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Posted on September 20, 2017

Where to Start with Silent Horror Films

Guest Post

Everyone knows the image: a bald, pale figure with impossibly long fingers rises out of his coffin. That’s of course Nosferatu, one of cinema’s great horror icons. Silent films are such a part of our culture that we can recognize so many moments from them, even if we haven’t seen a single movie. If you’ve ever wanted to check out silent horror films but were unsure of where to start, this is a list of the ten most representative films of the era. Made across two continents and two decades, these touch on everything from slashers, to the supernatural, to body horror.

As of this writing, most of these films are easily available on YouTube, but the best place to watch them is through one of their many DVD reissues. Silent films often get a bad rap simply because people don’t have access to prints that aren’t fuzzy, jumpy, and incomplete. That said, you really should watch these movies any way you can. They’re not just an educational look at how horror cinema started. They’re also scary as hell.

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Posted on September 15, 2017

Horror Island: The Difference Between Scary and Spooky

Guest Post

Despite having “horror” in the title, Universal’s 1941 film Horror Island (George Waggner) isn’t particularly horrific. Sure, some people get murdered off-camera and a corpse gets shoved into knight armor, but precious few viewers—either then or now—would ever suffer nightmares from this film.

In short, Horror Island isn’t scary, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer horror fans. In fact, it’s an immensely watchable hour of entertainment. Why? Because it’s spooky.

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Posted on September 12, 2017

Get Out and Scientific Racism

Guest Post

Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a visceral viewing experience, which has made it- for me- difficult to write about. The creeping terror of the film is difficult to watch, but, as I watched, I was struck by the role scientific racism played throughout the film. Scientific racism is predicated on the belief that whiteness is evolutionarily superior to non-whiteness, and that races are genetically predisposed to have different strengths. Usually, white people are presumed to have mental acumen, while black people have physical prowess. It is opinion issued under the cover of being fact. When we think of racism, we often conjure images of vitriolic passion. But we overlook the role that dispassionate racism- under the guise of reason – plays and the harm it causes as a structure of oppression embedded in science.

Get Out is predicated on this very danger, represented by the “comfortable” white liberal, the person who tells you they voted for Obama, but still, in their marrow, believes that racial differences are scientifically preordained as hierarchical. The concept of “good” and “progressive” whiteness plays into the churning evil within the film and the distress we as viewers feel while watching. Whiteness, in the hands of the Armitage family, becomes a tool as effective and as malicious as Dean’s scalpel and Missy’s tea cup.

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Posted on September 8, 2017

Not so Funny: The Peculiar History of the Creepy Clown

Guest Post

Clown hysteria may seem relatively new, but it is hardly a modern phenomenon. For many audiences over the centuries, the clown’s seemingly joyous face has detracted from something more sinister—some darker, hidden quality in the character. As a type, the creepy clown comes to us from centuries past. Like Pennywise from Stephen King’s IT, the clown is the monster that escapes a prior age, returning once again to stalk our nightmares.

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Posted on September 4, 2017

The New Final Girl: More Sex, More Persecution

Guest Post

The slasher flick is absorbed in the heroine’s experience of incessant trauma. But unlike the genre’s other characters, she is the one who does not die: she is the “Final Girl.” A victim-hero, she is resourceful and intelligent and ultimately vanquishes the masked murderer.[i] A slew of recent horror films like The Final Girls (Todd Strauss-Schulson, 2015) and It Follows (David Robert Mitchell) have taken up the archetype seemingly in celebration of the female-empowering figure. After all, horror is one of the few genres that enables its female protagonists to “kick ass.”

And on the surface, It Follows, a 2014 Cannes Film favorite, seems like just another in a long line of likeminded slashers. The film centers on 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe), a college student from the Detroit suburbs. After having sex with the outwardly charming Hugh (Jake Weary), Jay is drugged, bound to a wheelchair, and is told she now carries a sexually transmitted curse. An amorphous monster—it—will follow her everywhere she roams, and although no one else can see it, for Jay, it could appear like anyone. It is painstakingly slow but inescapable. Temporary respite occurs only by passing it on through sex with somebody else. In a way, the plot feels like an urban legend of sorts, and the formula obeys many of the same rules touted by Randy (Jamie Kennedy) in Scream (Wes Craven, 1996): “There are certain RULES that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie. For instance, number one: you can never have sex.”

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