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 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.