Archive for the ‘Old School’ Category

tumblr_mrlrx2HvnV1suchdko1_500In Jacques Tourneur‘s I Walked with a Zombie the monstrous-feminine is represented by a female zombie. The lovely Christine Gordon plays a brain-dead vegetable who can walk about and follow simple commands. When her live-in nurse, played by Frances Dee, takes her patient to a local voodoo gathering in hopes to cure her the local descendants of the slaves that were brought over to work the sugar plantations believe the woman to be a zombie and desire her to return to the gathering to be purified. IW%20-%206Durring the corse of the movie, the audience discovers that the woman had planned to leave her husband and run off with his brother before her illness. In Horror, Brigid Cherry explains Barbara Creed’s argument that the monstrous-feminine in horror movies “represents the failure of sexual repression to contain women” (112) and says that many horror films represent “abjection in the form of bodies without stable boundaries” (113). In this case the woman’s body is neither living nor dead. She represents abjection and the monsterous-feminine. Cherry also explains that Creed seems to favor “purification of the abject” (120), which is echoed in the voodoo worshiper’s desire to purify the woman they se as abject. i-walked-2-copyAccording to Cherry, “Creed lists three ways in which horror films foreground abjection: with images of abjection, boundary crossing in the construction of the monster, and the construction of the maternal figure as abject” (115). This movie accomplishes all three objectives. edith_barretThe third occurs near the end of the movie when we discover that the mother of the two brothers, played by Edith Barrett,  is not only working with the voodoo priest, but she actually had the woman killed and turned into a zombie because she did not like the way the woman was tearing apart her family.   i-walked-wiht-a-zombie-barrett

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Brigid Cherry explains that creatures in horror films are often refered to as “Monsters from the Id” (99).  Considering that the Id is often refered to as the child-like portion frankenstein1931_18of the subconscious James Whale‘s Frankenstein creates the quintessential “Monster from the Id.” The creature, played by  Boris Karloff, is innocent and eager to learn. This search for understanding is exemplified when Dr. Frankenstein first exposes the creature to light and he reaches towards it instead of shying away. The scene with the little girl also shows the creature’s innocence, playing gently with flowers, and his desire to learn, testing to see if the girl will also float.frankenstein--644x362 This time with tragic results.

At one point in the movie, Dr. Frankenstein explains his reason for creating the creature as his own search for understanding. “Have you never wanted to do something dangerous? Where should we be if no one tried to find out what lies beyond? Have you never wanted to look beyond the clouds and the stars, or to know what causes the trees to bud and what changes the darkness into light?”

Frye-FrankensteinAs with children, the creature learned violence from those around him, the jealous taunting by  Fritz and bloodthirsty revenge sought by the torch-bearing mob. The creature was also rejected by the one who created him, leaving him alone and defenseless, or to his own defenses without any guidance on social behavior, mistreated and misunderstood. Such actions by parents have created numerous monsters  in our society.

 

In Horror Brigid Cherry says that the function of horror is “to scare, shock, revolt, or otherwise horrify the viewer” (4). In 1932 Tod Browning’s was already using some of the standard horror conventions to scare and horrify his viewers. In the beginning of the movie the “freaks” are represented not as monsters but as “children,” sweet and innocent, unjustly teased and rejected by others, even other circus people. In fact, the two main little people have facial features similar to children, but Browning gives a warning early in the film which sets up a more ominous tone; “Offend one and you offend them all.”

rejectedThe turning point in the movie happens at the wedding dinner when the “freaks” choose to accept Cleopatra as “one of us,” but she rejects them en masse, and the audience is forced to ask itself “who’s the real monster?” After this event the entire tone of the move switches. The “freaks” are set in more sinister lighting, peering out from the shadows, through windows, and from under stairs. watchingCherry points out that this lighting change is “a comment on the state of the world or the psyche of the individual,” (62) or in this case individuals.

This turn of intent on the part of the “freaks” is highlighted in the chase scene when they are represented creeping along relentlessly, crawling through the mud under wagons to get at the woman who rejected their acceptance, finally turning her physically into one of them.

The image of them pulling themselves along the ground reminded me of many monster movies I have seen and set the movie clearly in the horror genre.Browning_Freaks_GroupCrawl