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Making and Remaking Horror in the 1970s and 2000s

Making and Remaking Horror in the 1970s and 2000s: Why Don’t They Do It Like They Used To?

David Roche
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Making and Remaking Horror in the 1970s and 2000s
    Book Description:

    InMaking and Remaking Horror in the 1970s and 2000sauthor David Roche takes up the assumption shared by many fans and scholars that original horror movies are more "disturbing," and thus better than the remakes. He assesses the qualities of movies, old and recast, according to criteria that include subtext, originality, and cohesion. With a methodology that combines a formalist and cultural studies approach, Roche sifts aspects of the American horror movie that have been widely addressed (class, the patriarchal family, gender, and the opposition between terror and horror) and those that have been somewhat neglected (race, the Gothic, style, and verisimilitude). Containing seventy-eight black and white illustrations, the book is grounded in a close comparative analysis of the politics and aesthetics of four of the most significant independent American horror movies of the 1970s--The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Dawn of the Dead,andHalloween--and their twenty-first-century remakes.

    To what extent can the politics of these films be described as "disturbing" insomuch as they promote subversive subtexts that undermine essentialist perspectives? Do the politics of the film lie on the surface or are they wedded to the film's aesthetics? Early in the book, Roche explores historical contexts, aspects of identity (race, ethnicity, and class), and the structuring role played by the motif of the American nuclear family. He then asks to what extent these films disrupt genre expectations and attempt to provoke emotions of dread, terror, and horror through their representations of the monstrous and the formal strategies employed? In this inquiry, he examines definitions of the genre and its metafictional nature. Roche ends with a meditation on the extent to which the technical limitations of the horror films of the 1970s actually contribute to this "disturbing" quality. Moving far beyond the genre itself,Making and Remaking Horrorstudies the redux as a form of adaptation and enables a more complete discussion of the evolution of horror in contemporary American cinema.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-012-9
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-20)

    The main idea behind this book is quite simple: Why are the American blockbuster horror remakes of the 2000s less “disturbing” than the independent American horror movies of the 1970s? The question sounds incredibly subjective and nostalgic. The attempt to answer it could even be deemed pretentious, since it implies that not only do I believe my judgment of these films to be valid, and thus that I know what makes a “good” film, but also that I believe I know the answer to how you make a “good” film in the first place when I am not a filmmaker...

    (pp. 21-37)

    In “The American Nightmare” (1979), Robin Wood declared that the horror movie became “in the 70s the most important of all American genres and perhaps the most progressive, even in its overt nihilism—in a period of extreme cultural crisis and disintegration, which alone offers the possibility of radical change and rebuilding” (76). In the wake of Wood’s famous article, most studies of American horror movies of the 1970s have underlined connections between the violence and horror depicted in the films and the historical and cultural context. The civil rights and women’s movement, Vietnam and antiwar demonstrations, Watergate, and the...

    (pp. 38-64)

    Class was identified early on as a central issue in the American independent horror films of the 1970s, namely by Robin Wood. Again,The Texas Chain Saw Massacre(1974) andDawn of the Dead(1978) have received more critical attention from this perspective thanThe Hills Have Eyes(1977) and especiallyHalloween(1978). Little critical attention has, however, been paid to the question of race and ethnicity in these films, most likely because there are practically no Hispanic, Native, African or Asian American characters, except in the films of George A. Romero. Generally speaking, it does seem that race and...

    (pp. 65-81)

    In “The American Nightmare,” Robin Wood famously argued that the five “apparently heterogeneous motifs” he identified in the modern horror film were “drawn together more closely by a single unifying master figure: the Family” (75). Three of these motifs—“the Monster as human psychotic or schizophrenic,” “Satanism,” and “The Terrible Child”—are often “products of the family,” while the family may resort to “Cannibalism,” the fourth motif, for sustenance; the fifth motif, “the revenge of Nature,” is sometimes associated with “familial or sexual tensions,” as inThe Birds(Hitchcock, 1963) (75–76). For Wood, “the process whereby horror becomes associated...

    (pp. 82-118)

    The debate over abortion and women’s rights is another contextual element the post-1968 horror film is thought to have responded to (Waller,American12), while the slasher, which appeared in the late 1970s, is believed to have been “set off by the women’s movement in particular” (Worland 231). Robin Wood has even describedSisters(Brian De Palma, 1973) andDay of the Dead(1985) as feminist films (Hollywood68; “Le Jour” 116), and Vera Dika has said thatEyes of Laura Mars(Irvin Kershner, 1978), written by John Carpenter, uses feminist film theory (100). Clearly, gender has been one of...

    (pp. 119-153)

    Psycho(1960) has often been identified as the first modern horror film, yet, for Mark Jancovich, it can also be “seen as the culmination of a whole series of tendencies within the [horror] genre that had been developing for over fifteen years” (4). The film, then, would simultaneously look back on, and ahead at, the history of the horror genre. With the possible exception ofThe Hills Have Eyes(1977), the 1970s films under study are considered to be landmarks of the genre. Several critics have examined the wayNight of the Living Dead(1968),The Texas Chain Saw Massacre(1974),...

  10. Chapter 6 MONSTERS AND MASKS (Horror and Terror, Part 1)
    (pp. 154-187)

    Terror and horror have alternately been conceived in terms of emotional response (from the characters’, readers’, or viewers’ perspective) and/or aesthetic strategies and choices (made by the artist). Of course, it is highly unlikely that viewers systematically respond to horrific stimuli in an identical manner or that specific strategies necessarily produce the same effect. Like Freud’sUnheimliche, terror and horror in art have mainly been treated as aesthetic categories rather than as actual emotions. Artists and critics who have attempted to distinguish between various forms of fear in horror fiction usually focus on the stimulus and the way it is...

  11. Chapter 7 STRATEGIES AND STYLE (Horror and Terror, Part 2)
    (pp. 188-272)

    Apart from the occasional case study, horror film aesthetics remain, as Thomas M. Sipos has noted, unexplored terrain (1). While the previous chapter focused on the “monstrous” stimuli, this chapter aims at highlighting the formal devices that participate in the aesthetics of dread, terror, and horror. Éric Dufour’s remark that “the object = the representation of the object” (106, my translation) should remind us that the danger and disgust the object of horror evokes depend, to some extent, on the formal strategies deployed. Consequently, the formal strategies must remain coherent with the figure of horror at stake. For instance, attempting...

  12. Chapter 8 CONSTRAINTS AND VERISIMILITUDE: A Tentative Conclusion
    (pp. 273-298)

    I started this study with the conservative/nostalgic/reactionary question: Why are the originals more “disturbing” than the remakes? A question which, given the genre, was, in my mind, more or less equivalent to asking: Why are the originals “better” than the remakes? In order to answer this question, I followed Laurent Jullier’s advice of identifying my main criteria (“originality,” “enlightenment,” and especially “cohesion”) and attempted to analyze both groups of films on their own terms in order to compare their treatment of aspects that have been deemed important in the horror genre; in this respect, I believe I have proceeded in...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 299-316)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 317-328)
  15. Index
    (pp. 329-335)