Essay: Horror Final

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Horror Final

During the second have of the course, we watched films that reinforced my previous perceptions of horror, films that redefined my definition of horror, and films that demonstrated the universality of horror. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) further reinforced what Freud proposed in Das Unheimliche through the concept of doppelgangers. In the film, individuals are slowly being replaced by aliens who are near exact copies of a person who mysteriously disappears. One of the most interesting aspects about this film was not only how the film portrays this superficial narrative, but also how it exploits the public fear of being brainwashed that was prevalent during the time due to the Red Scare. Films that were superficially horrifying and subversively political like Invasion of the Body Snatchers allowed me to realize how cinema could be used to promote a public agenda, which ironically, is what McCarthyists were accusing Communists of doing. The French-Italian Eyes Without a Face helped to demonstrate the evolution of horror and how it incorporates technological fears of the time. Eyes Without a Face reinforced my previous definition of horror because this is a theme that arises in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. What was interesting about this film is that the focus of this film is not a monster, but rather an innocent person who was caught in the middle of her father's medical ambitions. In a way, the unethical approach to medicine parallels the real-life horrors of medical experiments conducted in concentration camps. Let the Right One in and a Tale of Two Sisters allowed me to understand the universality of horror concepts. Let the Right One in reimagines the vampire myth and demonstrates that monsters do not have to be obvious and that they are not devoid of compassion. On the other hand, a Tale of Two Sisters allowed me to understand how cultural fears and urban legends are integrated into contemporary horror films. Lastly, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story helped me to redefine horror because it demonstrates how individuals can become the victims of their own psyche and self-perception. Moreover, this film allowed me understand how monsters are not necessarily people or creatures, but that the entertainment industry will exploit individuals until there is nothing left.

Presently, two television shows, Bates Motel and Hannibal, are helping me to better understand the psychological development of fictional serial killers. Bates Motel provides insight into the factors that contributed to Psycho's main character, Norman Bates. This show allows viewers to understand the influence Norman's mother had over him and what led him to adopt her persona, as is seen in Psycho. On the other hand, Hannibal provides insight into Hannibal Lector's persona and allows viewers to see him as an active serial killer and not simply as an FBI consultant like in Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal provides insight into Hannibal a man and monster, and allows viewers to see how he manipulates others to hide who he really is. What is most intriguing about these two series is that they do not focus on the characters' previous crimes, but rather aims to examine them from a psychological perspective and attempt to explain why they are monsters.

It is difficult to pinpoint the function of horror in today's society as many of Hollywood's most recent horror films are remakes of foreign films. It appears as though film executives consider horror as a profitable venue and they play upon the audience's ignorance of pre-existing foreign versions. This is evident in the Ju-on/the Grudge films, a Tale of Two Sisters/the Uninvited, Ringu/the Ring, and Let the Right One in/Let Me in among others. Hollywood is also focusing on remaking American films to generate an extra profit; this can be seen in the Fright Night remake, the Wolfman/the Wolf Man remake, and the Carrie remake. Also, film executives have aimed to diminish the impact of horror by targeting young children through films such as Frankenweenie and ParaNorman. Furthermore, film executives have attempted to exploit innovative ideas and approaches to horror cinema to the point where they are devoid of meaning. For instance, the Paranormal Activity series, while revolutionary in its first version, will have had four sequels released by the end of 2013 that will vary slightly, if at all, from the original's premise. What can be seen through Paranormal Activity's approach to horror as a documentary is an attempt to present evil as a part of life. It attempts to bring horror from the realm of fantasy to the realm of reality. This can also be seen in films as the Last Exorcism, which combines horror and religion, and the Fourth Kind. It appears as though Hollywood has also shifted its focus from creating horror films that frighten audiences to horror films that entertain, but do not elicit a psychological response, such as films based on video games including Silent Hill, and Resident Evil. However, with Drew Goddard's Cabin in the Woods, it is possible to breathe new life into the genre and not only demonstrate that horror films can be used to provide commentary on society, but also engage viewers psychologically. Horror films should be cathartic and allow viewers to explore what frightens them and how they can overcome those fears.

To better understand horror, I think it would be interesting to attempt to trace urban legends back to their origins and to investigate the universality, if any, of these legends. For instance, I think it would be interesting to see how monsters such as the vampire, are defined by different cultures and how these definitions manifest in film. I think that the most effective way to explore something like this would be through a comparison of American/British representations of vampires in films with foreign films such as Nosferatu, Blood: The Last Vampire, Thirst, and Strigoi. I would also like to explore how these monsters have been watered down to be less intimidating and the effect that this has on how these monsters are perceived.

There have been many memorable scenes in the films we have watched during the second half of this course. For instance, in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the scene where the pods are discovered in the greenhouse by Dr. Miles is not only horrifying, but also provides insight into how people are being cloned. This scene is important because allows the characters in the film to understand what is happening and forces them to take action against the unknown threat. It is their knowledge of what is happening and how it is happening that creates a sense of urgency in the film and adds suspense to the film. In Eyes Without a Face, one of the most memorable scenes occurs at the end of the film when Christiane sets the dogs that were being experimented on free, as well as the caged doves. This scene is representative of Christiane coming to terms with her who she is and allows herself to be freed from the cage her father put her in. Paradoxically, this final scene also allows the viewer to see that the true monster of the film does not get away with what he did as he is subsequently attacked by the dogs he tortured with his experiments. In Let the Right One in, one of the most memorable scenes occurs when Oskar is bullied and whipped by his classmates. This scene was especially moving because it allows the viewer to see that even though Eli is a vampire, the true monsters are humans. Eli is forced to feed off others because he needs to do so to survive, whereas Oskar's bullies beat him up because they enjoy doing so. A Tale of Two Sisters was interesting to watch because I was not aware that it was the original version of the Uninvited, the U.S. remake released six years after the original. One of the impactful and terrifying scenes occurs shortly after the dinner scene when the stepmother is left alone and believes she hears something in the kitchen and begins to check the cabinets. This scene's terrifying quality is enhanced through the juxtaposition of sound and silence. As the stepmother is checking the cabinets, she notices a hairclip on the floor and reaches down to pick it up; as soon as she does, a disembodied, phantom hand reaches out from under the cabinet. Even though I expected something to happen, and knew that something was going to reach out and grab the stepmother's hand, it still manages me to make me jump because the editing of the scene draws the viewer in and forces them to assume an objective and subjective perspective. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story was not at all like expected. It is difficult to choose one scene that was memorable because the entire film caught me by surprise as Todd Haynes provided his version of Karen Carpenter's rise and fall through Barbie and Ken dolls. In a way, these dolls are representative of the artificiality that Karen… [END OF PREVIEW]

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