Killer Tapes and Shattered Screens

Killer Tapes and Shattered Screens: Video Spectatorship From VHS to File Sharing

CAETLIN BENSON-ALLOTT
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 312
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt2jcbt9
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  • Book Info
    Killer Tapes and Shattered Screens
    Book Description:

    Since the mid-1980s, US audiences have watched the majority of movies they see on a video platform, be it VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Video On Demand, or streaming media. Annual video revenues have exceeded box office returns for over twenty-five years. In short, video has become the structuring discourse of US movie culture.Killer Tapes and Shattered Screensexamines how prerecorded video reframes the premises and promises of motion picture spectatorship. But instead of offering a history of video technology or reception, Caetlin Benson-Allott analyzes how the movies themselves understand and represent the symbiosis of platform and spectator. Through case studies and close readings that blend industry history with apparatus theory, psychoanalysis with platform studies, and production history with postmodern philosophy,Killer Tapes and Shattered Screensunearths a genealogy of post-cinematic spectatorship in horror movies, thrillers, and other exploitation genres. FromNight of the Living Dead(1968) throughParanormal Activity(2009), these movies pursue their spectator from one platform to another, adapting to suit new exhibition norms and cultural concerns in the evolution of the video subject.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95449-6
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Opening Up to Home Video
    (pp. 1-24)

    As early as 1980, when a mere 1 percent of US homes owned a VCR, the opening moments of a terrifying new movie, Sean Cunningham’sFriday the13th, portended the influence video distribution would have on motion picture aesthetics.¹ Cunningham’s movie was heralded for its gruesome reinvention of horror movie gore, but its most important innovation was its assault on the viewer: the broken glass that flies at the viewer’s face when the movie’s title card appears to crash through a television monitor and into US movie culture. Film critics overlookedFriday the13th’s salutation to home viewers, almost as...

  6. 1 Distributing the Dead: Video Spectatorship in the Movies of George A. Romero
    (pp. 25-69)

    Movies construct the video spectator differently than they do the cinematic spectator; that is the fundamental claim of this chapter, the thesis I set out to prove by examining how one filmmaker altered his presentation of the same subject for different popular distribution platforms. Critics have been quick to affirm that movies look different on video and that filmmakers reimagined many of their formal and narrative conventions during the home video era, but no one has provided the close readings that would identify what these shifts actually look like, how they alter the viewer’s relationship to the motion picture and...

  7. 2 Addressing the “New Flesh”: Videodrome’s Format War
    (pp. 70-101)

    Whereas chapter 1 traced changes in the spectator’s discursive construction as movies migrated from drive-ins and multiplexes to various video platforms, the next two chapters will examine how representations of VCRs and videotapes direct the spectator’s responses to home video apparatuses. Two years before George Romero began racking focus inDay of the Dead, David Cronenberg gave his spectator an even more compelling reason to fear the video revolution: video signals are trying to change her mind.Videodrome(1983) was among the first narrative representations of home video and develops preexisting anxieties about the technology’s capacity for surveillance, psychic violence,...

  8. 3 Reprotechnophobia: Putting an End to Analog Abjection with The Ring
    (pp. 102-131)

    A little more than a year before Gore Verbinski’sThe Ring(2002) premiered in US theaters, Ina Rae Hark observed that “a generation of viewers now exists for whom the consumption of movies at home on video has always been the norm.”¹ These were viewers born in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when VCRs and prerecorded videocassettes were acculturating film and television viewers to the pleasures of pausing, fast-forwarding, rewinding, and recording. From time-shifting to tape dubbing, VCRs radically increased viewers’ access to film and television history and the entertainment industry’s fear of piracy. For almost as quickly as...

  9. 4 Going, Going, Grindhouse: Simulacral Cinematicity and Postcinematic Spectatorship
    (pp. 132-166)

    When VHS cassettes went out of production in 2006, they left behind two other motion picture apparatuses—DVD and celluloid—whose symbiotic dependency raises important questions about how home video produces a postcinematic experience of spectatorship.¹ In April 2007, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino released a cinematic double feature calledGrindhousethat ostensibly recreates the content and experience of going to see exploitation films in a run-down 1970s movie theater. The movie invokes one motion picture apparatus—the cinema—although it relies on another—the DVD—to provide context for its exploitation of exploitation cinema.Grindhouselooks like a film,...

  10. 5 Paranormal Spectatorship: Faux Footage Horror and the P2P Spectator
    (pp. 167-202)

    Over the previous four chapters I have argued that the platform through which a viewer encounters a movie fundamentally changes how she understands it and how it understands her. As Amy Villarejo observes, “cinema is about everything and always about itself,” but since movies left the cinema, they have also become about television, VHS, DVD, and—most recently—computer exhibition.¹ While the major US distributors would no doubt prefer viewers to limit their cyberspectatorship to authorized outlets like iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and Cinema Now, multiple independent studies confirm that piracy is the most popular form of movie downloading. Since...

  11. Conclusion: Power Play
    (pp. 203-208)

    WhenFriday the13th’s title card broke video monitors in 1980, it was difficult to predict how the technologies of home video exhibition would change the cinematic subject—although the shattered screen promised that they would. By 1983,Videodromewas suggesting that video penetration affected how the spectator understood not only her body but the body of national media cultures as well. Shortly thereafter, George Romero’sDay of the Deaddemonstrated that filmic tropes as canonical and allegorical as the zombie attack were nonetheless platform specific. In 2002,The Ringthematized the perceived psychosexual difference between two prerecorded video formats...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 209-258)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-280)
  14. Filmography, Videography, and Gameography
    (pp. 281-288)
  15. Index
    (pp. 289-297)