 5 2

serial killer epidemic, 121
Se7en, 127
sexual assault, 26–28, 87–88
Sharrett, Christopher, xvii
Shary, Timothy, 91
Shaun of the Dead, 180
Shimizu, Takashi, 6
Shore, Howard, 125
Showtime, xxii, xxviii, 124, 193, 213, 214,

Shyamalan, M. Night, xii, xix, 48, 142, 154
Silence of the Lambs, viii, 125
Silver, Joel, ix
Simpson, Philip L., xxvii, 195
Simpsons, The, 37, 146
Sixth Sense, The, xxvii, 142, 151–52
Skal, David, 72n9
Sobchak, Vivian, 184
South Korea, ix, 3, 10–11, 114
Spielberg, Steven, 217n20
splat pack, 16, 156, 157n7
Staiger, Janet, 38
Stalin, Josef, 69
Standard Operating Procedure, 70, 72n13
Starz Media, 213, 215n1
Stepfather, The (1987), 30
Stigmata, 153
Sturgeon’s Law, xxxn11
subcultural capital, xxi, 84, 98n7, 237
supernatural, 60, 114–15, 142–43

Tamborini, Ron. See Weaver, James
Tarantino, Quentin, 222–33, 239
Taubin, Amy, 127
Teeth (2007), 90–91
terrorism, 69, 123, 127
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (1974), xii,

25–26, 110, 113–14
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (2003), 81
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,

The, 113
Thornton, Sarah, xxi, 98n7
Three Extremes, 9
300, 50
Tobias, Scott, xi–xii
Todorov, Tzvetan, 104, 105–7, 116–17

torture porn, xii, xxixn7, 36, 48–49, 64
Tourneur, Jacques, 206
transnationalization, 3–4, 15–16; labor issues,

Tudor, Andrew, 72n9, 80, 110
Turistas (2006), 95
Turn of the Screw, The, 106
24, 96
Twin Peaks (1990–91), 88
Twitchell, James, xviii, xxxin16

Un Chien Andalou, 25
uncanny, 80, 105–7
Universal Films, xi, xv, xix, 194, 235
Urban Legend (1998), 94

vagina dentata, 90–91
Valentine (2001), 88, 89, 95
Van Sant, Gus, 77
Varma, Devendra P., 39
Vertigo Entertainment, 5
Videodrome, 60, 64
Vietnam, 9, 10; war, 79, 116
Vigo, Jean, 25
Virginia Tech Massacre, 98n1

Waller, Gregory, 155
war, on terror, 72n13, 179, 181
Watts, Naomi, xxxin19
Weaver, James, 39
Wee, Valerie, 87
Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996), 89
Wells, Paul, 82
What Dreams May Come, 156–57n5
What Lies Beneath, 154
When a Stranger Calls (1979), 111–13
When Animals Attack, 49
Wildstorm (DC Comics), 211, 219n29
Williamson, Kevin, 84, 98n6, 145, 239
witchcraft, 99n12
Wollen, Peter, 161, 186n1
Wood, Robin, 78–79, 115, 151, 164, 167, 177,

“Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical

Reproduction.” See Benjamin, Walter
Worland, Rick, 23, 84

Page 286

i n d e x 2 5 3

Wrong Turn (2003), 85–86
Wuornos, Aileen, 135–36

Yakir, Dan, 178, 189n15

Zemeckis, Robert, ix, 154
Zillmann, Dolf, 37–38
Zimmer, Catherine, 21
Zizek, Slavoj, 70
Zodiac, 127–29
Zombie, Rob, xii, xxvii, 104–5, 221, 232n1

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