so much of horror's appeal for me has to do with breaking apart the influences of patriarchal-heteronormative-cis/sexist-white supremacist-neoliberal capitalism & all its attendants (which i'll just shorthand as kyriarchy):
horror appeals to me like witchcraft, like satanism, like heavy metal:
inversions, oppositions, fragmentations
to the forces of kyriarchy,
i've started thinking about the horror film space as not being fundamentally about "realism" -- but more like *romance* in the hawthorne sense ::: where night falls & moonlight subtly changes things ::: there are higher gradients of liminality between the real world & the mind.
things can intrude or escape. it's an oneiric space where abstractions can be granted SHAPE (see Halloween).
i loosely think of those Shapes in two ways:
external (invasions from outside)
internal (projections from our minds).
most of the time the abstract horror element -- the THING -- the SHAPE is both at once.
i call it the Phantom, for lack of a better term: the masculine-coded embodiment of patriarchal violence. it has a thousand faces & variations. it is the killer in every slasher movie.
Carpenter's Halloween has always provided me the archetype:
The Shape is both an intrusion into suburbia of real fears:
violence from men, especially, physical vulnerability, mortality in general
perhaps associated with the onset of prescribed gender roles -- sexual expectations -- fear of growing up -- adulthood -- white capitalist social expectation -- smoking weed when yr dad's the sheriff,
and at the same time, The Shape is a projection from Laurie Strode's mind. i read a blog post a long time ago that called it an example of the Jungian animus (the masculine shadow inside her mind) -- and bioessentialism aside -- that concept has stuck with me:::
how the reification of the dominant ideology in our minds can be externalized in dreams -- and horror movies are literalized dreams --
The Shape is Laurie's own internalized sexism, shame, fear of sex, growing up, fear of expectations. there is a production still of Laurie and The Shape embracing that i always remember :::
because it seems to indicate their fundamental bond. and it explains, why she can't KILL The Shape (that it is supposedly her brother just emphasizes the connection) -- and why The Shape can't kill HER. how whenever she stabs or knocks him down, she stops and sits, confused. they are in an orbit. but i think that's what the film has become ABOUT for me: identifying that orbit & learning to fight it.
it's not her FAULT though. that should be clear. she (none of us) asked for all of this to be embedded into us.
but like how dreams are organizers or alembics for pouring mental accumulation into/thru -- so are horror movies places where RESISTANCE to the psychic colonization of kyriarchy can be fought thru fantasy.
Laurie doesn't kill The Shape but later Final Girls do take their killers down -- Carol Clover talks about this in "Men, Women, and Chainsaws" --
this is maybe drenched in major essentialism: she sees the final girl archetype as a masculinization of a female character (and the killer as a feminized male character) --
that part doesn't sit well with me but the IDEA that horror movies, especially in the FINAL GIRL VS PHANTOM moment could be a space of liminal gender -- or blurring of gender (she also talks about how a largely male audience comes to identify themselves with a supposedly female character as indicative of how this blurring operates)
has been one of the keys that opened the doors to transition for me. it was one of the first places i saw a blurring of boundaries -- where i saw my own internal societal prescriptions start to break down.
i wasn't defined by my BODY anymore. and if slashers could do THAT, they could do MORE. for sure.
the slasher cycle is so important to me for all of these reasons. and horror has long meant women & queerness.
i started to take horror movies as psychedelics -- use it as telepathy. MURDERDRONE was always an extension or distillation of this basic idea for me. (see also street's MURDERDRONE list that catalyzed so much of this for me).
but instead of merely fantasizing material resistance against the embodied forces of control -- murderdrone reprograms your brain on a fundamental level by TRANCING you out of reified thought patterns.
&&& if you are neuro-atypical like me & struggle with mental illness this can be doubly important -- because it shook-distract-erased inescapable patterns of thought (OCD) that couldn't be erased otherwise.
drone music, doom, rhythm -- honky tonk -- all operate this ay for me too. (why music is spellcasting too).
my current uNHOLY tRINITY of horror movies as templates for psychic resistance are:
1. Blood and Black Lace (for first embodying the modern Phantom)
2. Halloween (for defining the way the film operates as a dream space in which external and internal oppressions can be resisted thru fantasy)
3. Satanwar (for defining the DRONE aspect of lo-fi cinema, in which the murdertrance becomes an agent for psychic destabilization -- subconscious resistance & on the level of bodily affect).
the irony of course is that so few women of any kind were involved in authoring these movies -- but they did get to inhabit them!
i need to interject several important pieces here (god is this making any sense?)
i have been thinking SO MUCH about the idea of
taking pieces of things
rewriting things for ourselves
taking things apart and taking what we need
Sally Jane Black hits it all on the head in her review of The Celluloid Closet:
"It's a play that draws from a deep history of exclusion, of invisibility, of erasure, of gentrification, of colonization, of segregation, of appropriation, and of reclamation. The play is filled with pop songs, all of them queer in one way or another even when they're not queer. There is no major art form that we've not done this with, because there's no major art form that has always included us.
That universal quality of being buried beneath the lines (not lost between them) is the premise of this film (and so much of what I've written) because these hidden representations (some more hidden than others) are the equivalent of dyke bars--they're little pockets amidst the media we consume that tell us we're not alone, that provide internal safe spaces. They talk of this (in other terms) in this documentary, discussing the various ways they felt discovering queer moments, finding the queer reading, eking out the fragments of homosexuality within these heterosexual frames. The gamut from lonely isolation to revelatory connection is present, because queerness is in infinite variety."
and this is echoed by some discussion on Alien Brain's review of "Inferno":
"Horror and metal are for me the primary religious texts in my life. Without that to help me make emotional sense of the world I don't know where I would be. To have art which concerns itself with the incomplete, the damaged, the exposed, the negative sublime, is to know that these things are navigable, even as they are devouring us, that which will inevitably end us, and to make some form of peace or at least understanding of it while that is still possible, is, I think, a great gift."
i tried my best to explain part of all of this in my Last Slumber Party Review, too
existing in this world, for me, has always meant psychic stealing. sometimes things were readily usable. more often, i had to take them & reshape them.
that's why -- horror is often conceived of as fundamentally misogynistic / sexist / etc -- because well. it IS.
but at the same time, i like to tear it apart because i have found something special in it. so i take what i want & discard the rest.
it's extraction & taking the models.
horror can be facing not just DEATH/MORTALITY --
but facing, "navigating what's devouring us." they can be charts against the colonizing labyrinth-mind of kyriarchy.
and like the forests on the borders of civilization ::: it harbors witches, dreaming dreams.
i feel like i'm leaving so much out every time i try to explain this, but i'll leave it incomplete, even as my brain is devouring ME, fighting me to make it all Cohere.
please suggest movies -- ideas -- and let's build a list together!!! (click read notes for little blurbs as to why each movie was picked)
---incoherence fueled by ticcing my blood into headaches & electric wizard's BLACK MASSES