Posts Tagged ‘Abject’

In 1985  Jack Sholder directed the sequel to Wes Craven’s ground breaking horror classic. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge takes a different approach to the world of NM2 killFreddy Kruger. In the first movie there are obvious dream sequences intermixed with what seems to be reality until the two become blurred. NM2 gloveIn Freddy’s Revenge there are few obvious dream sequences. In fact, the movie seems to be more about possession than nightmares, except that being possessed by Freddy Kruger and forced to do his killing for him would certainly be a living nightmare.

Discounting the traumatic endings, in the first movie NM2 kissFreddy is defeated by taking away the energy of fear causing him to fizz out. In the second movie Jesse is freed from Freddy’s possession by love (not sex, but accepting love).

According to Cherry, “horror film narratives are often centered around the places where boundaries break down” (118), and “Anything (bodily wastes, blood, etc.) that crosses the boundaries of the body becomes non-self” (116). This crossing of boundaries is part of the abject placing both movies square in the middle of Abject Central.

NM2 handBoth films play with the audience’s sense of what is real and what isn’t. For the second movie, the first scene that brought this idea to my mind was when Jesse was in science class and the teacher was droning on about how and why the body produces waste. Besides the many times that Freddy’s knife fingers penetrate his victims’ bodies releasing their blood, when the glove melds into him and the knives instead protrude from his very fingers it creates abjection. But the best example is when the “non-self” (Freddy) breaks out of Jesse’s chest crossing several boundaries all at once.

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Okay, so I have another confession to make. Believe it or not, before this week I had also never seen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, any of them. Unlike Psycho, I had no real desire to see what I thought would be a bloody gore-fest. I was wrong. As Jason Zinoman points out, Tobe Hooper went to great lengths not to show too much. TCM girl on hookHe called the MPAA to find out just what he could get away with and still keep his rating. “The result is a movie that is actually far less bloody than its reputation” (Zinoman 142). TCM on hookTalking about the scene where Teri McMinn as Pam is placed on a meat hook, Zinoman says, “It’s a credit to the direction that fans think they see more than they do” (140).

TCM maskAccording to Carol Clover, Hooper’s Massacre was the transition film between what she calls the first phase (1960-1974) and the second phase (1974-1986) of the cinematic formula known as the slasher film (26). the-texas-chainsaw-massacre-girl-crawl-escapeReading about Clover’s components of the genre and especially her description of the Final Girl,  Sally Hardesty, played by Marilyn Burns reminded me of what Dr. Hannibal Lecter called “fledgling attempts.” She is as Clover says, “abject terror personified” (35), but she is not “watchful to the point of paranoia” (39). In fact it is her brother that calls the alarm saying, “we ought to get help.” But as Clover points out, the Final Girl is an evolution, a “piecemeal absorption of functions previously represented in males” (62).

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thetexaschainsawmassacre197403Sally, near the beginning of this evolution, does not fit the complete definition of the Final Girl. She is the only one in her party to survive the night of terror and live to be rescued (Clover 35). TCM running with truck driverHowever, she does not seem more boyish or sexually reluctant than her friend Pam (40). Although her clothing is more conservative than Pam’s, it is not masculine.

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I don’t think Sally shows more courage or levelheadedness (36), instead she just seems luckier in her escape from the misfit family of crazed degenerates.

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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