Browsing Tag


Posted on April 20, 2017

The Good Son and the Moral Breakdown of Childhood

Guest Post

By Kaitlyn Way

Children in horror fiction and film often challenge romantic perceptions of childhood as an idyllic and innocent phase of life. These representations of children frequently serve as either a warning against familial instability or as an indication of society’s collective fears and anxieties. With this in mind, Joseph’s Ruben’s 1993 psychological thriller The Good Son reacts to the “parental panic” of the late twentieth-century and to the widespread belief that American childhood was disintegrating.*

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Posted on March 30, 2017

Girl Trouble: The Blackcoat’s Daughter/aka February

Guest Post

Guest Author: Bernice M. Murphy

Warning: This Article Contains Minor Spoilers.

Writer/director Oz Perkins’ assured debut feature film, The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015), known in the UK and Ireland as February, represents a fascinating treatment of a preoccupation that has become intriguingly prominent in recent American horror cinema: that of the threat posed by dangerously unhinged girls and young women. The past five years alone have seen the release of Excision (Richard Bates, 2012); Stoker (Park Chan-wook, 2013), Alyce Kills (Jay Lee, 2011), The Bleeding House (Philip Gelatt, 2011), We Are What We Are (Jim Mickle, 2013), Last Girl Standing (Benjamin R. Moody, 2015), Let Her Out (Cody Calahan, 2016), Darling (Mickey Keating, 2015), and The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016). Then there is the much-hyped French film Raw (2016), which is about a neurotic female student whose first-term mental breakdown leads to cravings that are a tad extreme. All of these films are about deeply troubled young women who possess an initially latent potential for violence that explodes in the second half of the narrative. Their horrific behavior is usually presented as being the result of severe mental illness that has gone tragically undetected by family and friends because they look (relatively) “normal.” Both dysfunctional familial environments and the romantic and professional stresses of becoming a fully individuated and conventionally successful adult are often implicitly presented as key contributing factors. Read more

Posted on March 30, 2017

The Belko Experiment: Aesthetical Violence Meets Life Boat Ethics


Please be aware this discussion contains spoilers.

To say that I have been looking forward to screening The Belko Experiment, directed by Greg McClean and written by James Gunn, is an understatement. The well-designed trailer for the film positioned it as another entry in the increasingly growing oeuvre of “life boat ethics”[i] horror films in which survival is intimately tied to the choices one makes when thrown into a moral quandary. These films, in which ethics and choice collide, are somewhat unique to the genre in that the physical violence is secondary to the psychological warfare being waged. Consider, for example, the first Saw film in which the majority of the narrative tension comes not from the actual acts being perpetrated but by the struggle of the unwilling game participant to make a choice.  Early trailers for The Belko Experiment, which showed the film to be about a group of employees who are held hostage by an unseen mastermind and forced to decide who in the group should die so that others could survive, gave every indication that this film would follow the conventions set out by previous “life boat ethics” films. Boy, was I wrong.

What I got instead was a wholly original postmodern horror tale that takes the conventions of a morality fable and repackages them to be less about psychology and more about shock and awe. In this case, spectacle is not part of the narrative. It is the narrative. Read more

Posted on March 16, 2017

Why Are Plants So Horrifying?


You wouldn’t think plants would be the stuff of horror. Or, maybe you would. After all, vegetation constitutes over ninety-nine percent of the earth’s biomass—that is, ninety-nine percent of what’s alive on the planet. Earth is indeed “an ecosystem inarguably dominated by plants.”[i] We are surrounded by vegetation; when humans falter, vegetation surges in to take our place—creeping over our buildings, pushing up through our roads, taking what we were forced to abandon.

In 1996, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen wrote a wonderful essay called “Monster Culture (Seven Theses),”[ii] and, emulating its structure, I’ve written my own piece offering six theses that suggest why plants—defined broadly as vegetation, flowers, bushes, trees—have figured as monstrous within horror fiction and film.** I’ve sketched them out below, along with some plant horror fiction and film you can’t miss.

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Posted on March 13, 2017

The Child as Vampire in Let the Right One In

Guest Post

The vampire tradition in fiction and film has served as a vehicle to explore various anxieties of western culture during the last century. Few texts, however, have explored the possibilities of representing a child as the night-dwelling and blood-sucking terror that so effectively haunts audiences. Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In (2008) fills that gap, portraying the villainous vampire not as a charismatic adult male with colonizing intentions, but instead as a quiet, twelve-year-old girl whose protection of a bullied young boy leads to their friendship.  While the children in the film may appear weak and insecure, their horrific brutality towards adults proves that the young vampire is anything but innocent. Let the Right One In contributes to the vampire cultural mythology, specifically, by showing childhood monstrosity to be a result of a failed family structure.

While Let the Right One In borrows from the vampire tradition, it contributes to vampire culture by using the child vampire to suggest adult anxieties about the violent potential of children. The young vampire Eli (Lina Leandersson) serves as a “repository of adult fears about children, who are like us yet in crucial ways so different, who are both vulnerable and demanding, and in touch with the id in ways that that can elicit great anxiety…”[i] As seen in Let the Right One In, the neglect of children demonstrates the failed family structure that allows the violent impulses of Eli and Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) to surface.[ii] The adults in Eli and Oskar’s life fail to serve as a moral and ideological force capable of suppressing the violent tendencies that adults fear. Let the Right One In shows that, without these governing forces, “the power of children to inspire…terror…because of their vulnerability and uncontrollability has moved to the cultural front.”[iii] Eli’s relationship with Håkan (Per Ragnar), as well as Oskar’s distance from his parents, demonstrate how the absence of adults allows the child monster to surface.

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