Dark Desires: Male Masochism in the Horror Film
By Barbara Creed
Creed suggests that in horror films monstrous male bodies often take on female characteristics. Freud lists three types of masochism: erotogenic, moral, and feminine, in which the “feminine position” is adopted. This, in addition to the femininity of male monsters, may reveal a repressed desire of man to become woman. She also mentions Kristeva’s theories of abjection, citing the corpse and the ultimate abjection. The abject body is one aligned with the natural, such as the way the maternal body changes and expels. Creed suggests this is also Freud’s masochistic, feminine body. The desire for man to give birth appears in several horror films, within which man can only give birth to a monster.
Creed provides a useful overview of masochism, both within horror films and in relation to those viewing them. The concept of the abject is important as well, in that what is abject becomes monstrous. Therefore, for fathers to become monstrous they must also somehow become an abjection. In particular I would be interested in extending the idea of the maternal body as abject by comparing it to the paternal. This perhaps sets the paternal body as normative; in which case the monstrous paternal may no longer be normatively masculine
Carrie and the Boys: Introduction to Men, Women, and Chainsaws
By Carol Clover
Clover focuses on audience identification with the female victim-hero. While acknowledging the difficulties of statistically analyzing film audiences, she limits her exploration of identification to adolescent males. She also mentions how horror film audiences know what to expect before seeing a film, and that predictability is part of the genre’s pleasure. There are recurring, recognizable roles, and gender is an innate part of these. Men are usually the hero or monster, and when a women does fill this role they are more masculine, just as men are more feminine when playing the victim. Horror films show that men do not just identify with men on screen, just as women do not only identify with women.
Although Clover focuses on identification with women in horror films, this source is still relevant in its more general exploration of gender roles in this genre. Her theories will also be interesting to extend in my paper since the films I’m planning to focus on for the most part do not have a character who is the typical female victim-hero. Interestingly, the father/monster’s daughter seems to be the one to most closely fill this role.
More Dark Dreams: Some Notes on the Recent Horror Film
By Charles Derry
Derry describes horror films as nightmares in that they speak to widespread unconscious fears in society, which we do not want to deal with directly. He suggests three different subgenres of horror films, each responding to a certain type of fear in our society. The first is the horror of personality film, in which the monster is and appears fully human and anyone could be insane. These films are a result of increasing violence in the streets, where the monsters are all human and anyone might turn violent. The second subgenre is horror of the demonic, in which there exists a tangible evil. Derry suggests these films sprung up in the 1960’s as a response to turmoil within the Catholic Church. The third subgenre, which is also perhaps the most significant, is the horror of Armageddon film; a response to atomic bomb anxieties as well as the theatre of the absurd.
This source provides a useful description of different types of horror films. More importantly, the social circumstances that influenced the popularity of these sub-genres as suggested by Derry provide a basis for analyzing the events within these types of films. I can extend this in terms of both social ideals of fatherhood and modern events that may have influenced them.
The Appeal of Horror and Suspense
By Mary Beth Oliver and Meghan Sanders
In this article Oliver and Sanders ask what causes different responses from viewers of horror films. One possibility is gender, another might be differences in personality. Horror films may also provide a social function, providing a rite of passage from childhood into adulthood. Slasher films may then in fact be a response to a shift to more conservative values, in that it is often the rebellious our sexually active that become the victims. The authors also suggest a reason as to why horror films are popular date movies: it provides a way to play traditional gender roles, with the man as protector and comforter of the woman. In addition, they explore the reaction when victims seem to get what they deserve, asking if the monster than becomes the hero.
What I find the most relevant in this article is the possibility of the monster becoming a hero if the victims are bad people. In each of the films I’m studying, there is some amount of revenge-seeking by the monsters. Is what was done to them that causes them to seek revenge worse than their own monstrous actions, and how does this affect their status as the monster of the film? This also raises the possibility of a shift from victim to monster or vice versa.
Destroying the Male Body in British Horror Cinema
By Alison Peirse
Peirse discusses the horror film Dog Soldiers and its focus on men as victims. The focus of this film is on the terror of the men about to be killed or their destroyed bodies, while the monster stays primarily off screen in “blind space.” Because the victims are men and are attacked by primarily female werewolves, the penetrating male/penetrated female binary is disrupted. The film also shows men’s control failing, as their phallic weapons do not work against the werewolves until the very end of the film. Peirse also explores the role of masochism in the viewing of horror films. She sees masochism as a passive mode of spectatorship, perhaps as a result of the breakdown of hegemonic concepts of the male body.
This source is useful in its discussion of the destruction of the male body. While this is not the focus of my paper, in both Repo and Sweeney Todd a majority of the victims are male. This is in contrast to more traditional horror films, and I am curious if there is some relation to the father-monster in that he must kill men rather than women. In addition, both of these films are more contemporary. This may imply some change in society that has led to more men as victims in horror films.