The Philosophy of Horror
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
I’d like to thank the contributors for all of their hard work and impressive essays. I am particularly grateful to Anne Dean Watkins and everyone at the University Press of Kentucky for making this book a reality. I am also indebted to Long Island University, Daniel Kurtzman, Susann Cokal, and Pamela L. Ayari for their support. Lastly, for going above and beyond the ...
Not long ago several friends invited me to go skydiving. The prospect of jumping out of a plane made my stomach tighten and my mouth go dry, but reluctantly I agreed. Part of me wanted to be perceived as adventurous and brave. I had always been afraid of heights, and this was an opportunity to confront that fear, to overcome it. The afternoon adventure included a ...
Horror and the Idea of Everyday Life: On Skeptical Threats in Psycho and The Birds
Sometimes art provokes outrage, fear, and disgust. In the case of horror, that is the point. Those who enjoy horror might seek no justification or defense for it. But because of the strong feelings elicited by horror and the outrageous acts that are depicted in it, to those sensitive to offense it is hard not to feel that some justification or defense is needed. There are some obvious ...
Through a Mirror, Darkly: Art-Horror as a Medium for Moral Reflection
Works of art provide a means by which humans express, intuitively and explicitly, their assumptions about the world. We have all been moved by a sad story, gladdened by a funny story, and frightened by a scary story. In each case, it is very likely that the emotion produced depended on the effectiveness of the work of art to elicit those emotions by presenting to us a set ...
The Justification of Torture-Horror: Retribution and Sadism in Saw, Hostel, and The Devil’s Rejects
When in a decisive 1988 presidential debate Bernard Shaw asked Michael Dukakis what he would do to someone who had raped and murdered his wife, the response was supposed to be obvious; but it was not so for Dukakis. He stated his opposition to the death penalty without a trace of vengeful ...
Hobbs, Human Nature, and the Culture of American Violence in Truman Capote's In Cold Blood
On November 15, 1959, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith drove several hundred miles to the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, and brutally murdered four members of the Clutter family. Armed with a hunting knife and a twelve-gauge shotgun, the two men entered the house through an unlocked door just after midnight. They had been hoping to find a safe with thousands ...
Making Their Presence Known: TV’s Ghost-Hunter Phenomenon in a “Post-” World
In this young millennium, the television landscape has been shaped by a groundswell of reality-based and scripted shows investigating the super-natural, such as A Haunting, Paranormal State, Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters International, Ghostly Encounters, Ghost Trackers, Ghost ...
The Vampire with a Soul: Angel and the Quest for Identity
Perhaps no creature is more commonplace in horror fiction—both on the page and on the screen—than the vampire. As typically depicted, the vampire rises from the grave to a potentially immortal undead existence, sustaining himself by drinking the blood of the innocent. With the kind of charisma and cunning that is born only of evil, the garden-variety vampire ...
Ideological Formations of the Nuclear Family in The Hills Have Eyes
The Hills Have Eyes was originally filmed in 1977, directed and written by Wes Craven.¹ The 2006 remake (this time produced by Craven and directed by Alexandre Aja) revises the central concept of a family under siege to redirect the film’s focus more pointedly toward a critique of the intensified discourse around “family values.”² Both versions pit family against family ...
Zombies of the World, Unite: Class Struggle and Alienation in Land of the Dead
In a 2005 review of George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead, Roger Ebert notes the class structure of the society of surviving humans residing in Pittsburgh, pointing out the contrast between the luxurious (and apparently completely idle) lifestyle of the residents of Fiddler’s Green, a luxury skyscraper at the center of the city, and the dehumanized condition of the poorer ...
The Fall of the House of Ulmer: Europe vs. America in the Gothic Vision of The Black Cat
The horror story is one of the many exotic goods that Americans have traditionally imported from Europe. This was already true in American Gothic fiction in the early nineteenth century, but the situation persisted even in the twentieth century and the new medium of cinema.
From Domestic Nightmares to the Nightmare of History: Uncanny Eruptions of Violence in King’s and Kubrick’s Versions of The Shining
Early in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Dick Hallorann assures the apprehensive Danny Torrance that there is nothing in the hotel that can actually hurt him and explains that the terrible events of the past can leave behind a trace of themselves that is visible only to those who shine. As it turns out Hallorann is profoundly mistaken. In an ironic twist, he ...
"Hot with Rapture and Cold with Fear": Grotesque, Sublime, and Postmodern Transformations in Patrick Süskind’s Perfume
Jean-Baptist Grenouille, antihero of Patrick Süskind’s international best seller Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, is “one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages” (Süskind 2001, 3). He is smart, talented, and completely amoral, shunned by his fellow humans from the moment he’s born. He commits crimes that ...
Shock Value: A Deleuzean Encounter with James Purdy’s Narrow Rooms
The prospect of writing an essay on Narrow Rooms and the works of Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze is both inviting and challenging. Inviting, because this dynamic duo of French philosophy often investigated artworks as an important part of their philosophizing—the fictions of Franz Kafka, the music of Robert Schumann, the paintings of J. M. W. Turner, and the ...
Making Monsters: The Philosophy of Reproduction in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the Universal Films Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein
Philosophical inquiries. Bride of Frankenstein. Son of Frankenstein. Ab-bott and Costello Meet Frankensein. FrankenBerry breakfast cereal. Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein has bred a number of offspring, and some, like her monstrous character, are far from perfect. nullnd nullile some are imperfect, misshapen creatures, it is dinullcult to ignore the novel’s focus on reproduction ...
Kitsch and Camp and Things That Go Bump in the Night; or, Sontag and Adorno at the (Horror) Movies
At a very young age I was simultaneously introduced to kitsch and to camp and to classic horror films by “your friendly neighborhood vampire,” Sir Graves Ghastly, the Saturday afternoon movie host on Detroit’s local CBS affiliate, WJBK-TV Channel 2.¹ With a ghoulish cackle Sir Graves began each show by bidding viewers to “turn out the lights, pull down the shades, draw ...