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Un-speakable celluloid horrors

Updated on May 24, 2010

This week will end a 4 week Masters class on the genre of Horror. And now I know I have not missed a damn thing by not liking the genre all along! I took the course because I love the instructor and it was well explained and formatted. The Genre is an interesting study in shadow, and voyeurism, definitely geared to the divine thrill of fight or flight adrenaline rushes. Call me wimpy, but my life has enough stress in it! I have however found out many fascinating things about not only who watches horror, but how it is geared toward the patriarchal society and the lust for experiencing the rush of terror.

First off, there is a distinction between "terror" and "horror". I never knew this before, but it makes sense.Ann Radcliffe says “Terror and Horror are so far opposite that the first expands the soul, and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes and nearly annihilates them .... And where lies the difference between horror and terror, but in the uncertainty and obscurity that accompany the first, respecting the dreading evil?”

We watched several movies with differing thematic content. Nosferatu, the silent film that was made in the time of German Expressionism, Frankenstein, the original with Bela Lugosi, the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and one many of you may not have heard of before entitled Peeping Tom.Rosemary's Baby, Halloween and Scream rounded up the last three, and a film I chose to write about called The Resurrected based on a short story by HP Lovecraft. All of these films covered different aspects of the genre and was a great psychological and feminist representations we discussed in each film. More importantly, we discerned the political and social implications inherent in the films depending on the time they were filmed. This is also evident in literature as well, and one always must consider time and place when reading a work, or watching a movie.

One of the most interesting movies we watched was a little known movie listed above entitled: Peeping Tom. Made in the UK in 1960, this movie, a psychological thriller, was centered around serial murder and child abuse. But the most fascinating aspect was the idea that in watching the movie, we become voyeurs, or Peeping Tom's ourselves. critic Roger Ebert writes that:"n his review of the film, states that "... movies make us into voyeurs. We sit in the dark, watching other people's lives. It is the bargain the cinema strikes with us, although most films are too well-behaved to mention it."

The film, which has some nudity, including some nude pictures of women sold at a tobacco shop, was considered a controversial film on initial release in 1960 and the critical backlash heaped on the film was a major factor in finishing the director's career in the UK. By the 1970's the director received a critical reappraisal that not only salvaged his reputation but also earned the film a re-evaluation. In his autobiography he wrote: "I make a film that nobody wants to see and then, thirty years later, everybody has either seen it or wants to see it."

What have I learned from this experiment in fright? That I have not missed a damn thing. I also have seen how the different types of films are derivatives of the same thematic cauldron. And I can honestly say there is enough "evil" in the world without needing to spend time watching more of it! All I need do is turn on the TV and watch the news!


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    • Aley Martin profile imageAUTHOR

      Alice Lee Martin 

      8 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      I teach film classes and center my picks on "humanities" type films, recent choices were "Life is Beautiful", "Dances with Wolves", "Water", and "The house of Sand and Fog". I try to bring Literary pieces together with film. So for me, this was a real out of the box experience, but it was good to know how these things work too, all life is learning...

      thanks Nellieanna.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      Me, too, Pamela. Good seat-gripping mystery i wonderful, but horror, gore, EVIL, are not fun at all. I like good sci-fi, but I love epic historical stories, warm stories, sensuous (not crude) love stories. I love movies. But now horror, terror, gruesome.

      Thanks for the education, though. I wouldn't have thought of a class just on that subject. But - I suppose it's a real factor. . .

    • Aley Martin profile imageAUTHOR

      Alice Lee Martin 

      8 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      Thanks Acer and Pamela... I took the class to broaden my horizons, and am glad I did, but would much rather watch historical literature or even comedy compared to this kind of stuff! We learn we are actually right some of the time! LOL

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Aley, This was an interesting hub. I didn't know the difference horror and terror movies. I don't like either one but love mysteries with suspense. You have the adrenalin factor then wanting to know who the bad guy is but they are not gruesome. Rated up!

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 

      8 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      Most of my friends love the gore and have watched a representative portion and promise you I dislike them as much if not more. I like movies with a bend on science,the more documentary the better...even better a documentary.Though most sci-fi's are more fantasy than fact I dont mind watching them on occasion.

      I also didn't know there was much, if any, difference between terror and horror( Thanks for the enlightenment):)


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