My most awe inspiring encounters with nefarious rabbits include the first time I laid eyes on the massive black costume of “Bunny” while at a rave with Rabbit in the Moon and the first time that my innocent anticipating eyes consumed the film Watership Down (1978). While both of these are definitively scary (and potentially traumatizing), they do not encompass the spirit of Easter. If your family is anything like mine, nothing spells holidays like some old fashioned repression and subsequent bursts of aggression (or passive aggressiveness in our house). For all of you who can appreciate laughing at inappropriate times and poking fun at established traditions, then this list is for you!
I’ve been mulling over one of those nature vs. nurture conundrums: are children in horror films born innocent and made evil or are they born evil and we suppress their natural tendencies. So often, children in horror films serve as cautionary tales where parental missteps lead to baby Beelzebubs. Freudian analysis would suggest that humans are born naughty and dominated by their self-serving, Id driven psyche. Freud also argued that in order to maintain a civilized world we must repress our instinctual drives such as Thanatos. If Freud is correct that children are impulsive imps who must be tamed, then horror scholar Robin Wood speaks in tandem when he suggests that children are the “most oppressed section of the population.”* Interestingly enough, much horror scholarship assumes a psychoanalytic tone, yet often minimizes the inherent and uncanny nature of the child.
I am arguing here that the evil child in horror film is not always an innocent babe perverted by the reckless decisions of adults. Children are born uninhibited, selfish, and matter of fact. However, these traits are not the ones that disrupt normality in the horror film nor do these traits make the child monstrous. Since the millennium, I believe it is when children use these traits to usurp established power structures that they become monstrous.
There are moments in time that change the way we think about things. I recently had one of those moments when re-watching the film Case 39 (2009), directed by Christian Alvart. Here, Detective Mike Barron (Ian McShane) makes a spontaneous statement that presents the viewer with an astute juxtaposition between man’s best friend and the innocent child. His one sentence exposes the way we tend to lump all children together as innocent.
What follows is my list of films which reveal the horrors of caregiving. The role of caretaker requires you to give something of yourself, sometimes giving more than you have to offer. This is a precarious assignment that takes a toll on the physical as well as the psychological self. One must make moral decisions and selflessly sacrifice time, patience, and dreams. Ineffective caregivers sow the seeds of lasting consequences for themselves and others. Needless to say sometimes there is a backlash for giving so much of one’s self. (For the purposes of this list, I tried to stay away from using examples of parents as “caregivers”.)
A Cure For Wellness
Due for release in February 2017, this Gore Verbinski directed psychological horror has stirred my interest. The cyclical story has me wondering what they are hiding up there in the Swiss Alps. As one man goes to retrieve the CEO of his company from a wellness spa, his own well-being is tested. Will he fall victim to what ails all those who walk through these doors, or will he escape intact? “Only if we know what ails us, can we find a cure.” If you are looking for jump scares and the such, this might not be for you as it is shaping up to be more of a slow building contemporary gothic film that taps in to your senses.
I initially delved into these movies with the aim of revisiting some great horror comedy. What I unearthed instead was an instruction manual for becoming a man in the 1980’s. These texts are just as rich with gender ideals as uncovering a 1950s Ladies Home Journal. Within both films I noticed a not so subtle description of what passes for appropriate masculinity. The narratives are different but the trajectory of the leading man is the same. In House, Roger Cobb (William Katt) has to overcome his failures in Vietnam to become man enough to have his family back. Similarly in House II Jesse (Arye Gross) isn’t even worthy enough to have a family until he butches up. Cue up your Betamax and your VHS as we are going to revisit the 1980s version of how to become a man.