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American Horror Film

The Genre at the Turn of the Millennium

Steffen Hantke

Publication Year: 2010

Creatively spent and politically irrelevant, the American horror film is a mere ghost of its former self-or so goes the old saw from fans and scholars alike. Taking on this undeserved reputation, the contributors to this collection provide a comprehensive look at a decade of cinematic production, covering a wide variety of material from the last ten years with a clear critical eye. Individual essays profile the work of up-and-coming director Alexandre Aja and reassess William Malone's muchmalignedFeardotcom in the light of the torture debate at the end of President George W. Bush's administration. Other essays look at the economic, social, and formal aspects of the genre; the globalization of the U.S. film industry; the alleged escalation of cinematic violence; and the massive commercial popularity of the remake. Some essays examine specific subgenres-from the teenage horror flick to the serial killer film and the spiritual horror film-as well as the continuing relevance of classic directors such as George A. Romero, David Cronenberg, John Landis, and Stuart Gordon.Essays deliberate on the marketing of nostalgia and its concomitant aesthetic, and the curiously schizophrenic perspective of fans who happen to be scholars as well. Taken together, the contributors to this collection make a compelling case that American horror cinema is as vital, creative, and thought-provoking as it ever was.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. v-vi

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INTRODUCTION: They Don’t Make ’Em Like They Used: To On the Rhetoric of Crisis and the Current State of American Horror Cinema

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pp. vii-xxxii

Even though the horror genre has been fed by tributaries from many national literary traditions—from German Romanticism to French surrealism and South American magical realism—and even though horror cinema has prospered and developed its unique forms of expression in many film industries around the globe, it is in the United States and in the...

Part One: BLOODY AMERICA: Critical Reassessments of the Trans/-national and of Graphic Violence

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THE AMERICAN HORROR FILM: Globalization and Transnational U.S.-Asian Genres

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pp. 3-14

Scholars and fans alike tend to think about film genres as products of national film industries and as expressions of national culture. We talk about the American musical, the Hollywood Western, the Japanese samurai film, or the Chinese martial arts film. Yet as film industries around the world undergo the processes of economic globalization, they are gradually becoming less national and ...

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A PARISIAN IN HOLLYWOOD: Ocular Horror in the Films of Alexandre Aja

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pp. 15-34

Through the postwar period of the twentieth century, French cinema maintained a viable film industry complete with indigenous popular genres and stars and a high-profile auteurist tradition. In all these aspects, it successfully maintained a sense of national identity. However, that identity is increasingly in flux due not only to internal ideological struggles, the weight of repressed history, and pressure from the ...

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"THE POUND OF FLESH WHICH I DEMAND": American Horror Cinema, Gore, and the Box Office, 1998–2007

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pp. 35-57

In 1981, renowned American film critic Roger Ebert decried the state of horror cinema at the time in his reviews of two sequels released that year, Friday the 13th Part II and Halloween II. In reviewing the former, he describes the film’s opening sequence in which a young woman “wakes up, undresses, is stalked by the camera, hears a noise in the kitchen.” Ebert continues: “She tiptoes into the kitchen. ...

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A (POST)MODERN HOUSE OF PAIN: FearDotCom and the Prehistory of the Post-9/11 Torture Film

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pp. 58-74

The title of FearDotCom refers to a Web site that allows subscribers to access a world where they can watch acts of torture being carried out on helpless victims. Is it make-believe or genuine snuff? Subscribers are challenged by the site’s hostess, a sultry blonde, to play a game. The challenge consists of answering questions so as to reveal their most intimate fears. In every case subscribers die ...

Part Two: THE USUAL SUSPECTS: Trends and Transformations in the Subgenres of American Horror Film

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TEENAGE TRAUMATA: Youth, Affective Politics, and the Contemporary American Horror Film

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pp. 77-102

Even on first viewing, perhaps the most striking elements of Gus Van Sant’s hypnotic, haunting Elephant (2003) are the film’s understated allusions to the stock character types, narrative preoccupations, and strangely resonant mise-enscène of the American teen movie. As the camera tracks down suburban tree-lined avenues, through sterile and monotonously...

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TRAUMATIC CHILDHOOD NOW INCLUDED: Todorov’s Fantastic and the Uncanny Slasher Remake

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pp. 103-118

Long before and quite apart from the self-referential “rules” expounded in Wes Craven’s Scream trilogy or the lesson-instilling “games” orchestrated by the Jigsaw killer in the Saw franchise, horror movies in general—and slasher movies in particular—have been in the business of helping viewers reconcile themselves to some of life’s cold, hard facts. To cite a personal example: as I am not a virginal ...

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pp. 119-141

Once upon a time, it seemed as if the serial killer genre had come to dominate American popular cinema. The genre’s peculiar amalgamation of Gothic melodrama and horror reached a critical zenith during the 1990s with the immensely popular and Academy-Award winning The Silence of the Lambs (1991), which in turn led to a proliferation of mainstream Hollywood films such as Copycat (1995), ...

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A RETURN TO THE GRAVEYARD: Notes on the Spiritual Horror Film

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pp. 142-158

In the summer of 1999, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense became an unexpected smash hit, earning $293 million at the domestic box office, which made it the second-highest grossing film of the year behind George Lucas’s muchanticipated Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace.

Part Three: LOOK BACK IN HORROR: Managing the Canon of American Horror Film

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pp. 161-192

To the average mainstream video consumer accustomed to Blockbuster or Hollywood, the independent, “alternative” video store must appear a sort of Borgesian nightmare. Where the chains wallpaper their stores with new releases and shelve “older” films broadly by genre (drama, comedy, horror), the independents subdivide and re-categorize relentlessly. Foreign films may be divided by country...

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HOW THE MASTERS OF HORROR MASTER THEIR PERSONAE: Self-Fashioning at Play in the Masters of Horror DVD Extras

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pp. 193-220

Masters of Horror (2005–2007) is a television anthology series that debuted on October 28, 2005, on U.S. cable network Showtime and ran for two seasons. Each season comprises thirteen self-contained hour-long episodes, each directed by a different “Master of Horror”: a director deemed to have made a significant contribution to the horror genre. The show and the special features attached to its subsequent ...

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"THE KINDS OF TODAY SHOULD DEFEND THEMSELVES AGAINST THE '70S": Simulating Auras and Marketing Nostalgia in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse

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pp. 221-233

In his 1936 essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Walter Benjamin posits cinema as a nexus of scientific, aesthetic, economic, and political practices that effectively sublimate bourgeois conceptualizations of a work’s “aura” to a process of simulation that ultimately “emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual” and “authenticity” (224). This formulation, however, meets ...

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AFTERWORD: Memory, Genre, and Self-Narrativization; Or, Why I Should Be a More Content Horror Fan

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pp. 235-242

As a child inexplicably drawn to the morbid and macabre, I recall a time when the Universal horror classics were just no longer enough, but I was forbidden from watching R-rated films—thus banning the “bad” horror that intrigued me all the more through its prohibition. For sleepovers at a friend’s house, my comrades and I routinely trekked down to “Family Video,” the local small-town video store, and ...


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pp. 243-246


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pp. 247-253

E-ISBN-13: 9781604734546
E-ISBN-10: 160473454X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781604734539
Print-ISBN-10: 1604734531

Page Count: 275
Publication Year: 2010