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 Hawkins’s work is important as it captures a particular historical moment, but it also feels woefully out of date.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 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.