Cultural Perspectives on Familial Belonging
Housing Halloween: Cinematic Family Horror and Tissue Terror as an American Tradition
This essay interrogates the position of visually harsh and aesthetically challenging entertainment products with regard to their media history and their exemplary intertextual appropriations by two contemporary writers. It is through the “slasher” genre and crude and brutal films that notions of familyhood, adolescent turmoil, and home are frequently negotiated, challenged, and shattered in American mass culture. The velocities and spectacles hinging on sharp-edged knives will be sketched; a subsequent tracing of these cuts begins with a look at Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal Psycho and moves towards three subsequent works, which will be considered and aligned to the notion of the broken home and the dissipation of health and order – Wes Craven’s film Last House on the Left, Stephen Graham Jones’s novel Demon Theory, and Charles Burns’s graphic novel Black Hole. All these works are part of a mass cultural practice that explores and engages the interplay of sudden affect and persistent atmospheres. Here, cinematic principles enable creators to paradoxically explore velocities and reflexivity on the one side but also melancholy and self-awareness on the other.
Not unlike the Western, so-called slasher films seem to be disturbingly simple with their clichéd routines – their generic limits, however, remain blurry but always orbit around physical violence, predominantly against human tissues and bodies. Writers and directors continue to re-invent the “slashing” tradition. This kind of cinematic entertainment has frequently been classified within a grid of “high” or “low” cultural standards, but such a differentiation only endorses a normative order...
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