A hysterical story bursts out of the banal theatrical scenarios of the three o'clock news: something to the effect of 10-year-olds stabbing other children in an English school yard, citing some incredibly violent videos as inspiration for their actions. A politician in British Parliament condemns "video nasties" and tells of how he knows of videos that show eight-year-old boys being tortured and teenage girls being dismembered. And, of course, the reality-finale of such video fiction is incidents such as the school-yard stabbing. Next news item.
Meanwhile, I am in Melbourne, those children lie with stab wounds in an English hospital and, for the life of me, 1 really can't make any substantial sense out of it all. The world might appear to be a global village, but it is more like a media supermarket where news becomes News: an indivisible, indiffusible block of information from a void, forming a dimension not unlike a lurid, 3-D postcard — flat depth. Marxism or moralism, one's responses are probably a means to reaffirm that one is not as flat and one-dimensional as everything that inhabits the "world" one watches going by.
It becomes increasingly difficult to relate to social dilemmas, such as the school-yard stabbing and the Parliament preaching, because the mechanics are pathetic in that one is hedged into dealing with media depictions of problems which have already been generated by the media, by pseudo-sociological rationale. When interacting with the Media, the game is loaded and any notions of engagement, intervention, subversion or even analysis are delusions. Some people attempt to play the game for keeps, and statistics are dumped like data-diarrhoea on top of the stabbing: x per cent increase in violent behaviour after subjects are exposed to violence on film or television according to latest figures from Alabama University. More chapters in more stories — half chewed-up and spat out; horrific and sensationalist — are continually calling up blurred explanations that help keep spinning the dizzy debate of "Violence in Society" as the world turns. One gets the im¬pression that people are too sociologically 'aware' to realize that people are sociologically saturated, summing up the world as one big cause-and-effect, a place where everything has to have a reaction.
Scattered throughout London's tube stations are billboards put up by the Advertising Standards Authority declaring how fair it is and what its standards are in accuracy and honesty. And its most concrete example of an advertisement that should not be displayed: the promo¬tion of Video Nasties. And it makes the claim in an off-hand way before it enters the debative area of how the advertiser and the consumer should confer with one another. Perhaps they really are serious in England with all their mocking, stiff upper-lip about violence getting out of hand, citing the incredible rise in home video usage as the germ for this social disease. When the British vice squad confiscates a batch of video copies of Apocalypse Now mistaking it for Cannibal Apocalypse, though, one is reminded that hysteria has power.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Australia sits relatively silent in the midst of a blood battle. Taking cues from English conservatism and American psychology, horror movies are being posited as the bane of education, the seed of social disorder and the trash-can of cinema. But the Australian media has yet to devote signifi¬cant space to exploitation films as the latest scapegoat for all that ails society.
In February 1984, the "X" rating was intro¬duced into Australia and mild debate on the exact legislative nature of the bill continues. Both the press and the public seem to hunger for blood as politicians soft-shoe around the issues. It only took Victorian Premier John Cain to recently restate what everyone had already stated in February (i.e., "We'll have to look into this some more") for many news¬papers to attack pornography and censorship in their editorialand Ictters-to-the-editor pages. Ten months after the introduction of the "X" certificate, the community is still in the same stalemate .
In reference to horror films, the "X" rating has not actually introduced anything "new". But if public pressure becomes too strong against exploitation films in general, there could be a back-lash against how much sex and violence is allowed in by the "R" rating, or possibly even the "M" rating.  There appears to be considerable confusion about the complex relationships between sex and violence (in horror movies, pornography, exploitation films and censorship) other than the superficial dis¬tinction that the U.S. is more concerned with the violent aspects of pornography, while England is more perturbed by the depiction of graphic violence. As for Australia, some might say that it is apathy that has maintained the comparative silence over the issues, although it is actually more like confusion. From mis¬informed petitioners in a Doncaster shopping centre demanding that videos depicting child abuse not be let into the country (they are auto¬matically refused classification) to a Northcote video shop doubling the late-penalty fine for its most popular tape (Bloodsucking Freaks), hysteria hangs silently in the air. Australia is probably just teetering on an edge waiting for the straw to break the camel's back — or a school-yard stabbing.
Australia seems to be not too baulked by pornography. Australian culture has stained it with a fairly harmless image, despite there being a sense of repression that makes the Censorship Board quick to point out sexual perversions in the category of "refused classi¬fication" under the new "X" rating. This entails all that one hears about, or finds out about in American tele-features: incest, child abuse, bestiality, etc. Also included in this category is the amorphous notion of "the graphic depiction of violence in relation to explicit sexual activity". A perplexing problem arises here, in that the ghetto-like nature of sado-masochism as a sub-culture of sexuality is suddenly caught in an awkward position, because its related pornography has (like homo¬sexuality) infiltrated the channels of dominant sexual ideologies — and it isn't welcome. During the past decade, homosexuality has been establishing a relationship, on its own terms, with areas and levels of society which previously either ridiculed or were threatened by it. This is all to such an extent that the social stereotype known as the "gay" is now a stable character device in many American sit-coms, and even enjoys its own genre in film (see the Gay Films entry in the Australian Film Institute catalogue).
In this liberal climate one might easily say, "Hey, some of my best friends are gay", but can we talk about sado-masochism in the same tone? Perhaps it is the next turn in the Sexual Revolving-Door (previously known as the Sexual Revolution) as homosexual jokes are replaced by sado-masochist jokes.
The sado-masochistic fetishism displayed in The Benny Hill Show and The Kenny Everett Video Show, or the groups Deutsche Ameri-kanische Freundschaft and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, is cheap, but it is its very cheapness which checks it and diffuses its "danger". Society's wavering acceptance of sado¬masochism is clearly mapped out by Mel Brooks: from the humor of The Producers to the bondage scenes cut from High Anxiety, to the tacky video-clip for "Hitler Rap". Caught somewhere between iconography and porno¬graphy, sado-masochism remains a volatile, volcanic subject.
Of great importance and relevance here is the controversy (of which Australia was quite unaware) in Chicago about Friday The 13th and the films that followed in its wake, in par¬ticular I Spit On Your Grave. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert proved to be the spearheads of an evergrowing movement of moralism in film criticism in their denouncing of "slasher" movies (i.e., films inspired by the success of Halloween) as inferior cinematic works and repulsive in their violence towards women. The double-edged knife of such criticism is aestheticism on one side and progressivism on the other — value judgments for art and society. San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles soon followed suit with the condemna¬tion of exploitation cinema, despite there being no visible signs of a decrease in the films' popu¬larity. It may sound obvious but there are two sorts of people who read this type of criticism: those who have seen the films and those who have not. These critical approaches (under the banner of sociological concern and action) do hardly anything to change the situation: it creates no reformed devotees and no enlight¬ened sceptics. So what, precisely, is the value of these public addresses when they only seem to be heard but never listened to? Fangoria maga¬zine in New York, with its photographs of grisly butcherings and captions such as "Kids, don't try this by yourself", and the San Fran¬cisco Examiner-Chronicle's "Drive-In Critic", Joe Bob Briggs, musing on his favorite drive-in memories ("Maybe it was the little head-in-the-toilet joke in House on Sorority Row"), both provide an appropriate rebuke to the alarm bells of Siskel and Ebert. The rebuke lies not in disregarding the negative criticism of gory films, but in disregarding the sociological assumptions that instigate these criticisms.
In his enlightening and comprehensive book Splatter Movies, John McCarty provides an unfortunate move in the defence of exploitation cinema in the chapter he devotes to the Siskel-Ebert controversy. By presuming that there is a social effect to their criticisms, he critically breaks down their argument point by point and furnishes empirical data to discount their argu¬ment as a jumble of contradictory observa¬tions. What this serves to do is posit exploita¬tion films on the same level as the films which Siskel and Ebcrt's criteria honor. A back-fire is produced when attempting to locate types of cinemas which are in opposition within the same value-determined realm, bowing to the power of hierarchical ordering and placement in the social evaluations of the cinema. The substance, nature, image and effect of different cinemas are valorized by everyone trying to defend "their" cinema as good, valuable, worthy, artistic, right, etc.. Exploitation cinema is none of these and probably doesn't want to purchase such values. This is a very important feature which distinguishes it as a genre, or, rather, a contextual genre which many dominant modes of film criticism fail to perceive.
Seeing horror movies is undoubtedly an experience that can trigger a range of strong reactions, considering that hearing about these films does not afford an experience of any kind. Certainly the extreme nature of I Spit On Your Grave greatly influenced Siskel and Ebert's assessment of the film, though one suspects they were as much revolted by audi¬ences enjoying it as they were by the film itself. When reading their reviews and statements about it and other splatter and slasher movies from around the same period, I thought it was a typical knee-jerk reaction. But after seeing I Spit On Your Grave, I realized that it wasn't "that kind of film" at all, and that my experi¬ence of viewing it greatly affected my views on the "violence-in-socicty" debate.
It was the radio advertisement that did it: "This woman has just cut, chopped, broker and burned five men beyond recognition . . . but no jury in America would ever convict her."
The plot is simple: a woman that's the last." The woman then methodically seduces the four men, one by one, and im¬passively kills them by various gruesome means (hanging, castration, outboard speedboat motor, etc.). In comparison to a film such as Lipstick, it is a different planet. In Lipstick it was great when Margaux Hemingway blew the balls off the rapist in the car-park: the whole theatre cheered, screamed and applauded. On the other hand, I Spit On Your Grave must be the only film I have seen at a drive-in during which no one bipped his horn. And at the snack-bar at intermission, normally the place where everyone is yelling and pushing each other, screaming "And how was it when that guy gets the hypodermic in the eyeball!", it was so quiet that all one could hear was the ringing of the cash register and the shuffling of moccasins. With Lipstick, the audience cele¬brated the drama of the rape as an action-packed scenario; with I Spit On Your Grave, rape is portrayed as having no possible value through glorification, titillation or identifica¬tion. The revenge executed just did not com¬pensate for the harrowing experience of the rape scenes. In contrast to the lashings of slashings that it contains, I Spit On Your Grave is excruciatingly blunt.
I Spit On Your Grave does not concern itself with politicized notions of the socialized metaphor ot rape (i.e., by a camera, by a picture, by a context, etc.) but instead opts for a mode of representation devoid of the type of distance with which Pornography: Not A Love Story tackles its issues. The latter does the AFI circuit in Australia; the former hits the drive-ins. Which is the more appropriate "site for this social struggle"?
I Spit On Your Grave is one of many films that cannot be accounted for by oversimplified, naive assumptions of how bad exploitation films are. This type of film presents a density in its interaction between film and society that does not rest on social-conscience emotionalism or good-versus-bad dramatization. There are equally problematic films, such as Brian DePalma's Dressed To Kill (its codes of sexual identification are so convoluted they throw a real spanner in the works of sexuality in film) or Slumber Party Massacre (one's notion of the "male subject" in a woman-made film — directed and written by Rita Mae Brown — about a guy who drills a bunch of co-eds becomes a little foggy). Then there are the pre¬cursors to these films: Herschell Gordon Lewis' She Devils On Wheels about an all-girl bikie gang called "The Man-eaters" which goes around mashing up men; Wes Craven's first feature, Last House On The Left, which is an extreme remake of Ingmar Bergman's Virgin Spring (!); and anything by Russ Meyer. This is, however, a periphery, a grey area that lacks predictable socialized focus on how one makes connections and extrapolations with difficult films. This clamping down on, or censorship of, exploitation films can only stem from a turgid parental concern which will not solve any problems (problems that are not clearly articu¬lated or delineated in the first place) but only create new ones due to their misguided direc¬tives and vague intentions. Film critics and sociologists alike should take heed of the two basic laws of the advertising-entertainment jungle — never underestimate or overestimate the public — and apply them to their flailing notions of what constitutes a "film subject".
Edward D. Wood Jr., the muddled genius that gave audiences Plan 9 from Outer Space and Glen Or Glenda, has a truly memorable line in The Sinister Urge about two rock-hard urban cops who bust a pornography ring. A tax-payer (sic) confronts the police sergeant and chastizes him for wasting the tax-payers' money stamping out skin-flicks and girlie-magazines instead of chasing robbers and murderers. His reply: "Show me a crime and I'll show you an image that caused it." The comedy of such social analyses continues 25 years later, but it is not as funny anymore.
One of the most striking features of horror and exploitation films is how clearly they appear to be typified as a genre. For a long time now, genre criticism has been at the back of the stadium, blocked by the bulk of auteurism on one side and psychoanalysis on the other. And, as to the mysterious realm of public taste, films "these days" veer more to the presentation of a unique object, a self-contained event rather than a genre example.
Watching a contemporary (say, post-1978) horror film, one can hear it talking to all other horror films, as the horror film since that time has constituted itself as a genre about genre — watching its own history in the making. It is this explosive and scattering nature of contem¬porary horror films which makes them a more interesting cinematic exchange than the implosive, self-contained form of films which appears to elude such an obvious networking of categorization.
The precise workings of genre are sometimes hard to perceive from an Australian perspec¬tive. Witness the strange case of the Mad Max films. From the outset, there was nothing to differentiate substantially Mad Max from any other "off-beat action flick" made in Australia, apart from it being drenched with fetishism and clothed in a tacky interpretation of Punk iconography. The overseas success of Mad Max must have surprised both those who did and did not like the film.
For Australia, such success poses an enigma. Many have thought that the films need further analysis, or that director George Miller really is a genius. But the enigma is essentially that many people have not been able to clearly view Mad Max as a genre film, as a film that has a very specific relationship with many other films. It is this relationship, this configuration of tangents, that locates Mad Max and Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior overseas), not their status as individual films by an individual director. Most overseas reviews that evaluate the films refer to this kind of placement of an off-beat film within the mysterious realm of "cult movies" (see Cinefantastique, Vol. 10, No. 1, for the most accurate account of Mad Max in this respect). It seems that for many an overseas devotee to cult movies, the Mad Max films, with their bloated art direction and strained delivery of Aussie dialogue, provide a new slant on the gaudy and the grotesque in cinema. They do display originality, but only under terms of genre. (George Miller refers to Mad Max as a "Western on wheels".) The Mad Max enigma then is born of a strange meeting. For overseas audiences, it is between genre expectations and the impact of permutations of Australian iconography. For an Australian audience, it is between an exposure to the sub¬stance of such action films (considering the European strain with which the promotion of Australian Film Culture is so laden) and the audience's familiarity with the modes of repre¬sentation in constructing a post-holocaust Aus¬tralia. Like the multiple car-crashes that fuel its fiction, the Mad Max films live a life brought about by a contextual collision between genre criticism and auteur appraisal.
Within the organically expanding confines of the horror genre, one can easily cite a number of directors who display a strong artistic identity or hold historical importance or do both in the development of the genre. Those who are currently still in business are (in no particular order): David Cronenberg, John Carpenter, George Romero, Larry Cohen, Wes Craven, Joe Dante, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper, Jean Rolin . . . the list goes on. This, however, oversimplifies the industry of horror films as two-bit auteurism, because the bulk of contemporary horror films (like exploitation films in general) exist by and large outside dominant modes of film produc¬tion. Many of these films are produced by independent companies, be they well consoli¬dated or virtually non-existent, and the economic structuring of their production in some ways differs from the workings of major studios, the latter being a premise upon which the basic functioning of the auteur theory rests. Producers, for example, are less studio-orientated in their relationships with directors. Consider: the working bond between Carpenter and Debra Hill; Romero's Latent Image and Laurel Group companies; Cronenberg's rela¬tionship with the Canadian Film Board; Craven's early days with Sean Cunningham; Dante's grounding in Roger Corman's New World company; and Fulci's role in making spaghetti splatter for American audiences.
The real star-system in contemporary horror films, though, belongs to make-up and special effects. These areas are immensely important in the maintenance of filmic realism within a grotesquely unrealistic genre. The work of these artists includes the crafting of the physical mechanics that affect one's psychological involvement with the film's fiction, as well as the innovative twists that they provide on mangling bodies in a genre that has as its main concern the mangling of bodies. Stars are: Tom Savini, Dick Smith, Craig Reardon, Tom Burman, Carl Fullerton, Rob Bottin, Rick Baker, Doug White and more. Even at a most rudimentary level, the horror genre, contrary to the image of it held by those who have not entered its depth, is an intricately constructed framework of many different elements and many different people's individual approaches to filmmaking.
The horror film belongs to a burgeoning industry. Having lived five years past its pre¬dicted death of 1979, it is a genre with a rela¬tively stable audience (those who love horror films) which thrives in a context other than, or at least not totally entrenched in, that of the flows of popular-blockbuster-broad-appeal cinema. This horror "audience" in Australia probably makes up the bulk of drive-in patrons and home-video addicts, a market more orien¬tated towards action in film than anything else. The "cult-status" of horror movies, however, is more the result of context and aesthetics than numbers, as the media criteria that support the selections and determine the runs of city cinemas work to a lowest common denomina¬tor in entertainment as well as being affected by a general aesthetic consensus of what is socially acceptable art. Logistically, this means that films which only play the drive-ins or do con¬current runs in the city are often critically presumed to be irrelevant to any serious assess¬ment.
Then again, things are not helped much by the self-inflicted life that horror "buffs" lead, their appraisal resting on criteria such as "so bad they're good", "Z-grade cinema" and "camp entertainment". The Golden Turkey sentimentality (as imported by the Valhalla chain via Berkley film societies) is generally pathetic: its related "buffs" seem usually to be able only to express their perceptive facilities through giggling and guffawing at screenings, reducing all B-grade cinema to a cardboard facade, much as they do with mainstream cinema. It is becoming increasingly difficult to sort out the "trekies" from the "trendies" as cult-film screenings turn into battles between respect and disrespect for the films being screened. England's Channel 4 runs a series of films, each hosted by Harry Medved (author of The Golden Turkey Awards) who even tele¬types his smug, unfunny wise-cracks across the television screen during films such as Terror From Tiny Town and Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster. Such a sense of comedy (or lack thereof) puts these films at the mercy (either affectionately or maliciously) of a narrow sense of modernity and contemporaneity. The differ¬ence between laughing with something and laughing at it becomes meaningless.
Rock culture has greatly engulfed this area (in the wake of the ever-growing merger of rock and film cultures in general) and, although a mob-rule presides over aestheticism here too, incisive moves have given this merger a real sense of excitement: the Ramone's video clip to "Psychotherapy" (banned in England, its gore-rating sends Thriller home crying); the recent merger — a real financial one — between Rhino Records and Fangoria to produce the sound¬tracks to Roger Corman's Little Shop of Horrors and Herschell Gordon Lewis' 2,000 Maniacs! and Blood Feast; and the ultimate full circle that started with Russ Meyer's Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, con¬tinued on with the Cramps' cover version of "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" (another Meyer gem) and finishes with Meyer reportedly going into production for an upcoming Cramps' video clip.
An example of how consolidated this mani¬festation of trash cinema blended with rock & roll humor is Frank Henenlotter's 16 mm production Basket Case, a film that appears to have been designed from the outset for a cult market. It was no accident that it was adver¬tised as being "weirder than Eraserhead". Eraserhead was 'smothercated' by cult sensibilities (which are primarily obsessed with being cult rather than having particular qualities that market it as being seen as "cult") and firmly established itself almost world-wide as the modern cult equivalent — by context, not content — of Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel’s Un chien andalou. Just as hundreds of independent American producers tried their luck at hitting it big with a 'cheapo' slasher flick after the astounding commercial successes of Halloween and Friday The 13th, so too has there been many a film that has tried to plug into the cult market and status opened up and defined by Eraserhead. Basket Case tried too hard: great story to tell people about; not such a good film to see.
"Cult" these days is a stylistic category per¬taining to a specific life-style: communal inner-city households; late night film screenings; alternative radio stations; individual haircuts; etc. — in other words, a ripe market. The con¬temporary horror film acknowledges its audi¬ence as much as a market as a cult; this makes its audience-relationships, its modes of produc¬tion, and its critical evaluation as much a part of the history, industry and art of the cinema as any other strand.
In the cultural domain of film criticism (in magazines, journals, courses and manuals), the contemporary horror film serves as a tem¬porary geiger-counter for detecting where the ideological boundaries of dominant film culture rest. As such, it exists in the same realm of marginalization inhabited by practices characterized as independent, avant-garde or feminist. Currently, the contemporary horror film, at its best misunderstood, is further displaced due to its lack of social concern and political motivation as manifested in the stylistic rhetoric of many an alternative film practice. But effect is more interesting than concern, an area which is greater and more encompassing than the inevitable limitations of the notion of practice.
Horror films may or may not express these expected types of concerns, but some of them deserve the same amount of analysis accorded the more obvious streams of radical film prac¬tice. Of course, the problem is in finding out which are the films that could benefit from this attention, a hard task considering the lack of space given to their critical evaluation. One has to admit that there are a lot of films in this genre that are a pile of crap. They do contribute towards the genre as a whole but they are painful to watch. Unfortunately, the bad image of any genre is usually determined by all the "bad" films of the genre, which casts a shadow over many a better film that has been over¬looked. Just during the past year and a half, there have been many films virtually killed by their advertising, extinguishing their potential to be realized as the strangely unique works that they are: Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, which had nothing to do with the first two and boasts an incredibly rich and complex screen¬play by Nigel Kneale of Quartermass fame; Parasite, a very quirky low-key, post-holo¬caust, erupting-stomach film that shows how originality can be born of genre-manipulation; Phantasm, Don Coscarelli's first feature, released in Australia as The Never Dead, the title of which has nothing to do with this strange mixture of adult and child fantasy; or The Beast Within, the best film ever made by an Australian — expatriate or residential — director, Philippe Mora. And this is not even to start to mention all the undiscovered gems that are not available through video hire. As tire¬some as it is, seek and ye shall find.
The major factor which determines the mis¬understanding of the contemporary horror film is its nature as a second-degree genre. Many people think that recent gory films are the same, old, hand-on-the-doorknob, wobbly-subjective-camera-shot screaming-woman stuff, but with 10 times more fake blood and some animal entrails thrown in. The fact is that the nature of these films is unique and specific, and not simply a magnification of cinematic codes. Their complex relationships with the psyche, catharsis, society, the family, realism, the photographic, the body, humor, theatre, sexuality, etc., have very little to do with any previous historical phase of the genre.' One only has to take an in-depth look at Howard Hawks' and John Carpenter's versions of The Thing as evidence of a pointed delineation of two poles of cinematic horror. I only stumbled upon this difference in the contemporary horror film when a friend gave me a free-pass to the Melbourne preview of Friday The I3th. The invitation card was so tacky: a very bad illustration of an axe coming down on an empty bed with air-brushed blood (the worst way to depict blood) spurting all over the place. A nurse would be in attendance, it said, and if I survived the film I would receive a certificate of survival. I am hooked. The night comes — it actually was Friday the 13th — and a whole pile of free-loading bimbos like myself file into the cinema. There is a nurse at the door. Everyone is giggling and smirking at the cheap tactics — and loving them. Inside the cinema, the lights go out and a voice announces that there is still time to leave if anyone wishes to do so.
The film starts, and from the flash-back prologue in tasteful slow-motion to the exploding credits, to the establishing of truly revolting apple-pie kids (not unlike Australian physical education students), this film spells cliche. The audience was soon to find out that cliche would carry a new meaning in these films.
Within five minutes, the audience thinks it has encountered the central character who will suffer the film's terror at the mercy of any one of three possible lunatics. Wrong. Just when the audience thought it had the film nutted out, this "central" character is chased through a forest and, devoid of any real suspense, has her throat slit. Her surprise equals the audience's and, as it tries to figure out the twist, her throat trickles a little blood and then falls open, gushing out gallons. Dissolve image and fade music. In a remarkably sublime gesture, this film has just displaced its audience into a void of meaningless cliches, cliches that do not even carry the very meaning upon which their nature as cliche resides. These cliches, as signifiers, are not simply emptied; they are possessed by a manic, anarchistic force wielding an undeniable effect. Sifting through the textual dimensions, one finds that just as every person-on-the-street is the potential lunatic and just as every character-in-the-plot is the potential maniacal murderer, so too is every cinematic cliche the possible effector of a shriek from the helpless audience. A third of the way into Friday The 13th the audience was one; one body being poked, tapped, spooked or fooled; there were no identification processes and no narrative suspense; the film actually offered its audience nothing. In short, it was attacked. Everyone left the theatre giggling nervously — nervously, because our nerves were a wreck.
Contemporary horror films are about this type of cinematic experience. It is the aesthetic of the "big dipper effect": a physical sensation brought about by an unsettling of mental stability that induces pleasure — the thrill of it all.
Wizard Video company markets two video games: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (“the first violent video game”) and Halloween (“the game in which he comes home”). Without doubt, these games are homing in on the "big dipper effect". As games, they afford the same experience as the films they honor. This is the crux of the contemporary horror genre that produces films psychotic in their purpose, superfluous in their form, manic in their deployment, irreducible in their effect. They can nurture an addiction beyond rationalization, because (in a sense) they manipulate the nervous system more than the brain, fuel anxieties more than emotions, evoke fears more than opinions, ravage bodies more than imaginations. One might call this an abuse of the cinema. I simply call it the cinema.
Text © Philip Brophy. Images © respective copyright holders.