American Horror Film: The Genre at the Turn of the Millennium
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Creatively spent and politically irrelevant, the American horror film is a mere ghost of its former self―or so goes the old saw from fans and scholars alike. Taking on this undeserved reputation, the contributors to this collection provide a comprehensive look at a decade of cinematic production, covering a wide variety of material from the last ten years with a clear critical eye.
Individual essays profile the work of up-and-coming director Alexandre Aja and reassess William Malone’s much-maligned Feardotcom in the light of the torture debate at the end of President George W. Bush’s administration. Other essays look at the economic, social, and formal aspects of the genre; the globalization of the U.S. film industry; the alleged escalation of cinematic violence; and the massive commercial popularity of the remake. Some essays examine specific subgenres―from the teenage horror flick to the serial killer film and the spiritual horror film―as well as the continuing relevance of classic directors such as George A. Romero, David Cronenberg, John Landis, and Stuart Gordon.
Essays deliberate on the marketing of nostalgia and its concomitant aesthetic and on the curiously schizophrenic perspective of fans who happen to be scholars as well. Taken together, the contributors to this collection make a compelling case that American horror cinema is as vital, creative, and thought-provoking as it ever was.
redeeming nature of the afterlife. However, as Kendrick points out, they also paved the way for turning the grotesquerie of death into aesthetic appreciation. Kendrick particularly notes how Parnell’s “A NightPiece on Death” differed from its predecessor, the funeral elegy, by detaching grief 150 j am e s k e n d r i c k from a specific individual’s death and turning it into poetry that could be sold for profit. This process continued into subsequent Gothic literature, which drew from the
complete Cronenberg corpus is available in the “Directors” section, on both tape and DVD. But when I go to the R’s . . . Rohmer . . . Rossellini . . . where is Romero? Romero, it turns out, is shelved in the “Cult” section, though a special subset of this section called “Cult Directors,” which seems to be reserved largely for washed-up horror directors—Tobe Hooper is there—or ones who have gone more mainstream, I guess, like Wes Craven. I could swear that Romero used to be in the “Directors”
Nightmare on Main Street: Angels, Sadomasochism, and the Culture of Gothic. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997. Fessenden, Larry. Glass Eye Pictures. www.glasseyepix.com/html/vamp.html (accessed December 10, 2006). Gelder, Ken, ed. The Horror Reader. London: Routledge, 2000. “Horror.” Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_film (accessed December 10, 2006). Humphries, Reynold. The American Horror Film: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002. Hutchings, Peter.
necessity for cautious optimism where American horror’s future is concerned. A recurrent trope in films that have emerged since the military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq has been a melodramatic insistence upon the innocence of young Americans in the face of their various aggressors. While this does on some level indicate a form of sociopolitical disavowal, recent youth-oriented remakes of The Fog (2005) and The Hills Have Eyes foreground a refusal to be associated with the sins of the
remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre stakes out a middle ground between the exposition of the new Black Christmas and the anonymity exemplified by the When a Stranger Calls remake. Although his bloody butchering of wayward teenagers is facilitated and encouraged by his deranged backwoods family, Leatherface is not given the kind of traumatic childhood that shaped compatriots Michael Myers and Billy. Even so—and in a departure from the original film—the chainsaw-wielding maniac is depicted as