The House Of The Devil literally squeezes the anticipation out of you. Ti West, who used 16 mm film to pay almage to the fallen 80’s of horror also took a lot of notes from Roman Polanski and his psychological thriller Rosemary’s Baby. Other than the obvious plot of conceiving the devil’s child. West uses the same display of psychological suspense and sprinkling the film with little moments of suspense but waiting until the very last second to bring on the action. Small creeks in the stairs and POV window shots were the only tension until over an hour and ten minutes into the film. Yet, when it finally came it never met the anticipation. Just like Rosemary’s Baby. The actual terror of the leading lady figuring out the evil trick is met by mellow emotions and somber eyes of the one’s who did it to them.
The House of The Devil reminds me of Gus Van Sant‘s film Elephant in its withholding of action. The film reenacting the Columbine shoot is so drawn out and mundane that it makes the audience almost beg for action to be done. The same is done here with Sam. We know they want to use her and are eagerly anticipating the action to know what they are wanting to do.
Torture porn is known to tend to display an overt interest in the vulnerability of the human body and the theatricality of its mutilation. Yet what makes a film like Hostel stand out compared to the other sadistic films of this genre like Wolf Creek or The Devil’s Rejects is that the killers are much more average guys. In The New Yorker, David Edelstein points out that the viewer, as potential victims, we fear serial killers, yet we also seek to identify with their power. We fear the killers but are amazed by how relatable they are and fit into the narrative.
In her book Men, Women, and Chain Saws, Carol Clover argues that many slasher films are empowering; the “final girl” always slays the monster. But Hostel ends with bloody retribution, it’s set in a world in which people pay big money for the opportunity to torture and murder, a world of latent serial killers. Which fits so well into the victims too. They came to Europe to have their fill and pillage it for a good time. Entitlement breeds consequences, fitting that the main murderer and Paxton, the “final boy,” each are surprised and awakened to their hopes for pleasure. The final boy is not innocent himself, especially if you think of Roth’s intended ending.
Both films Jennifer’s Body and I Spit on Your Grave idealize the idea of performative gender in horror. As both stalk the male gender they act in form and fashion with how their opposing gender would stereotypical be bated to. One of the most disturbing things is how Jennifer in I Spit On Your Grave actually allow two of her assailants have sexual contact with her before she kills them. Those moments of using her body for revenge were more gruesome than the murders. For her to act as if she is comfortable or given pleasure by her exposed by and their contact after her rape blurs so many lines between sex and violence.
For Jennifer in Jennifers Body it is much more clear. The demon use her body to lure men to kill. There is no emotion or connection involved. Jennifer has nothing out for these men she is killing. Yet, in I Spit On Your Grave revenge is everything. Jennifer uses the one object they tormented to torment them. A very gross but powerful depiction of the power of women over men with their body.
The attempt to possess innocence drives both Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s film House and the infamous original Exorcist by William Friedkin. Both film delve into the occult genre of horror. What Carol Clover calls the most female of horror films at it mainly delves with girls or women having to deal with the supernatural. In both occult films young girls must deal wit the supernatural that ultimately wants to possess their body corrupting their prized innocence. Both characters of Gorgeous and Regan are garbed in white, the quintessential mark of innocence. Also in both, red and he use of blood is contrasted on their white. For both it symbolizes their mark into womanhood but also the fight within that their innocence is being taken from their very body. For example, when Gorgeous first put on the bright lipstick the viewer realized she had become taken by the spirit of her aunt.
This idea of innocence goes back to Clovers idea of White Science versus Black Magic. in both films people tried to solve the issues with modern medicine and logic. Yet it wasn’t until both groups believed/joined and participated in the darkness that a battle began. This ties back to the idea of how to join the darkness brings the character to a feminine quality like, Father Karras. By accepting the darkness he castrated himself to the evil.
Zinoman goes in depth through his chapters on Wes Cravens about the role of faith and force his mother placed on him to be wary of the world. Specifically, even when Craven was working on The Last House On The Left he kept everything from his mother in fear of her disapproval. As a very strict Baptist family Craven supposedly never saw a film until college.
Our nameless true villains in his film The People Under The Stairs are replicas of Cravens childhood more than any other ones of his film. Cravens usually depicts absent fathers who are too strict to see what is really going on like in the first two Nightmare on Elm Street, and unhealthy mothers that must rely on their child for support like Nightmare On Elm Street. Yet Momma and Dad culminated everything negative stereotype of a bigot, baptist southerner. This is so interesting to me in a film that is predominantly built around controversy of race. The antagonists tried to build the best child apart from the world , like Cravens single mother did. In doing so they became a monster than no one felt like they could stand up to, exactly how Cravens felt.
Slumber Party Massacre is a satire of a horror film. The film was directed by Amy Holden Jones, one of the few female directors to delve into the exploitation genre, and written by feminist Rita Mae Brown. The killer has no mystery to him. Almost as if he epitomizes the male gender as a whole. Other than the creepy neighbor and small excerpt of Trish’s father all of the male figures are continually acting as the camera’s view of the male gaze.
Emanuela Betti on her website bitchmedia summarized the film well by saying, ” Slumber Party Massacre was written to be a mock parody of exploitation movies, as well as a satire of masculinity in the slasher genre.” Jones deconstructs the prevailing sexism and masculinity in the slasher genre. Yet, at the same time, to the naked eye you would not see major differences in comparison to films like other 80’s slasher films like Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream. Nudity, preying on innocence and passive victims. Yet, the new girl Valerie is the hero because she has the strength to castrate the killer with her own sexual weapon of a machete across his drill. Interesting enough, she is also a female gazer with the Playgirl magazine. Connoting that strength is in the ability to gaze on others.
Rape revenge is stereotyped as a female protagonist getting revenge on the male antagonist. Films like Straw Dogs, The Virgin Spring (a big influence of Wes Craven‘s The Last House On The Left), The Last House On The Left and the extraordinary film Teeth all give the power to the female protagonist or her family to avenge. Carol Clover argues that these films are designed to align spectators not with the male tormentor, but with the female victim (Totaro). Yet, twelve years after Craven made The Last House on The Left, a film that set the tone of rape revenge, he flipped the roles of revenge.
Freddie Kruger, the antagonist, is the one who continually seeks and is given revenge for his death after he was the petafile. The children of the victims are actually the ones who must directly absorb the revenge of Freddie. Thus, Freddie is not as much in their nightmares as they are the victims in his dreams. Excluding the single scene in Nightmare on Elm Street where Nancy supposedly makes Freddie give all of her friends back and in Nightmare On Elm Street 2 where Lisa watched Freddie burn into Jesse, everything goes exactly how Freddie wants it to.
The everyone always dies, and Freddie is able to always play with them exactly how he wants to. In both films the lead actor is scandalously dressed or simply in their underwear when Freddie stalks them. Which deeply plays on the petafilia aspect of Freddie. The Male gaze is rampant in the first through the bath scene, the sex scene and the white nightgown Nancy always wears. All of which Freddie is close by or present. The female gaze is then in full force in the second film. There are more scenes of Jesse in just his underwear than any other. Jesse is also feminine in appearance and demeanor. The actor himself, Paul Patton, is openly gay.
Zinoman writes about how when Craven’s first began horror films be felt the forbidden in society needed to be explored, the sins of the fathers exposed (Zinoman, 74). Craven’s deeply plays on the role of masculine sexual desire in both films. Just like he brought out the taboo of rape in The Last house On The Left he brought out petafilia and sexually charged images that are made to make the viewer feel sick to their stomach more than attracted. Every dream that the children have of Freddie makes the audience have to ask themselves, “How much is Freddie enjoying this?”
Everything in Halloween III screams, “Stop it! Stop it now!” Which the film actually physically ends on through the character of Dr. Challis. The annoying commercials that are all the same obviously imply that if you’ve seen one then you’ve seen them all. Candidly implying the same for the slasher genre as a whole. In Harris’ article he has Carol Clover stating this same point for the slasher genre, especially the overflow of sequels. Yet, what is interesting is that for a genre that has such “absence of threshold” (Harris, 101) they provide such stability through the reoccurrence of familiar narrative patterns. It complicates that elements like style of the narrative by never showing instability to the monsters in the orders of life. “They transcend the various orders of morality, physical ability, society, etc.
But what made the catalyst, Halloween, separate from the slasher montage to follow it was the ambiguity of Myers. Zinoman in his chapter The Thing In-Between speaks on how Myers was the first character who felt no remorse or even emotion to killing (Zinoman, 181). Like Carpenter is famous for doing, he engineered a killer that had no intentions other than to kill. Only once in a person’s life can the viewer be first shocked and awed in this way by the killer. Carpenter made the original slasher killer, all the rest are knock offs.
Black Christmas was the first film that brought tension to me. I bet Clover loved that they used Olivia Hussey as the lead victim girl. She’s arguably one of the prettiest girls of her time, especially after you see her in Romeo and Juliet. Thus, she was the perfect candidate to help define the key themes of the slasher genre. Mulvey makes a great reference to the reoccurring themes of the plots of films like Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and even Black Christmas with the role of the lead victim in which the story is developed from. Everything rotates around her character Jess, just like everything is centered on Laurie in Halloween.
As the narrative goes on and narrows it become more and more clear it will be up to that one quinn-essential girl to get away or die. She is helpless and supposedly in need of a man to save her. Yet what diverted from the usual slasher script was the presence of no sexual ties to the killer. Even after the killer had the first victim in the attic he did nothing to take advantage of her and acted towards none of the girls with sexual motives. This highly steers away from images like Leatherface’s chainsaw being on Stretch’s crotch symbolizing his own crotch and sexual act.
The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a breed of its own. Director Tobe Hooper split from the norm of legends like John Carpenter and Roman Polanski to bring a new level of sympathy and support to the murderer. Zenoman talks about how Hooper wanted to bring the whole family into play when it came to the culprit. Zenoman goes on to talk about how Hooper actually used excerpts of dialogue from a Texas family Thanksgiving he attended into the infamous dinner scene where Burns is getting beat in the corner. Carpenter was known for not wanting to give any sympathy to his monster in Halloween, he wanted them Myers to be detached from the real world. Clover ties both these characters into children within adult’s bodies longing for the affection of their mother.
Yet, Hooper physically shoves the real world on leatherface’s doorstep. All he is left to do is react. Zinoman states, “Leatherface has one simple goal: make dinner”(Zinoman, 139). I am working on a paper this week on the role of horror films in violent crimes and this film caught my attention with the idea of victims. Leatherface is seen as the bigger victim over his murdered victims. They have no story, no redeeming quality, they are just like the livestock the family used to butcher. But real people have stories and redeeming quality. their death is real and has much larger consequences than a annoying hippie who gets killed 30 minutes into a film.