Call#: Van Pelt Library PN3435 .H55 2005
Chapter 4. Displaying Connoisseurship, Recognizing Craftmanship.
In this chapter Hills explores how the pleasures of horror are constructed and narrated through fan discourses. He analyzes horror fan discourses on a few different horror internet forums and concludes that connoisseurship is the master trope in fan struggles against "inauthentic" horror consumers (non-fans) and taste-making authorities who marginalize horror. Horror fans position themselves as "authentic" through knowledge of the genre and by privileging this intellectual engagement with horror over any affective, emotional engagement. That is, "nonfans" react to horror emotionally (they express fear), while "fans" are interact in a conscious, "knowing" (and at times "superior") way. Ironically, the ostensive purpose of horror films (to instill "horror") is marginalized in these fan communities to "non-fans"). However, it is also recuperated through personal narratives of first/childhood experiences with horror. These narratives admit the affective aspect of horror as experienced in childhood and this serves as a "discourse of affect." This discourse allows the horror fan to positions themselves as rational and literate ("serious") to gain cultural credibility pushing emotion to the past and turning affect into knowledge.
Hills considers online communities--following Pierre Levy and Henry Jenkins--as a 'cosmopedia.' In horror fan forums, fans establish their subcultural identities through appropriate performances within this collective, interactive, and contested "knowledge space." Horror fans also express connoisseurship through their recognition and celebration of horror "special effects" (SFX). Hills rightfully points out that while horror directors are celebrated as auteurs (George Romero, Dario Argento, etc.), SFX creates a network of author functions. The reading of horror films by "fans" often involves a "double attention" to both the experience of the horrific content and the content as special effect. While some fans may use the attention to SFX as a "masculine" reading strategy to deflect affective (i.e. "feminine) responses, Hills points out that a aignificant portion of the audience does so to generate and sustain a reading of "horror-as-art." These fan discourses, Hills argues, work contra to many theories of horror which privilege cognitive,literary, or psychoanalytic textual aspects as generating the (dis)pleasures of horror. Fans' constructed pleasures of horror revolve more around imagined version of their "generic community" or subculture and its particular distinctions from other cultures.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.H6 H75 2002
Berenstein analyzes film reviews and marketing ploys during the first cycle of classic Hollywood horror films (1931-1934) concluding that the horror film served as an ideal site for the "performance"of socially prescribed gender roles, behaviors, and heterosexual coupling rituals. Film studios, exhibitors,and reviewers relied upon gender assumptions, but in contradictory ways. Many film reviwers ignored questions of gender all together treating the horror film audience as an "ungendered" mass, while other reviews expressed surprise that horror films would be as popular with women as they were. The marketing and promotion of horror films, however, rarely took women for granted. Many horror films--such as Dracula (1931)--were promoted as frightening thrillers and romances hoping to appeal to both male and female audiences (assuming a gendered split in interest). Horror film promotional gimmicks took a variety of forms, but many revolved around personifying "fear" as feminine. Gender expectations were that women scream and shriek during horror films, while men displayed bravery (or, masked their own fear which was seen as feminine). If studios and exhibitors (and the films themselves) relied on these assumed gender roles, it's likely that audiences both played along with these assumptions (in a "performative" sense) as well as reactedin oppositional and contradictory ways. There are some issues with Berenstein work. She seemst o implicitly criticize 1930s film reviewers for speaking of the "horror fan" instead of the "female" (or "male") horror fan. While acknowledging that issues of gender are important, speaking of the "female" horror fan is itself not without problems. For one, it also assumes (and thereby reinforces) a gendered difference in audience reactions to horror. While this difference may be true (to some degree, in some ways) it is an empirical question. Although Berenstein acknowledges a space for male and female audience members to act and react outside of proscribed gender roles, she does so only grudgingly.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.H6 H674 2004
This edited collection of essays has the overarching goal of exploring the horror film genre by paying attention to the technical and industrial aspects of film that distinguish horror films from horror in other media (such as literature or comic books). The two general questions that the essays-to one degree or another-address are: what role does technology play in the production of horror films, and what role does technology play in the distribution, exhibition, and reception of horror films? ("technology" defined broadly to include production equipment, industrial mechanisms, ideological mechanisms, etc.). The first section of the book consists of essays that explore various technologies and formal innovations employed in the production of horror films. The second section of the book deals with issues surrounding horror films in the marketplace (advertising, distribution, and reception). Finally, the third section examines discursive and ideological aspects of the horror genre from censorship to fan discourse.
Philip Simpson's chapter entitled "The Horror 'Event' Movie: The Mummy, Hannibal, and Signs" explores horror films as they are positioned as Hollywood blockbusters. These marketing and promotion of these films often downplay or outright deny the film's association with the horror genre (still often seen as a marginal or low brow genre). Simpson argues that these horror 'event' movies reach a larger mainstream audience by using star actors and high profile directors, high production values, and genre mixing. Simpson distinguishes between major studio horror films and "second tier" cult audience films. While it is true that many of the films that Simpson discusses are marketed as something other than horror (either as thrillers, adventure films, or even supernatural thrillers), it is not clear where the division between A-list productions and "second tier" films lies. He cites the $100 million dollar domestic theatrical gross mark as certifying a blockbuster, but fails to cite many of the low budget, independent, or "second tier" horror films that crossed that barrier such as The Blair Witch Project (1999), The Ring (2002), and The Grudge (2004).
Variety.com - Fox Atomic brings new twists: Genre Label Adds to Conventional Tactics.
Tue., Feb. 20, 2007
by Steven Zeitchick
The article discusses the creation of Fox Atomic--a division of Fox Film Entertainment dedicated to genre films and youth markets. However, Fox Atomic doesn't want to just create and market movies, rather "it wants to create entire worlds around those movies." The Fox Atomic website enlists current trends in digital culture to reach out to young, tech savy audiences. The studio has a presence in Second Life called "Fox Atomic Island, a virtual movie studio where citizens can pick up and play with avatars from all its leading pics." It also holds mashup and machinima contests, includes movie related video games on its website, as well as user forums and information on forthcoming releases. In addition, Fox Atomic has created a comics division that will release comics based on movie properties that are not adaptations of the films, but rather engage in "cross-media" storytelling. Current and upcoming film releases include The Hills Have Eyes 2, 28 Weeks Later, and Touristas.
Although other film studios and distributors have a web presence and engage with digital culture, few have ventured quite as far as Fox Atomic. The article remains skeptical as to the success of this strategy as it is still unproven in its ability to generate ticket sales, but this sort of "web 2.0" interactivity and media convergence may be something that film studios can ill afford to ignore.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.E96 H38 2000
Hawkins builds off of Jeffrey Sconce’s discussion of “paracinema” and “trash aesthetics” to explore the historical relationship between “high-end” avant-garde or art cinema and “low brow” horror and exploitation films. Hawkins seeks to break down the boundaries erected between “high” and “low” by demonstrating the shared stake that both horror and the avant-garde have in challenging mainstream notions of good taste and dominant Hollywood productions. The most interesting aspect of the book is her exploration of mail-order video companies such as Sinister Cinema and Something Weird Video whose photocopied “DIY” catalogs in the 1980s served as a collective space of horror and cult fandom long before the Internet. These catalogs tended to mix cheap exploitation and European art fare often with little distinguishing between the two. The second chapter of the book (“Medium Cool”) explores the culture of collecting inherent in both paracinema video culture and the niche market for Criterion Collection laser discs. Hawkins’s work is important as it captures a particular historical moment, but it also feels woefully out of date. This is not a critique of the book as much as a call for a revised edition that explores paracinema in the digital age (e.g., blogs, fan forums, web mail-order sites, etc.). In addition to patterns of consumption which blur the boundaries between “high” and “low” art, Hawkins explores a number of films which form a sort of hybrid category by combining aspects of art cinema with the horror genre. Her prime example is Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face (1959) which combines the formal aesthetics of French “poetic realism” with an exploitation story—and graphic gore—many consider as ushering in (along with Hitchcock’s Psycho ) the slasher subgenre. Ironically, when the U.S. imported Franju’s film to play in the “grindhouse” circuit with the sensational new title of The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus, they excised the graphic “face removal” surgical scene which most qualified the film as horror in the first place.
Hawkins’s book provides a useful exploration of how genres circulate within culture often in ways that defy “officially” sanctioned categories and counter to the wishes and intentions of institutions, gatekeepers, and other “taste-makers.”
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.H6 H45 2004
Heffernan’s book seeks to investigate the economic and industrial aspects of the horror film genre that many scholarly accounts (which typically focus on cultural and/or aesthetic issues) fail to adequately consider. The book focuses on the postwar period (1953-1968); a period comprised of drastic changes in the film industry (i.e., Paramount decree, TV, technological innovation), and charts some of the functions or positions that horror genre pictures filled during this time period. He argues that this period—which is book-ended by 3D technology and the adoption of the MPAA rating system—saw a major cultural and economic shift in the production and reception of horror movies. This was partially due to the Supreme Court’s Paramount decision in 1948 which required the break-up of Hollywood’s vertically integrated system of production, distribution, and exhibition. As Hollywood studios began producing fewer films, independent distributors and exhibitors needed more product to fill out their schedules including B-pictures for the bottom half of popular double-feature bills. Heffernan argues that “low” genres like horror and sci-fi played an important part in the testing and development of new technologies and methods of production, distribution, and advertising to accommodate various changes including suburbanization, the growth of television, new youth markets, and the new economic and business structures of the film industry. Although written as a “corrective” to scholarship which focuses solely on culture and aesthetics, Heffernan avoids “economic determinism” by deftly intertwining the exploration of various aesthetic and formal changes of the horror genre during this period including greater psychological realism and, of course, graphic gore.
Using Philadelphia as his test market, Heffernan chronologically traces the distribution and exhibition patterns of various horror films across both theatrical and television venues. He begins with the early 1950s cycle of 3D horror films arguing that the narrative and stylistic norms of the horror genre could best negotiate the conflicting demands of “attraction” (the gimmick shots) and narrative integration of the classical Hollywood model, and also detailing the challenges faced by small theater owners to equip theaters to show 3D. Heffernan continues through the 50s and 60s exploring the impact of Hammer’s color saturated and bloody Gothic updates of the classic Universal monsters, how shortages in production from majors caused independent distributors and exhibitors to get into the production business, how the rise in art theaters utilized both exploitation/genre films and art cinema (i.e., “paracinema”), and the rise of “adult” horror in the late 60s. Overall, Heffernan’s book is well-researched, clearly written, and provides a wealth of knowledge for film scholars interested in the economic side of the industry—especially those interested in genre film. The only quibble is with the brief conclusion “The Horror Film in the New Hollywood.” It feels not only tacked on, but somewhat dismissive of the horror film post-1968. He also makes some broad—and I believe incorrect—claims such as that in the 1980s horror film spectacle overwhelms narrative. This comment flies in the face of the convincing arguments he lays out in discussing the intricate relation between technology and genre film of the 50s and 60s (such as horror’s ability to navigate 3D and narrative).
Call#: PN1993 .H457
Baird, Robert. "The Startle Effect: Implications for Spectator Cognition and Media Theory." Film Quarterly. 53.3 (Spring 2000): pp. 12-24.
Humans (and animals for that matter) possess a startle reflex. Objects abruptly entering our visual space or loud noises can cause us to recoil. At the most basic level this is likely a hard-wired evolutionary adaptive mechanism which helps protect us from potential dangers in our environment. But this reflex has also benefited filmmakers, stage directors, and other entertainers as it is used to shock and thrill audiences. The "startle effect" has become such an ingrained part of horror and suspense films that we take it for granted. Baird very aptly explores both the formal conventions of the startle effect in film and what implications this may have for theories of spectatorship. Although "startles" have often been dismissed as being juvenile and representing crude sensationalism, Baird shows through formal breakdown of famous "startle" scenes such as in Alien (1979) the skill and craft required to create effective startles.
Call#: Van Pelt Library Rosengarten Reserve PN56.H6 C37 1990
Noel Carroll is trained as both a philosopher (aesthetics, philosophy of art) and a film scholar. Carroll's book seeks to provide a definition of fictional horror (novels, film, tv shows, etc.) and to explore our emotional and cognitive engagement with horror, or to put it another way, why are we afraid of fictional horror and why do we like it? First, Carroll introduces the term "art-horror" to describe fictional horror and distinguish it from real life horrors. Carroll's definition of "art-horror" is primarily object-based, that a work of art is part of the horror genre if it includes an impure entity which violates cognitive and cultural categories (i.e., a monster) and is threatening. Carroll then explores the "paradox" of the subtitle, which is why are people afraid of fiction? The more general question addressed is how does fiction generate emotions in its audience. This section is the most philosophical as Carroll explores various theories such as the "illusion theory" of fiction and the "pretend theory" of fiction. Carroll also spends considerable time exporing characteristic horror plots and the relation between suspense and horror. The main criticism of the book which many have pointed out is that Carroll's definition of horror is too narrowly circumscribed as it excludes from horror those fictions which present humans as the agents of horror and threat including, for example, a large percentage of the modern horror film (from Psycho to Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Hostel) and also many of the stories by Edgar Allan Poe. This seems wrong both intuitively and categorically. However, I think there are ways to reconcile Carroll's theory with these types of "non-monster" horrors (Carroll even alludes to this possibility himself) and either way Carroll's book is still extremely valuable and useful for anyone studying the horror genre. It is a must read.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1993.5.U6 B655 1985
David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson, and Janet Staiger have provided the canonical and definitive study of the Hollywood film industry of the classical era--approximately 1917 to 1960. As the subtitle to the book indicates, this study looks at the intersection of film style and modes of production (including technology, business models, studio ownership, technical craft, etc.) and generally argues that the studio era of Hollywood is marked by a fairly coherent aesthetic system and consistent style which the modes of production worked to reinforce. According to Bordwell, the classical style does not consist of iron-clad rules, but rather offers a paradigm of "bounded alternatives" from which filmmakers can choose allowing individual creativity while still reinforcing the overall aesthetic system. Additionally, the system is flexible enough to incorporate stylistic innovations into its own schemata--for example, German Expressionism was incorporated into both the horror films of the 1930s and the cycle of film noir in the 1940s and 50s. The book is extensively researched, highly detailed, and very useful for anyone researching Hollywood cinema. The approach to this book is based in industrial history and formal aesthetic analysis of films--it is not a cultural studies text nor does it engage critical theory is any sustained way (which is part of its strength). However, nothing prevents one from applying the insights from Bordwell, Thompson, and Staiger to a cultural studies project. If you are looking for a more cultural history of Hollywood, then Robert Sklar's Movie-made America: A Cultural History of American Movies is a good bet.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.H6 H667 2004
Excellent collection of essays on the history of the horror film, the aesthetics of horror, and audience reception of the horror film. Many of the essays presented here can be seen as useful companion pieces to Noel Carroll's seminal book The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart (1990) as they continue to explore the question of horror affect and why people like to be scared by movies. Also of particular interest are two essays which discuss the under-explored silent-era horror film (see below).
"Shadow-Souls and Strange Adventures: Horror and the Supernatural in European Silent Film" by Casper Tybjerg
Tybjerg argues that despite the fact that most histories of the horror film begin their story with the first Hollywood sound horror films, Tod Browning's Dracula and James Whale's Frankenstein (both 1931), while paying only passing attention to such "precursors" as Murnau's Nosferatu (1922), there are a substantial number of European silent films (especially from Germany, but also from Denmark, Sweden and Russia) that should arguably be considered a part of the horror genre proper due to their common features of the supernatural and depictions of nightmarish situations. Tybjerg also usefully explores the relation between "fantastic" literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the development of the horror film in Germany in the 1910s and 1920s which, of course, served as an influence for the "golden age" of the Hollywood sound horror film of the 1930s.
"Before Sound: Universal, Silent Cinema, and the Last of the Horror-Spectaculars" by Ian Conrich.
Conrich performs a service similar to Tybjerg's but this time concentrates on the cycle of "horror-spectaculars" produced by Universal before the advent of sound: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and The Man Who Laughs (1928). Conrich does not insist that these pre-sound horror films represented a fully developed genre, but rather that the periodization that tends to be inforced using sync sound as the demarcation can efface continuities and create somewhat false divisions. By tracing certain continuities of technical staff, themes, and film style across this divide, he shows that silent and sound horror films have more in common than often asserted.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.A8 P47 1999
This edited collection presents twelve essays by film scholars and philosophers exploring the intersection between human emotion and film. The common bond shared by these scholars is that their theoretical approach to film is primarily based in cognitive science and analytic philosophy provding a theoretical alternative to psychoanalytic and poststructural theories of film reception which tend to dominate the field.
Chapter Seven: "Movie Music as Moving Music: Emotion, Cognition, and the Film Score" by Jeff Smith.
Smith explores the relationship between film music and spectator emotion from a cognitivist perspective relying on recent work in music theory and analytic philosophy (i.e, Peter Kivy and Noel Carroll) and generally pointing to weaknesses in pyschoanalytic accounts of film music which are currently most prominent with the field of film studies (i.e., Claudia Gorbman). His general argument is that spectators engage with film music on a number of different registers which are best explored and explained by cognitivist and emotivist theories of musical affect. The basic structure of the essay is to lay out certain theories of musical affect and then modify them by either adding to or revising them with recent theories of music cognition--polarization and affective congruence--taking a prominent role. The bottom line is that instead of a psychoanalytic account of film music which takes music to be predominantly "inaudible" to the spectator working "subconsciously" to smooth over potential disruptive elemetns of film form and thereby "suturing" spectators into the film's narrative, Smith posits are more active model where film music communicates with spectators evoking or even provoking emotions at various levels from providing narrative cues to representing character's emotional states.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.7 .L37 2000
James Lastra situates the development of sound technology within the context of modernity with special attention paid to the relation of sound to other representational technologies such as photography and phonography. The book attempts to trace the exchanges and shifting relationships between human senses, technologies, and forms of representation (i.e., senses shaped technology development and those devices shaped our sensory experiences). The first couple chapters are a more general account of the material history of sound technology as both a means of simulating the sensory capacities of the ear and as a means of "writing" sound. The remaining chapters are nominally about the cinema beginning with the coming of sound and moving through the classical Hollywood system. Overall, Lastra's book is indebted to cultural theorists of modernity (Benjamin, Comolli, Adorno) which is not surpising as Lastra teaches at Chicago along with other modernity film scholars Tom Gunning and Miriam Hansen. The book has many strengths including giving ample attention to the practices and theories of early film sound technicians and engineers (and not just academic theorists), but suffers a bit from lack of attention to actual films themselves. Chapters 5 & 6 claim to examine the relationship between sound aesthetics, technology and film form, but while attention is paid to various sound technologies and ideas of "realism" there is little attention paid to demonstrating their effect on the form of actual films. Still, it is a well written and interesting book that will be especially useful for those interested in modernity, technology and theories of representation.