Almost two years ago on this blog, I watched and wrote about John Carpenter’s widely viewed and broadly acclaimed The Thing. This year, for Halloween, I decided to re-visit this incredibly disgusting movie, which was, fortuitously, part of my coursework this week. In my first post, I wrote about the rampant paranoia fostered by knowing there’s a hideous, murderous monster in at least one of the people around you, but not knowing who houses it – whose body hides the formidable “thing.” I’m not really in the mood to look up my old post, re-read it, and make sure I’m writing something new, especially since it’s one of my least read posts on this blog. So, we’ll have to trust that, two years and ample coursework later, I’m making some new observations about this sickening, human-beast amalgam as I write this post. With that in mind, let’s dive into the uncomfortably unappealing (or, perhaps, the uncomfortably appealing – for whether “the thing” is appealing or unappealing is a question that remains to be grappled with, and perhaps will be grappled with in this post!) Continue reading “Re-visiting the Grotesque: Another Look at John Carpenter’s The Thing”
It is autumn and the leaves are changing. It is autumn and the leaves are changing from green to golds and reds and oranges, and on the movie theater screen sociopathic killers are hacking, sawing limbs and spewing blood and dismembering bodies and organs with reckless, indifferent, gleeful, often retaliatory or vengeful abandon. We buy things pumpkin flavored – like the venerable pumpkin spice coffee options – and sip hot cocoa and caramel apple cider as we smear fake blood on the sides of lips, shove vampire fangs inside our mouths, and delight in the temporary, transitory, audacious and ostentatious embodiment of the so-called monster, that cultural construct who signifies panic, disruption, mayhem. It is autumn, and so – at least, for those of us who like the season – we are not sure if we’re in some transcendental, umbrage-speckled heaven or the depths of a fiendish, delightful, playful sort of hell. It is autumn and, perhaps, we’re not sure how to feel, but in any case we indulge deliciously in the feeling, the feeling of change, the feelings of alleged paradox, the feelings of fall-ness. See, I just created a word: fall-ness. Often times, during autumn, we delight in fall-ness. Continue reading “Seeing Jigsaw in the Fall”
Ridley Scott once asserted that if another life form came to visit earth, it’d be best to flee immediately, because the life form’s intentions assuredly wouldn’t be good. One the one hand, this premise seems contestable, like a sort of specie-ism that naturally pits “all against all” and relies on a narrative of innate hostility, in which the alien “other” is necessarily a dangerous, malicious being. On the other hand, it would, presumably, be a long journey from the unknown planet to earth, and what might motivations for that journey be? Far be it for us to assume extra-terrestrial intentions would necessarily be negative, but one can see how Scott’s line of reasoning is defensible. I watched District 9 last night and, I think, it situates itself with a bit of ambivalence, but mostly on one side of the narrative. District 9 suggests that an extra-terrestrial “other” who arrives on earth need only be hostile if we make them so, and even then, perhaps the alien-other isn’t as hostile as those skulking around the next corner, waiting to mercilessly obliterate him or her. Continue reading “Confronting the Other: Contemplating District 9”
A year ago on my blog, I began a series called “My First Fright” which sought to examine the things that scare us most when we’re children, to re-situate us in those moments when we first encountered feelings of fear. Upon consideration, it has occurred to me that a first fright, or a first confrontation with the feeling of fear, can be, and often is, much different than a first encounter with something – a story, experience, movie, and so forth – that may typically be considered part of the horror genre. While I may have experienced fear listening to the dreaded chipmunk song or watching Large Marge’s face contort during Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, those horrifying moments were far different than early moments I faced that constituted my first encounter with horror. And while I can’t decide, with certainty, what qualifies a work or a story for membership in the horror pantheon, and what my definitive first-horror moment is, I very much recall hearing the story of the formidable Bloody Mary, the violent mirror witch-ghost, for the first time. To that end, I’ll delight in re-living my first encounters with the Bloody Mary myth, and how she partially initiated me into the genre during my early years of childhood. Continue reading “Early Encounters, Part I: The Horror of Bloody Mary”
It’s one of those nights where falling asleep to the usual evening playlist and temporarily entering oblivion sounds delightful, but since that particular pleasure does not appear, for me, to be in the cards right now, I thought I’d extend this mini-series on witchiness and continue to ask the question I raised a couple posts ago: What is “The Witch?” You see, I’ve done some film-watching and some reading lately, and I have an eclectic barrage of notes scribbled on the cardboard backings of notebooks and in the inside covers of novels, and if I really wanted to, I could probably sit here and practice my use of complex theoretical terms to hash out some ideas that might be ridiculous but might also be interesting. As I was watching Black Sunday after all – which I’ll probably write about at some point – I wrote down a lot of fancy words and ideas that I thought would be fun to share in a blog post. I like, sometimes, to be unapologetically verbose and excessive when I write, even though, stylistically, doing so defies contemporary conventions. But I think one always runs the risk of saying much while saying nothing at all – saying nothing really at least – and I wanted to address that possibility tonight. Because as a woman, as a feminist, I have a special sort of relationship to “the witch,” as she’s been conceived, and made manifest through brutal, torturous punishment, across space and time. And despite having scribbled a lot of thoughts that felt really insightful to me when I was writing them down, it occurred to me that perhaps, to a considerable degree, in contemplating the witch, I still don’t really understand her. Why does this figure exist? How do we reconcile contemporary horror movies with the needless decimation of subversive women and young girls in witch trials hundreds of years ago? Why am I so drawn to this character? And, most importantly, regardless of what I think I know, what don’t I know? These questions are the ones that interest me tonight. Continue reading “Who Is the Witch (Part Two): I Don’t Know, I Don’t Know”
For an Independent Seminar on horror and monstrosity, I sat down (again) to watch the very classic and very canonical The Blair Witch Project, a film, not surprisingly, about witches, and one situated at the inception of the found footage trend in filmmaking (a trend I address in other posts). Of course, I’ve written about this film before, some time ago, but I really only scratched the surface of its depth and what it has to offer us, as both a piece of criticism and a manifestation – a cultural artifact signaling the historical location of the late 90’s and what questions that location raised. Needing, I thought, to narrow my focus for this film (and, perhaps, for all the texts I’ll encounter this week that deal with witches) I started with what I thought was a very important question: What is “the witch,” so called? What surrounds her, perhaps, and what does she tell us? I think putting a variety of texts about witches in conversation with one another could yield rather interesting answers to this question, but I’ll start with The Blair Witch Project, which offers us a turn-of-the-century glimpse – based off, in the film, age-old lore – of what “witchiness” is, how the witch reveals herself, and what she’s (frighteningly) capable of. Continue reading “What is the Witch? — Part One: The Blair Witch Project”
I was driving from Indiana PA to Erie one night not a few weeks ago, my mind enmeshed in rapid succession of thoughts. It was dark outside, and I noticed little except for fleeting, flickering glimpses of surreal roadside images, ambiguous shadow outlines in the night, as my car coasted across 422, and then across 1-79, headed north. My CD player has been broken for months, so I was flipping through the channels, trying to settle on a song even vaguely satisfying, a melody that didn’t wink out into a barrage of static thirty seconds after I found it. Reliable radio stations are difficult to come by in some parts of Western Pennsylvania.