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”
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.
Occasionally, I stumble on an idea that really excites me. This would be a fortuitous occurrence to combat mid-day lethargy, but for better or worse, I’ve become perhaps irrevocably nocturnal. As such, it’s two in the morning, and re-reading sections of Paradise Lost for the upcoming candidacy exam has yielded a level of excitement about pondering the nature of evil – indeed, writing an essay completely committed to the topic of evil, which seems appropriate for a horror blog. And the excitement is difficult to contain. Really, I’m not exaggerating. I even thought maybe dissecting literary depictions of evil would be good fodder for a doctoral dissertation, which brought further almost uncomfortable fervor. So, I started pacing around frantically, then I decided to settle on the couch for a ten-minute meditation, to calm down and focus. I have learned, especially under the right circumstances, that I am a person who feels very strong emotions. In any case, the idea tonight is to harness those emotions into a writing product, one of my atypical miscellaneous essays for this blog, a piece of writing not tied to one particular work of art. Who knows – such meanderings may even help me shape the dissertation I need to start writing in about two years. As usual, then, I’m using whoever might be misguided enough to read my thoughts for my own academic purposes. To that end, thanks for your time. Continue reading “3 A.M. Thoughts on Evil”
With the mass-produced barrage of horror movies available to us – sometimes formulaic, sometimes cheaply made – it can be tempting for the jaded horror-goer to presume that nothing is truly scary anymore. I offer no new argument, after all, when I contend that in our increasingly sensationalized visual culture, we become (or at least risk becoming) desensitized to so many horrible things, immune to so much tragedy. It takes far more, at least from a visual standpoint, to scare us than it did sixty years ago (a fact that will be evident to anyone who compares The Haunting to an Eli Roth film). This may not be the case universally, but it’s a general rule. And still, scary movies are manufactured, and the passionate horror fan does encounter, every now and then, a film that is particularly, unexpectedly scary. Such was my experience with the film Sinister, released about two weeks before Halloween in 2012 (although I saw it much later ). Granted, Sinister is not as artistically scintillating as my two favorite horror movies of reference – The Shining and It Follows – but it’s still a well-made, incredibly unsettling film. When I told Michael I wanted to write a piece about it, he reassured me that he wouldn’t be upset if I re-watched it without him; one time was enough for him. So I sat down tonight, in my little Indiana apartment, with a focusing question in mind: What makes this film so scary? While I may discuss other things in the post below, I am particularly interested in exploring possible answers to this question. Continue reading “What Makes Sinister So Scary?”
While my horror-related haul wasn’t as sprawling this Christmas as it was last Christmas, I still received a few terrifying tokens in my stocking this year. Among them, Michael got me the 2005 movie The Strangers starring Liv Tyler. Michael is a considerable Liv Tyler fan but held off on seeing this particular movie for over a decade because it looked too scary. This gift was thus twofold: he bought me the DVD and, bonus, resolved to watch it with me, despite resisting this action repeatedly over the course of our two plus year relationship. While Michael was terrified throughout the whole film, my feathers remained surprisingly unruffled. I do find the film intriguing, however, for its exploration of senseless human malice.
It’s happened to all of us: we meet that person who’s inexplicably captivating. I admit, I’ve been enamored by people now and then after little more than a brief introduction. But, usually those people are charming, witty, sometimes attractive, seemingly kind, and so forth. Usually such people are not white-faced demons with flaming green hair and a pointed desire to “watch the world burn,” as they say in The Dark Knight. And yet, I know now it’s not impossible to be fascinated by just such a person. Much like psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel, who tragically transforms into Harley Quinn, the villainous Joker who sits opposite to the Batman captivates me, though, unlike Harley Quinn, I am (thankfully) not madly in love with him.
I waited in anticipation for The Witch. I don’t know what to liken the anticipation to, except to say that it must be a milder version of the excitement I felt for major holidays when I was younger. Maybe I was almost as excited to see The Witch as I was for the second half of season six of The Walking Dead to arrive. I mean, come on, a horror film that won “Best Director” at the Sundance film festival? How rare that someone manages to combine truly artistic, original filmmaking with the horror genre. And then there’s that trailer that appeared in the theaters and online, in which a girl is playing peek-a-boo with a baby, only to open her eyes and find that the baby has disappeared. Good film-making. Witches. Disappearing babies. What else could a self-avowed horror addict request? Continue reading “The Witch is Back”