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Posted on February 16, 2016

Finding Feminism in the Women of Giallo

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I live for a good giallo or, truth be told, a really bad one. You see, even the most mediocre giallo holds something special, be it the location (especially spooky, foggy, perfect Venice), the over-the-top murders, the kick-ass soundtracks, or the unmasking of the killer (hint: it’s always the priest). As Women in Horror Month kicked off, I kept thinking about my obsession with gialli and what made them so special to me. It finally dawned on me that, despite their flaws, these films are incredibly feminist. The women in gialli are unlike anything seen in American slashers or thrillers during the 1970’s. For me, this is one of the reasons why these films are still refreshing and captivating over forty years later.

Giallo, the Italian word for ‘yellow,’ has come to encompass the Italian slasher film genre as a whole. In post-fascist Italy, paperback mystery novels were given yellow covers, and it was the content of these dime-store novels that served as the plots for many giallo films. This subgenre usually features a black-leather-gloved killer, armed with a knife; bold colors (the genre’s giants Mario Bava and Argento heavily favor blood-red); and ample amounts of nudity and sex. While Italians certainly cornered the market on gialli, there are some solid British and American contributions to the genre such as Peeping Tom (1960), Frenzy (1972), Klute (1971), and The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978).

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Posted on November 11, 2015

The Tech-Savy Ghost in The Woman in Black 1 & 2

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“It’s just an old place cut off from the world,” is what Sam Daily tells Arthur Kipps about Eel Marsh House, a conventional Victorian mansion abandoned and falling into decay after its mistress’s tragic loss of a son and her death. It is not an unfamiliar story, particularly for the horror enthusiast. In fact, when The Woman in Black was released, I recall the complete lack of hype surrounding it: a beautifully-shot but typical ghost story, not at all what you might expect from Hammer. I’ve asked myself what it is that I love about this film if it does nothing new or exciting for the ghost story genre, and I think the answer lies in the setting and location of Eel Marsh House itself and the reproduction of something central to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century ghost story. Beyond the seemingly timeless obsession with mothers and children, this film is obsessed with something else: technology and communication. And the dead master both much better than do the living.


The plot subsists on a steady stream of deaths. Lawyer Arthur Kipps (played by Daniel Radcliffe), who has lost his wife in childbirth, must travel to Crythin Gifford to settle the estate of Alice Drablow and to recover her papers from Eel Marsh House. When he arrives, the inhabitants of the town do everything in their power to convince him to turn around and go home. Sam Daily, who befriends him on the train, informs him of the local superstitions concerning Eel Marsh house, but, in the end, he takes Arthur to Eel Marsh House and helps him to “settle” the estate in a quite different way than he planned. As it turns out, the house is haunted by the ghost of Jennet Humfrye, Alice’s sister. The film ends with these men following all the rules by which to put a disturbed spirit to rest, only to find that rest is not what she wants.

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Posted on November 4, 2015

Drop What You’re Doing and Watch BBC Three’s In the Flesh

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Zombies are so popular now that it almost seems cliché to recommend yet another film or television series revolving around them. Yes, AMC’s The Walking Dead is outstanding, but this often overlooked show – In the Flesh – is even better. Originally, the show was comprised of a three episode long miniseries for BBC Three but, thanks to its enormous popularity, it was granted a second season (or “series” as the British refer to it) consisting of six more episodes and continuing the enthralling story created by Dominic Mitchell.

In the Flesh follows main character Kieren Walker (played by Luke Newberry), a zombie. How many examples can you name in film and television in which a zombie is the main character? Probably very few. This factor is what makes this show so interesting and such a fresh take on what can seem to some of even the most devout horror fans as a tired subgenre. Anyway, the show’s mythology is highly complex and, in a very British televisual style, it focuses on serious societal issues, unafraid to examine politically potent plotlines.

In the Flesh tells us what happens after the zombie apocalypse—after what the characters refer to as “The Rising,” an otherwise ordinary day in the United Kingdom. Those who died already, during a certain time frame, spontaneously come back to life, dig themselves out of their own graves, and find that they crave human flesh. Their bites do not infect you – you cannot become one of them – but they still can kill you. The UK government has developed a cure for this “rotter” problem (their term for the zombies) by injecting them with a serum in the back of the neck every day. After some good ole rehabilitation in a creepy mental institution/rehab-like facility, these “rotters” can be reintegrated into society, becoming normal, compliant citizens. Of course, not everyone is okay with that plan and chaos soon ensues.

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Posted on August 27, 2015

Originals vs Remakes: Does Generation Matter?

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After seeing over 100 horror films, I would call myself an avid horror fan. From Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) to I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) to The Human Centipede (2009), I have seen a plethora of horror films from all the horror sub-genres: psychological, science fiction, slasher, splatter, etc. Yet, if you were to ask me what my favorite horror films are, you might be surprised to learn that my favorites are primarily 21st century films.

Today’s latter millennials grew up during the era of horror movie remakes. As a result, my love for horror is perpetually deemed “fake” by adults who deeply question how I could like today’s horror films and not the classics. Adults have ridiculed my so-called “interest” in horror and doubted my appreciation for the genre since I did not see those classics that shaped the genre into what it is today. Why is it that this does not apply to other genres? If someone loves comedies, nobody says to them, “Seriously? You like the movie The Hangover (2009)? What about The Nutty Professor (1963)?” If somebody loves romances, nobody says to them, “Seriously? You like The Notebook (2004)? What about Sleepless in Seattle (1993)?” If someone loves romance films, classic romance films would certainly be suggested to them; however, nobody would seriously doubt their interest in the genre if they hadn’t seen them.

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