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).
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 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.