God bless Spencer Blohm. Just when my blogging mind is getting weary, he comes to the rescue with another indepth look at our favorite genre. I absolutely love this particular topic. I mean, horror without sex is like Halloween without candy, football without arrest records, politics without worthless bastards. OK, enough of me. Spencer, take it away…
Sex and horror have always had a twisted relationship ever since the iconic shower scene of Hitchcock’s Psycho, but there’s a lot more to it than simply providing titillation for the genre’s target demographic. In fact, just about every horror flick has some sort of sexual insinuation or encounter that leads to the untimely demise of those involved. The Cannes Film Festival hit It Follows, recently released on Blu Ray, involves a sexually transmitted “haunting” that follows its infected victim with the intent of murder. Sitting as a prime example of an examination of the relationship between teenage sexuality, taking that step into adulthood, and typical horror tropes, this film does not condone or condemn the sexual encounter like others typically do.
1980’s Friday the 13th (available on Vudu) practically created the slasher subgenre, and a running theme of that and countless other horror franchises is the villain’s tendency to punish those who engage in drinking, drug use, or premarital sex. This almost always leads to a finale in which a “virtuous virgin” who has abstained from temptation throughout the film is able to defeat the monstrous evil she confronts. This “Final Girl” trope, originally coined by Carol J. Clover in her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, is typically portrayed as the conservative idea of what a women “should be,” and has pervaded horror cinema for decades, leading to dozens of predictable climaxes.
But as the trend became more obvious, horror filmmakers began to examine and deliberately subvert it, to varying effect: Cherry Falls (hard to find, but you can get a copy here) tells the story of a killer who targets virgins at a high school, and Wes Craven’s Scream (currently on Netflix) gave us characters who were fans of horror films and knew about both the sex and Final Girl rule – rules which the film cheekily broke in its third act. The 2009 film Jennifer’s Body (on Verizon on-demand) gives us a demon who possesses a gorgeous teenager and feeds on her male classmates. When the trope is inverted in this manner, the killing often occurs during intercourse. This is made as explicit as possible in the unsettling French film Trouble Every Day (hiding, but is on Google Play), about a femme fatale who seduces men so she can eat them, and in the 1995 sci-fi thriller Species, in which an alien takes the guise of a beautiful woman for the purpose of mating with a human and creating a new breed to destroy all of humanity.
Regardless of how the trope is utilized, the misogyny behind it remains intact. There often seems to be a notion that women’s sexual behavior is to be scrutinized, revealed, and accounted for, whether she is villain or victim. This idea has close ties to the puritanical culture that demonizes sex in the first place, and reinforces the concepts of “slut-shaming” and male-dominated, patriarchal society. The flip side of the argument is that the Final Girl trope itself originally grew out of feminist ideals; the physically strong male film hero who fights his way through danger had been replaced by a willful young woman who uses guile to escape a grisly fate. Whatever the reasoning, the stubborn trope continues to exist, even in films that set out to deconstruct it.
The use of the monster as an STD metaphor in It Follows further strengthens the link between sex and death in horror, and reinforces the absurd notion that having sex, which creates life, could lead to murder, which ends it. Why is this link so durable in horror cinema? Perhaps it’s the commonly held belief that premarital sex is somehow wrong and deserving of punishment. A more plausible psychological explanation is Freud’s “death drive”, the impulse in us that is drawn to danger and actually thrilled by the prospect of potential harm. Furthermore, Freud presented the overarching idea that this death drive coincides with a drive to seek pleasure, inexplicably linking sex and horror as part of human nature.
Regardless of what drives it, sex and horror will continue to have a long and fruitful relationship. As long as films like It Follows and Cabin in the Woods (see here) continue to find new and intriguing ways to explore the connection, there’s no reason for it to stop anytime soon.
I’ve been a fan of Rob Zombie ever since I heard Thunder Kiss ’65 back in the grunge days of 1992. Hell, when my girls were born, I used to rock them to sleep to White Zombie. And believe it or not, they fell asleep like little angels while he channeled Blade Runner and chanted he was More Human Than Human.
When he made his directorial debut with House of 1000 Corpses, I was the first in line. I knew the backstory in getting that movie made (Hollywood nightmare), and even though it was choppy and strange, I dug it. When he unleashed The Devil’s Rejects on the world, I knew he had arrived. That was one sick, twisted flick. And I still attest that his hillbilly horror take on the Halloween movies would be appreciated even more if they weren’t remakes of a legendary franchise.
When I first heard about The Lords of Salem, I jumped out of my skin, itching to plug myself into Zombie’s distorted view on witches in Salem. It stars, of course, his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, as a Salem DJ called Heidi who shares the airwaves with Dawn of the Dead’s own Ken Foree and Jeff Daniel Phillips (who could double for Rob Zombie). One of the things I love most about Zombie is his knowledge of the horror and 70’s exploitation genres and devotion to the stars who helped build them. This time around, he employs Dee Wallace (The Howling, The Hills Have Eyes), Judy Geeson (It Happened One Night) and Patricia Quinn (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as a trio of sisters with something nefarious on their minds. It also stars Meg Foster as a beyond filthy, evil witch from centuries past. I met her last year at a horror con and thought she was the sweetest person on earth. I couldn’t believe what I saw on the screen was the same woman!
Here’s the premise : A mysterious vinyl album shows up at the radio station one night. When it’s played on the air, various women around Salem become entranced, having visions of pornographic witchly ceremonies in the 1600s. There’s a strong tie between Heidi and the man responsible for the Salem With Trials and the girl is about to go on an acid trip through hell to find out what it all means.
I came ouf of The Lords of Salem with my head spinning. The imagery here is graphic high-strangeness, and at times, unsettling. It has a very 70’s B movie pastiche and will leave you feeling like you just double-downed on acid.
At times, the narrative felt a little disjointed and Sheri Moon’s performance, finally not playing a murderous psychotic or stripper, is a little better than I thought it would be, but not strong enough to give her character the gravitas it needed. It’s not a scary movie, per se, but it does provide enough fuel for many nightmares to come. If a Rob Zombie song could weave itself to life, this is exactly what it would look and sound like.
I think most people are going to have a hard time wrapping their heads around this one. It’s great for me, but too odd for normal folk. And that’s just fine. The day Rob Zombie makes a movie for the masses, ala crap like Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer, I’m catching the next comet to the far reaches of space. Humanity will have lost all meaning for me.
You need to go into it not expecting it to be a major feature cranked out by the Hollywood hit – I mean schlock – machine. Picture yourself in the back of a car at a dirty drive-in and enjoy.
First let me kick things off by having a little giveaway this week. Evil Eternal, my little ode to demon slaying, is going to be in print on September 2nd. Thank you to everyone who bought the e-book. Now, as an author, my hot little hands get advance print copies of my books.
I’d like to give a signed copy away to one of you out there in blogger land. Entering the contest is muy simple. All you have to do is click on the book cover right here. That will take you to the Amazon page. Once you’re there, all I ask is that you give it a Like, then share it either through Twitter, FB, on Pinterest. If you hover on the Like button, icons to share through any of those will appear.
Once you’re done, just throw a comment here that you did it and you’re eligible. I’ll pick a winner on Wednesday, August 29th. It will be shipped out the next day. Scout’s honor.
This coming Friday, I’ll be heading to Gettysburg, PA to attend the Horrorffind Weekend. I’ll be with a crazy group of Samhain authors signing books, doing readings and having a ton of fun. Horrorfind weekend is my favorite weekend of the year. Hope you can attend! Then, the following Friday, I’m off to Indianapolis, home of cafeteria style food, to represent Samhain and meet the cast of Aliens at the Horrorhound Weekend Convention. It will be my first Horrorhound and I hear it’s enormous.
I was fortunate enough to do something super cool this week. I was invited to be a member of a paranormal panel for the NY Spotlight on Success show down at Chelsea Manor in NYC. Big thanks to Diana and Joe for letting me and my Monster Men brother Jack talk about all things ghostly. We had a blast, got to check out the ‘haunted’ spots in the club, and met a ton of great peeps, including paranormal researchers Dan Sturges, Laurence Hewett, and psychics Michelle Dauria and Krystin Reilly.
Aside from finishing what I hope is the final round of edits on my kids horror story, and getting ready to write another novella and novel, I’ve been recharging my brain by watching movies. What keeps little Hunter going? Here’s a sample along with my 3 word review. So, what are you watching?
Fantastic, creepy story!
Decent psychological thriller.
Lost slasher gem.
Oddly scary indy.
As Jack was going through the Monster Men files, he found this episode that we had filmed and somehow forgotten. Lucky for us, it’s as timeless as Raquel Welch’s beauty. This time around, we go into the elements that make a wicked horror flick, and reveal our list of 15 must-see scary movies.
And here’s a drinking game you can play while you watch: One shot for every time you hear my cat scratching on the door, and one beer for every candy corn Jack and I eat. Guaranteed, you’ll pass out before you get to the 5 minute mark!
So, what scary movies would make your list?
And a big thank you to everyone who Liked the Amazon page for Evil Eternal and Forest of Shadows. Gotta keep that big mo’ rolling. Share pages when you can for any Samhain horror books and spread the word. There’s a new monster in town, and it’s name is Samhain!