Un-speakable celluloid horrors
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!