Fiction’s Fearless Females – Wendy Torrance

Photo Credit — The Shining

One of my favorite scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a two or three second shock during which a series of terrifying events happen.  At this point in the film, Danny has been replaced by Tony, who’s saying “Redrum” in a voice that’s robotic at first and amplifies in intensity and urgency as Jack’s presence gets closer.  As Danny—or “Tony,” his psychic alter-ego—screams “Redrum,” Wendy reads the words backward in the mirror.  The camera pans in on the word “murder” written in childish handwriting with blood-red lipstick.  Almost as soon as we, the viewers, read “murder” in the mirror, we hear the unnerving sound of an ax chopping through wood and the camera moves to Jack, who wields the huge, sharp, silver device and uses it to slice through the wooden door of the caretaker’s quarters, where Danny and Wendy reside.  As if this nexus of sensation weren’t enough to alarm us, the viewers, and pull as even a little more deeply into The Shining’s sinister, unpredictable world, Wendy’s voice intercepts this moment with a simultaneously frenetic and bone-chilling scream—a scream that we’ll hear different variations of for the rest of the movie.  In turn, we, as the viewers—at least a little bit—start feeling Wendy’s maddening fear, and our cognition is ultimately forced to accept a mis-en-scene and narrative moment that’s eliminated anything reassuring or comforting for us to latch onto.  We are, in a sense, in the void, and we are there with Wendy. 

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Fiction’s Fearless Females – Wendy Torrance

A Horrific Spring: Recently and Soon-to-Be Released Horror Movies

Photo Credit — Brightburn

As I’ve been off working hard at life, Hollywood has been working even harder to create a deliciously rich amalgam of Spring horror movies and to thus to pull me back toward my long-neglected blog.  The list that Michael and I started composing after watching horror movie previews turned out to be too noteworthy to ignore.  Couple that with the fact that I’m feeling chatty lately (more in the mood to shout from a roof top, less in the mood to crouch in a corner) and you have a recipe for my first self-composed blog post in exactly three months.   I don’t claim this to be an exhaustive list of all-things-horror being released in the next few months, but I’m trying to be fairly thorough with the rather abundant supply of scary that’s headed toward the theaters.  The first two entries on this list are films I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks, and the rest are films that haven’t been released yet, but that I’ll be sure to see when they are released.  For your ease-of-reading, I’ve arranged the films by release date, accompanied by trailers.  My discussion, of course, will be slightly more thorough for the two films I’ve already seen.  In any case, here they are: five films to consider if you need a (decidedly terrifying, unnerving, exhilarating) movie night any time soon.

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A Horrific Spring: Recently and Soon-to-Be Released Horror Movies

What Scares Us: Briana’s First Fright

As a child, I was mildly afraid of a lot of things—dark basements, mean dogs, the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys—so it’s always a bit difficult for me to think of one thing that scared me, or at least one thing that has a decent story behind it.  Then I remember the time my mother and grandmother dragged me on a ghost tour in Gettysburg, PA when I was about ten years old.

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What Scares Us: Briana’s First Fright

What Scares Us: Kiri’s First Fright

Photo Credit – E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

It seems only appropriate that my first fear is attributed not to a George Lucas film, but instead a film from his friend and early rival, Steven Spielberg.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking – Jaws. After all, I live in Massachusetts where Jaws was filmed and we have great white sharks often roaming our nearby beaches in the summer.

No, my friends, you are wrong. Instead, my first fear that I can remember is E.T.

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What Scares Us: Kiri’s First Fright

Escaping the Atypical Monster in Escape Room

Well, unsurprisingly, it’s three in the morning and I’ve decided to write a blog post.  You see, I was reading On Monsters: An Unnatural History of our Worst Fears by Stephen T. Asma, and his writing is so fluid, his stories so interesting, his points so insightful, that I got inspired to write.  In general, I find that as I read more for my comprehensive exams, I tend to get so enthusiastic that I feel I absolutely must release some of my excitement through writing.  And, I have the perfect fodder for a blog post this evening.  Michael and I went to see a showing of Escape Room tonight, and we both really enjoyed the film.  Given that I’ve been reading about monsters and horror non-stop over break, my mind started playing with the movie in light of what I’ve been reading, and I jotted down some thoughts earlier.  So, here’s what will probably be a fairly short little post on Escape Room.  I’m not one for rating or grading movies, so while I won’t give it a rating, I’ll say it’s an interesting example of a horror archetype we’ve been seeing a lot of recently, and it’s a genuinely engaging film with (my favorite!) mostly likable characters!  As such, I highly suggest you check it out.  But…I’m no good at writing without spoilers, so those will inevitably follow this paragraph.  Beware!! 

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Escaping the Atypical Monster in Escape Room

Analyzing American Horror Story Asylum: Episode One

As the song goes, I don’t know much about history, but I know – especially after reading W. Scott Poole’s Monsters in America – that the 1960’s were a turbulent era:  America was 15-20 years past WWII, but still dealing with the anxieties that accompany the use and proliferation of nuclear arms as the Cold War mounted.  Vietnam had started, and according to Poole, American soldiers were often times literally getting rewards for how many Vietnamese citizens they could kill.  Of course, this was the era of Civil Rights, and second wave feminism was also in full swing.  Birth control was invented in 1960, making sex less formidable, and the Black Arts Movement started around 1965.  Despite a struggle for rights by many groups, racism, sexism, and homophobia were pretty rampant.  In the horror world, Psycho launched the interest in “maniac” killers in 1960, and The Exorcist was released in 1973.  Serial killer lore and urban legends were on the rise.  In 1968, censorship ended in Hollywood, making the modern horror fare we watch today possible. 

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Analyzing American Horror Story Asylum: Episode One

Navigating Norman: The Serial Killer Monster as Meaning Machine

W. Scott Poole quotes Judith Halberstam, who calls the monster a “meaning machine.”  This observation seems to suggest that the monster is always overdetermined – that the monstrous body in a particular work can mean a variety of things in any given time and place.  Poole agrees with Halberstam when he argues: “The subject of monsters contains too much meaning” and goes on to observe that “the very messiness of the monster makes it a perfect entry into understanding the messiness of American history” (xv).  In Monster Theory, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen lays out the seven theses of the monster, and his first theses is that “the monster body is a cultural body” (4).  Cohen also believes that we can read the monster, but the monster’s meaning always has a basis in the culture that surrounds it.  While Poole asserts that monsters are indisputably real—created by material circumstances and producing material consequences – Calafell, who bases her readings heavily on Poole and Cohen, find the monster a useful metaphor for describing problematic identity relations in the United States; she seems to embrace both a metaphorical reading of the monster and the contention that monsters can be very real, at times.

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Navigating Norman: The Serial Killer Monster as Meaning Machine

For the Love of Horror: Tracing Origins

When I ponder my love of horror, I trace it back to this crazy fear of death I’ve had since I was a child. Perhaps most of us are somewhat afraid to die, but for me, at points in my life, the fear has been quite stark. I wrote a little essay-type piece about it, since I’m trying to memoir more about my love of horror. The piece below is a little dark, and a little personal, but I was in the mood to write at 3:30 a.m. before going to sleep, so here it is.

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For the Love of Horror: Tracing Origins

Miles to Go Before I Sleep: My Christmas Night Reading List

On Christmas morning my parents and I packed the car and headed to Ohio to visit family.  While many travelers are likely to bring a book with them on such a trip, I tend to be reading many books at once, and I always have trouble discerning what texts future Kalie will be in the mood to peruse, so I brought a bag of books, just to read in my hotel room post-Christmas day festivities.  We got back to the hotel a little before midnight, and while my plan had been to sit down and read, it occurred to me that maybe I’d like to ramble on just a little bit about what I’m reading right now, instead of picking up a book ASAP.  As such, I emptied the contents of my bag of indecision on the spare bed in the hotel room, and I snapped a picture of the books I’m going to discuss.  Since my focal areas are horror, monstrosity, and madness, the books predominantly fall under those subject areas, with considerable variation under that broader umbrella. 

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Miles to Go Before I Sleep: My Christmas Night Reading List

An Insanely Long Series: Reading Psycho Bit by Bit

Anthony Perkins is Norman Bates.  Point blank.  There are no two ways about it.  Except, of course, when he isn’t Norman Bates.  And what an unusual experience it is to envision someone else fulfilling the role, especially since it’s been years since I’ve seen the Gus Van Sant remake.  The beauty of the comprehensive exam is that I can select the books I put on my lists (based on a unifying theme), and I was really excited to add Robert Bloch’s Psycho.  Of course, I’ve seen the original movie many-a times, but I’ve never read the text, and like any horror fan, I was immediately interested in how the novel would compare with the film.  I decided, then, to do what I did with The Shining.  In “Let’s Not Overlook Anything” I blogged about the Shining in small increments and spent a considerable amount of blog space discussing one or two scenes.  I decided I would do the same with the text Psycho – blog a little bit about each section as I read it.  So this is my “insanely long series,” my observations about Bloch’s Psycho.  And my first observation is that Bloch’s Norman Bates is fascinating.

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An Insanely Long Series: Reading Psycho Bit by Bit