A (Perhaps) Unlikely Comparison: Suddenly Last Summer (1959) Meets American Horror Story Asylum (Episodes 1 & 2)

Suddenly Last Summer
Suddenly Last Summer

When I sat down to write my very first post for Just Dread-full (an event that took place over two years ago), I wrote about the first episode of American Horror Story: Haunted Hotel.  Of course, I’d intended, at least perhaps, to watch more episodes than the first, but I found (as is often the case for me) that I was so excited to write, that I wrote my blog post after episode one had aired.  Now, over two years later, another American Horror Story blog post is born from similar circumstances.  I’m watching a variety of films and T.V. shows for my Independent Seminar, and after watching the first couple selections, the urge struck me.  I thought: I should watch more shows on the list before writing my weekly response, but, I really want to write.  And so, this post is born, and it should give me some ideas or preparation for my imminent writing assignment.  I watched the 1959 film Suddenly Last Summer today, along with the first two episodes of American Horror Story: Asylum.  Now it’s time to consider how madness is spatialized in this film.  Some related questions might consider how space is organized in terms of “madness,” so-called, and what space reflects about our conceptions of madness. Continue reading “A (Perhaps) Unlikely Comparison: Suddenly Last Summer (1959) Meets American Horror Story Asylum (Episodes 1 & 2)”

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A (Perhaps) Unlikely Comparison: Suddenly Last Summer (1959) Meets American Horror Story Asylum (Episodes 1 & 2)

Happy Death Day – A Pleasant Surprise

Happy Death DayMichael and I decided to do a spontaneous Sunday night movie last week.  Because of my urging, we ended up in the theater watching (of course) Happy Death Day, as opposed to Lego Ninjago or (another) viewing of Thor: Ragnarok – the two current most logical outcomes of letting Michael pick the movie.  And while another viewing of Ragnarok or an initial viewing of Lego Ninjago wouldn’t have been completely insufferable, Happy Death Day turned out to be a really intriguing horror-movie going experience, if only because, well, it turned out to be a bit of an aberration.  I was, I admit, underwhelmed by the previews of the cliché killer wearing a creepy mask and stalking a female college student.  I didn’t think the film looked horrible, but it didn’t really look scary.  And since the “re-live the same day over and over and over” trope is a horror off-shoot of Groundhog’s Day, I wasn’t expecting to be enamored (I mean, Groundhog’s Day is fantastic, but I didn’t think another film like it would work as well).  And to be fair, I wasn’t enamored.  But there were some surprising elements of the film that made it, well, entertaining to watch, and incredibly distinct from a lot of horror that’s currently out in theaters. Continue reading “Happy Death Day – A Pleasant Surprise”

Happy Death Day – A Pleasant Surprise

The Shining: A Spacial and Temporal Examination of a Spectral Narrative

the shining 4.3In the beginning of Place: An Introduction, Tim Cresswell describes the significance of placing a specific art exhibit, one foregrounding Bollywood movies, in an elite Swedish town where only the 1% tend to visit, in part because it’s difficult to get there.  Cresswell includes the following quote in his introduction: “ ‘It’s difficult to get to,’ Mr. Wakefield added, ‘but because of that, it also demands a different kind of attention.  You discover the art through the place and the place through the art.’  The exhibition at Gstaad reflects a wider interest in how art and place interact on the part of both the artists and art theorists” (2).  This got me thinking that it might be intriguing to examine The Shining not just from a few lenses but – perhaps – from the intersection of a few lenses:  Space or place, as its conveyed in the film, the cultural space in which the film is produced, and the current cultural space in which I, the viewer, am watching the film.  This move, I think, is necessarily spectral, or turns the art under examination into a specter that disrupts linear time, since I become sort of engaged in this spectral moment, where I’m looking at the art forward, backward, etc – and this is especially true of The Shining, which situates its primary space, The Overlook Hotel, as a place that’s both mad and spectral, that consistently – if not constantly – manifests itself as a presence in the spectral moment by embodying both the past and the present – and, to the contemporary viewer, the more recent past (1921, 1980, 2017, but arranged as 2017 encompassing a film that shifts back and forth between 1921 and 1980, that begins by emphasizing 1980 but ends by emphasizing 1921).  As a “cautionary note,” I found, as I was watching, that it was challenging to thread the entirety of this analysis throughout my interpretation of the film, especially for a blog post, but that’s the general angle I’m coming from when I look at the film.  (As a sidenote, I wonder the extent to which we could deduce that all art is “spectral” – or maybe that’s what I’m getting at, but that seems like a sweeping argument for a later time).     Continue reading “The Shining: A Spacial and Temporal Examination of a Spectral Narrative”

The Shining: A Spacial and Temporal Examination of a Spectral Narrative

Seeing Jigsaw in the Fall

JigsawIt 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”

Seeing Jigsaw in the Fall

Confronting the Other: Contemplating District 9

District 9 5Ridley 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”

Confronting the Other: Contemplating District 9

What is the Witch? — Part One: The Blair Witch Project

the blair witch project 1
Photo Credit – The Blair Witch Project

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”

What is the Witch? — Part One: The Blair Witch Project

(No(?)) Sympathy for the Devil: Responding to the So-Called Monster

Devils Advocate
Temptation, visually depicted – The Devil’s Advocate

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.

Continue reading “(No(?)) Sympathy for the Devil: Responding to the So-Called Monster”

(No(?)) Sympathy for the Devil: Responding to the So-Called Monster