From Minnie and Roman Castevet in Rosemary’s Baby (1968) to Grandpa Chapman in Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), American horror has a troubling track record in how it depicts aging. Often used as a means of creating a sense of otherness, age is portrayed consistently as being horrific and fraught with evil undercurrents. Culturally, this makes sense. It is not at all surprising that as society has created new means by which to stave off the appearance of aging, the preponderance of elderly, villainous characters in film has increased. And certainly the fact that most of these villains are elderly females is not coincidental.
And so it was with great interest that I recently watched the cult classic Homebodies (1974). Revolving around the plight of a group of senior citizens who are displaced from their homes in the name of gentrification, the film’s portrayal of its elderly characters reflects the “evil elderly” construct while simultaneously inverting its more problematic elements, specifically that age is something to be feared. In the scene above, the tyrannical land developer meets his demise courtesy of the ingenuity of Mattie, the ringleader of the group. With a dark humor sensibility (the gang deals with Mr. Crawford’s foot not being encased in the cement by simply chopping it off), this scene is vital in positioning the elderly killers as both threatening and deserving of our sympathy.