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Horror after 9/11

Horror after 9/11

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    Horror after 9/11
    Book Description:

    Horror films have exploded in popularity since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, many of them breaking box-office records and generating broad public discourse. These films have attracted A-list talent and earned award nods, while at the same time becoming darker, more disturbing, and increasingly apocalyptic. Why has horror suddenly become more popular, and what does this say about us? What do specific horror films and trends convey about American society in the wake of events so horrific that many pundits initially predicted the death of the genre? How could American audiences, after tasting real horror, want to consume images of violence on screen?

    Horror after 9/11 represents the first major exploration of the horror genre through the lens of 9/11 and the subsequent transformation of American and global society. Films discussed include the Twilight saga; the Saw series; Hostel; Cloverfield; 28 Days Later; remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, and The Hills Have Eyes; and many more. The contributors analyze recent trends in the horror genre, including the rise of 'torture porn,' the big-budget remakes of classic horror films, the reinvention of traditional monsters such as vampires and zombies, and a new awareness of visual technologies as sites of horror in themselves. The essays examine the allegorical role that the horror film has held in the last ten years, and the ways that it has been translating and reinterpreting the discourses and images of terror into its own cinematic language.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-73533-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    This collection of essays examines the thriving afterlife of horror, a genre whose obituary many critics composed following the events of September 11, 2001. In the darkened-tower issue of the New Yorker, Anthony Lane wrote that the day presented “circumstances that Hollywood should no longer try to match.”¹ How could American audiences, after tasting real horror, want to consume images of violence on-screen? The omnipresent posttraumatic response of “It was like a movie” seemed to herald the death of a genre that would either remind viewers of catastrophes they wanted to forget or pale in comparison to the terrors of...

  5. PART ONE. Why Horror?

    • CHAPTER ONE Black Screens, Lost Bodies: The Cinematic Apparatus of 9/11 Horror
      (pp. 13-39)

      The medieval Florentine poet Dante Alighieri may seem an odd starting point for a discussion of the representation of 9/11. But to understand the power of visual horror, we can do no better than to consider his Inferno, which influenced the artistic depiction of horror for centuries to follow.¹ The audacious premise of Dante’s Divine Comedy is that the poet is also the poem’s main character, who finds himself middle-aged and lost in a dark wood and proceeds to give an eyewitness description of the geography of damnation. In the seventh circle of Inferno, the poet and his guide, Virgil,...

    • CHAPTER TWO Let’s Roll: Hollywood Takes on 9/11
      (pp. 40-61)

      As eyewitnesses, TV anchors, and home viewers have been saying since the day they occurred, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were always already “just like a movie.” In an essay written just days later, Homi Bhabha describes the realization that we’ve seen this film before as “sobering,” as if our conviction that such attacks must emanate from “a moral universe alien to ours” is undercut by the recognition that we’ve long imagined such “unimaginable scenes.” As if the “images of death, destruction, and daring that invaded our homes on September 11” are “appalling” and invasive exactly because they...

    • CHAPTER THREE Transforming Horror: David Cronenberg’s Cinematic Gestures after 9/11
      (pp. 62-80)

      From Shivers (1975) through The Fly (1986), the cinema of director David Cronenberg repeatedly depicted the human body thrust to such violent extremes of physical transformation that he earned nicknames like the “Baron of Blood” among horror fans.¹ Cronenberg’s films remained equally disturbing from Dead Ringers (1988) through Spider (2002), but they tended to channel the notion of transformation in less visceral ways.² The result was a series of more critically acclaimed films closer in tone and reception to art cinema than the horror genre.³

      In the wake of 9/11, a transformation of a different kind occurs in Cronenberg’s work....

  6. PART TWO. Horror Looks at Itself

    • CHAPTER FOUR Caught on Tape? The Politics of Video in the New Torture Film
      (pp. 83-106)

      By now, it can hardly have escaped attention that surveillance, primarily visual surveillance, has become a frequent contemporary narrative figuration. Films in the action-suspense and horror genres in particular rather hyperbolically highlight the thematic concerns of a surveillance culture; slightly less obviously, they demonstrate the relations between political formations, subjects, and technologies that characterize much current thought on surveillance in a variety of fields. Most recently emerging in the United States are such films as Vacancy (Nimród Antal, 2007), Vantage Point (Pete Travis, 2008), Untraceable (Gregory Hoblit, 2008), Look (Adam Rifkin, 2007), Deja Vu (Tony Scott, 2006), Eagle Eye (D....

    • CHAPTER FIVE Cutting into Concepts of “Reflectionist” Cinema? The Saw Franchise and Puzzles of Post-9/11 Horror
      (pp. 107-123)

      The Saw franchise (2004–2010), on its seventh installment at the time of writing, has been one of the success stories of noughties horror. Writing of trends in contemporary horror cinema, the scholar and critic Kim Newman suggests that there have been a relatively small number of “films and filmmakers responding with dark, brutal gut-punches that define the times. . . . The contemporary US horror canon, which we can loosely term the Grindhouse school . . . , includes Eli Roth’s Hostel films . . . and James Wan’s Saw (and sequels by other hands), perhaps the only modern...

    • CHAPTER SIX The Host versus Cloverfield
      (pp. 124-141)

      This essay explores collective images of global disaster in two films—Bong Joon-ho’s The Host (Gwoemul, 2006), the highest internationally grossing Korean film of all time, and Matt Reeves’s Cloverfield (2008). In these films, certain historical traumas and disasters, both man-made and ostensibly “natural” in cause, become intertwined with one another and ramify across national boundaries—politically, economically, and in a global popular imagination. As Joshua Clover has observed, the practice in the post-9/11 era of connecting filmic images to the historical events that have shaped them feels too easy: “The sphere of culture is always ‘based on a true...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN “Shop ’Til You Drop!”: Consumerism and Horror
      (pp. 142-162)

      A few weeks after September 11, 2001, George W. Bush prescribed shopping as a patriotic form of resistance: “We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don’t—where we don’t conduct business, where people don’t shop.”¹ Advertisements deployed an unmistakably nationalist rhetoric to disseminate an ideology of salvation through consumerism; echoing Todd Beamer’s iconic “Let’s roll,” General Motors assured viewers that it would “Keep America Rolling,” while during the 2002 Super Bowl broadcast Budweiser ads featured images of the Clydesdale horses bowing before the Manhattan skyline. According to Christopher Campbell, “The...

  7. PART THREE. Horror in Action

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Historicizing the Bush Years: Politics, Horror Film, and Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend
      (pp. 165-185)

      Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend (2007), the third cinematic adaptation of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel of the same title, ends with this voice-over narration: “In 2009, a deadly virus burned through our civilization, pushing humankind to the edge of extinction. Dr. Robert Neville dedicated his life to the discovery of a cure and the restoration of humanity. On September 9, 2012, at approximately 8:49 p.m., he discovered that cure. And at 8:52, he gave his life to defend it. We are his legacy. This is his legend.” The narration is delivered by Anna, a young Hispanic woman who has reached...

    • CHAPTER NINE “I Am the Devil and I’m Here to Do the Devil’s Work”: Rob Zombie, George W. Bush, and the Limits of American Freedom
      (pp. 186-199)

      On September 11, 2001, as the entire world now knows, two hijacked aircraft were flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, a third into the Pentagon building, while a fourth, seemingly headed for the Capitol building in Washington, crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Self-evidently, as commentators such as Noam Chomsky have argued, this was a massive symbolic attack on the Western world—most specifically, on the military-industrial complex of American corporate capitalism.¹ But while the sheer ambition of al-Qaeda’s assault was entirely without precedent, the seismic media event of 9/11 was, in fact, the culmination of a number...

    • CHAPTER TEN “Forever Family” Values: Twilight and the Modern Mormon Vampire
      (pp. 200-219)

      “I dream about being with you forever,” Bella confesses to Edward as they dance together in a gazebo at the end of Twilight (Catherine Hardwicke, 2008). The desire for a long-lasting relationship in a romantic narrative is fairly conventional; however, in a romantic vampire narrative propelled by Mormon metaphors, this desire for a long-lasting—indeed, everlasting—relationship is doubly intriguing. The author of the original 2005 novel, Stephenie Meyer, describes herself as a believing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly known as the Mormon or LDS Church.¹ For believing Mormons, marriage and the family unit...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Assimilation and the Queer Monster
      (pp. 220-234)

      Monsters are riddles to be solved. Horror movie heroes spend most of their time hunting down the answer to the question Ripley asks the evil robot in Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979): “How do we kill it?” This search can take up most of the movie, since horror film heroes are always dealing with limited resources. I can’t just call the cops, because my cell phone gets no reception way out here. I can’t just call the cops, because the cops are in cahoots with the cannibalistic hill folk. I can’t just shoot the monster, because bullets don’t kill it. And...

  8. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 235-242)
  9. Selected Filmography
    (pp. 243-246)
  10. Contributors
    (pp. 247-250)
  11. Index
    (pp. 251-263)