God bless Spencer Mitchell. 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.
How special is this? We have two episodes of the Monster Men for the price of…well, zippo, actually. The things we do for love.
Since the first appearance of Frankenstein in print, the horror genre has been rife with tales of terror based on the concept of science gone wrong. When man meddles with Nature or oversteps his bounds, the repercussions are very, very nasty. That goes for science fiction, too, perhaps even more so. I love mad scientists. Their creativity and singleminded obsessions are enviable, and it’s always fun to see them get their comeuppance in the end.
On the latest episode of Monster Men, we tap into this genre defining vein (after tapping into a beer or two) by repeating #ScienceGoneWrong like chattering babboons. I promise you’ll get a kick out of this one. What are some of your favorite science gone wrong books and movies?
What legendary horror actors and characters would make your Mount Rushmore of horror? Jack and I went into this thinking it would be easy (especially with a few cocktails under our belts). Man, were we wrong. Trying to whittle 100 years of horror down to 4 ain’t easy. Here’s our attempt at tackling the impossible.
Who would make your Mount Rushmore?
Yep, I dropped a lot of F bombs in this post’s title. Before I ramble on, I wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to you all. If there’s one thing I’m grateful for (actually, there are many), it’s all of you who wander over to my blog and read my books and just keep me going. You are all bad motor scooters and mean go-getters.
I also want to give thanks to fellow author and horror douche (his words, not mine), Jason Brant for being on the Monster Men. We actually shot 2 episodes with Jason because we had such a good time. The first one is all about found footage movies. Just when I thought the subgenre was done, a slew of new flicks flooded the market this year. Jack, Jason and I go through a bunch, telling you which ones to seek out and which to avoid.
As you can see, I found my cowboy hat in the bottom of my closet just before we started filming, much to my wife and daughters’ chagrin. My youngest asked me if I was going to a rodeo, since I was also wearing a flannel shirt and jeans.
Just a quick update on the writing front, my next cryptid novel is in the hands of my beta readers and line editor, aka my sister. As soon as I sent it out, I got to work on a little novella that promises to be a demented ride straight to hell. If all goes well, expect 4 new books in 2015, plus some short stories.
And now I’ll leave you to your turkey and booze and football. Enjoy the long weekend.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that I was one of the few people who didn’t particularly like Max Brooks’ breakout novel, World War Z. Like I hope that I’ve made it impossible for my wife to find other men to measure up to me, just about everything in the zombie pantheon has fallen shy of the original Dawn of the Dead for me. Everything that was right with DOTD was wrong with WWZ. More on that in a moment.
I’d heard that there were all kinds of productions issues with WWZ and if memory serves correct, this should have come out a lot sooner. Sometimes strife on a move set leads to greatness, like Predator (a movie that was said to have more issues than a NYC newsstand). But most times, chaos behind the scenes transforms into chaos on the screen. It’s very easy to see that WWZ had a lot of bad shit go down between the star and producer, Brad Pitt, and everyone else connected with the film.
I’m going to summarize WWZ quite easily. It’s a series of chase scenes that carry Brad Pitt from the US, to Africa, Israel and Wales. Brad goes somewhere, soulless zombies appear, Brad runs. He survives so many impossible situations, I was beginning to think he was Daffy Duck. And for a guy who was in 90% of the scenes, he said about 20 words.
It was like watching a 2 hour car chase, which gets very boring after a while. Unlike Dawn of the Dead, there are no real personalities here, either on the living or the dead side. There’s no one to connect to here. At one point, I was rooting for an asteroid to slam the earth and put everyone out of their misery. Like the zombies, the script has no pulse, no heart, nada.
The only cool part, for me, was the way the zombies, perhaps the fastest and angriest since 28 Weeks Later, piled atop one another to scale any height just to get at human flesh. So, I got two scenes that raised my adrenaline level up a tick, and then I was rocked to sleep until the end credits.
And here’s something else that blew my mind – here we are with a zombie flick on an epic scale and there is almost no blood, certainly no gore! What the hell? Was this intentionally made for grade school kids?
Guess I’ll have to wait for the new season of The Walking Dead to get a real zombies fix, and that’s a show I think we’ll look back at and try to pinpoint exactly where in season 3 it jumped the shark.
Anyone else plunk down their hard earned cash for World War Z? Feel free to tell me I’m a small minded elitist a-hole or that you agree with me. I can take it. 🙂
I miss the old video stores. Nothing was better than running there on Friday afternoon to search for a couple of horror flicks. Unlike bookstores, there was always a horror section. I’m surprised the video store by me didn’t charge me rent, I spent so much time nestled between the rows of stacked VHS boxes.
There was some slick, usually highly deceptive artwork on some of those horror tapes. In fact, the better the box, the worse the movie. That didn’t bother me because I have always been a connoisseur of bad b-horror movies. I like a bad horror movie more than a good, non-horror movie.
Video stores were a shangri-la of discovery. It was there where I was finally able to get my hands on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Freaks. Before the advent of VHS, you either saw a horror movie in the theater, or you were out of luck. Classic underground movies like The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes (both by Wes Craven) were mentioned with a sense of reverance and awe, especially if you were the lucky one to have caught them in the cinema.
When movies came to VHS, our lives changed. Suddenly, the history of cinema was open to us. And a whole new generation of horror films spilled wide like steaming guts on dew covered grass. I’d stroll over to the new release shelf and see Puppet Master and Witchboard. I couldn’t get them in my hands and my money and membership card on the counter fast enough. When my wife and I were dating, we’d spend whole days and nights watching whatever 5 or 6 horror movies we gathered from the video store. In our prime, we must have watched almost 200 horror flicks a year. Yeah, we were dedicated.
Monster Man Jack and I recently took a trip down VHS horror memory lane. In this podcast, I think we mention about 40 different movies. I hope they bring back great memories for you. You can watch our Generation VHS episode here.
Now, we could have talked about movies for hours. What are some of your personal classics? What are your memories of the video store? I look back at that time with no regrets, knowing I appreciated every moment I spent there. And thanks to all those movies, I solidified my status as a Monster Man. Thank you, Demonic Toys. Hail to the Re-Animator! And goodnight, Near Dark.