horror

Toast

Toast is a script I wrote as a possible contender to be filmed for Cardiff Mini Film Festival. It ended up being rejected in favour of other scripts as its plot was more complex and it would require a more elaborate production: the festival favours simplicity. It’s a comedy about how lack of communication and pent up feelings lead to antagonism. It’s, in a way, a reboot (well, they are in fashion) of an earlier film, The Housemate from Hell. There is much I still admire about that film. In particular, its themes of suppressed anxiety (that weren’t intentional, but I’ve since recognised), and as my ability has developed greatly in the four years since its conception, I felt I could write a more focused and efficient script in a similar vain.

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The Final Gay – Homophobic Horror

Carol Clover’s ‘final girl’ theory insists that in the ‘Horror’ film sub-genre, the ‘Slasher’ film, the audience, both male and female, is structurally forced to identify with the female character labelled ‘the final girl’, who survives the killer’s onslaught, often by slaughtering him herself. I propose that ‘the final girl’ is female in physicality only, and her identity is that of a male whose heterosexuality is threatened and in danger of being converted by the symbolically non-heterosexual killer.

Fears of the non-heterosexual have permeated horrific tales through the ages, from the cross-dressing wolf of Little Red Riding Hood (Perrault, 1697) to the monstrous progeny of Frankenstein’s (Colin Clive) and Pretorius’ (Ernst Thesiger) homosexual union in The Bride of Frankenstein (dir. Whale, 1934). These are early examples in film and literature, but the direct roots of the ‘Slasher’ can be traced back to the films of Alfred Hitchcock. The depiction of the non-heterosexual male as subversive, wicked and deranged, permeates Hitchcock’s films much as it did American society at the time. Rope (dir. Hitchcock, 1948) sees a homosexual couple, based upon real life homosexual killers, Leopold and Loeb, commit murder for sport. Strangers on a Train (dir, Hitchcock, 1951) initiates many staples of the ‘Slasher’ sub-genre, such as the shadowy killer who stalks and attacks a young girl in a suburban setting. Also, through the film’s killer, Bruno (Robert Walker), Strangers incorporates many of society’s views on homosexuals, views that can be drawn from viewing ‘educational’ films such as Boys Beware (dir. Davis, 1961). Boys Beware depicts homosexuality as a contagious disease of the mind and homosexuals, although outwardly normal, as murderous, masked predators who target young boys. The film describes conversing with a homosexual as “riding in the shadow of death”, which could easily be the tagline for a ‘Slasher’ film. Further views from the era on the nature of homosexuals can be gained from reading Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals (Bieber, et al., 1962), considered at the time the definitive text on homosexuality.

“The specific findings of Homosexuality (in Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals) concerned three broad areas: mother-son relationships, father-son relationships, and developmental patterns. A significantly greater proportion of homosexuals had ‘close-binding-intimate mothers’ who were seductive to their sons and also over-controlling and inhibiting. A significantly higher proportion of homosexuals also reported having detached, hostile, or rejecting fathers whom they hated or feared during their childhoods”. “It was also found that boys who grew up to be homosexual fit the stereotype of the sissy.” (Lewes, 1988, p.184).

Many comparisons can be drawn between these depictions of homosexuals and Bruno and his relationship with Guy. Bruno, although ostensibly erudite and charming, is mentally deranged. He is camp, effeminate – enjoying having his nails manicured – adoring of his overly protective mother (Marion Lorne) and has an indignant hatred for his distant father (Jonathan Hale). The older Bruno instigates a flirtatious seduction of the boyish Guy (Farley Granger). Granger also played Philip Morgan, one of the two homosexual murderers in Rope, who is subjugated by his partner; a precursor to his role as the victimised Guy. It is indicative of Hitchcock’s view of the character of Guy, as a victim of a homosexual aggressor, that he would select Granger to play him. Bruno’s homosexual coaxing escalates into predatory stalking, in an attempt to seduce Guy into the ways of the killer. Bruno’s characterisation and actions mirror those of society’s perception of the homosexual, with his status as a killer symbolic of his homosexuality and the act of murder as a metaphor for homosexual intercourse. Guy’s role in the narrative can be seen as a prototype for the ‘final girl’, with all future ‘final girls’ adopting his position as a male whose heterosexuality is under threat from a non-heterosexual antagonist.

Hitchcock’s depiction of the non-heterosexual killer continued in Psycho (dir. Hithcock, 1960), a film that with its knife-wielding costumed killer, and gruesome, periodic murderous attacks, helped set the template for all subsequent ‘Slasher’ films. The film would see the character of the homicidally deranged, homosexual mummy’s boy, glimpsed at in Strangers on a Train, taken to the extreme with the character of Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Norman, whose upbringing could be drawn straight from the pages of ‘A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals, would help set the template for all subsequent ‘Slasher’ film killers. His father died when he was a child, removing his male role model and leaving him to develop an intimate relationship with his domineering, matriarchal mother. Norman secretly poisoned and killed his mother and her newfound lover. The murder took place while they were in bed, implying recent sexual interaction. This is not only indicative of Norman’s jealous attachment to his mother but also his fear and disgust of heterosexual love. ‘Slasher’ film killers’ aversion to heterosexual love would continue in future films, with killers frequently carrying out murders of young heterosexual couples embroiled in sexual encounters.

The murder of his mother irrevocably warps the young Norman’s mind, transforming him into a gender-bending sociopath, who dresses as and takes on the persona of his mother to carry out his brutal murders. Norman’s ‘mother’ persona is a personification of his homosexuality, a disease that eats at Norman’s mind, one that must be fought and repressed if Norman is to find normality and redemption. The Psycho sequels take a greater focus on Norman’s redemption, as he seeks normality through heterosexual relationships and finally marriage, with the shadow of his deviant, cross-dressing alter-ego perpetually hanging over him. Much like Bruno and the homosexual murderers of ‘Boys Beware’, Norman successfully hides in plain sight, lulling his victims into a false sense of security. When the shy ‘boy next door’ side of Norman’s persona becomes heterosexually aroused, Norman’s mother persona emerges, rebuking and terminating his heterosexual feelings. By adopting his mother persona, Norman is symbolically castrated, reflecting society’s view of the homosexual as less than a man; a sissy. For Norman, killing is an outlet for his sexual inadequacy; the phallic knife penetrating the flesh in an unnatural manner, acting as a grim substitute for the sexual act, reflecting society’s view of the perverseness of homosexual intercourse.

By the mid-seventies, attitudes towards homosexuality and transsexuals had improved. Despite this, a new generation of filmmakers emerged, highly influenced by Hitchcock and raised in an era where non-heterosexuals were treated as an ever-present danger, initiating a golden-age of ‘Slasher’ films. Dressed to Kill (dir. De-Palma, 1980) is a ‘Slasher’ film highly influenced by Hitchcock. As in Psycho, the film features a murder in a shower, a blonde (implied to be the leading lady) being killed off early on, and a cross-dressing killer. Transvestism is again depicted as a dangerous psychosis, with Bobbi (Michael Caine), the killer’s ‘female’ side, killing whenever Robert, his ‘male’ side, is heterosexually aroused. Other ‘Slasher’ films, such as The Silence of the Lambs (dir. Demme, 1991) and Sleepaway Camp (dir. Hiltzik, 1983), continue these negative representations of transvestites. The Silence of the Lambs’ killer, Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), skins his victims to create a female skin suit, and Angela (Felissa Rose), Sleepaway Camp’s killer, is driven insane by her adoptive parent forcing her to live her life as a girl.

A seminal film crucial to the emergence of this new era of ‘Slasher’ films is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (dir, Hooper, 1974). The film features a group of young people who set out on a road trip and fall afoul of a perverse cannibalistic family. Like Norman, the family’s perverse desecration of the body is symbolic of their carnal homosexual depravity, which writer Kim Henkel concedes by acknowledging his inspiration for the film:

“The character that influenced the script was a guy named Elmoor Wayne Henley. Elmoor Wayne was the procurer for an older man. Elmoor Wayne would lure young men to the ‘ghouls kitchen’ so to speak, and the older man and Elmoor Wayne would have sexual relations with these young men, and then the young men would be murdered.” (Kim Henkel, 2008).

Also, like Norman they are a product of a perverted upbringing (their grandfather instigating their cannibalistic tendencies) and the corruptive influence of the matriarch. The family hold their Great Grandmother in great reverence, in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (dir, Hooper, 1986) her corpse is placed in a shrine made of human bones. Worship of the matriarch would continue in future ‘Slasher’ films, such as Friday the 13th Part 2 (dir. Miner, 1981), in which the killer, Jason (Warrington Gillette), constructs a shrine for his mother’s decapitated head. To compensate for the death of Great Grandmother, the character of Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) has taken on her role. Like Norman, Leatherface is transsexual, and his transvestism is presented as a deranged sickness and the product of a scarred childhood. Leatherface wears a wig and a mask of human flesh adorned with make-up, has a high-pitched voice, and with his rotund figure and apron, like Red Riding Hood’s Wolf, he becomes a gross parody of the grandmother figure. In Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (dir. Henkel, 1995), Leatherface’s transvestism becomes blatant. Leatherface (Robert Jacks) applies lipstick and nail polish, dons a black dress, pearl earrings and a necklace, and his masks are stated to be made solely from female victims, from which he also fashions fake breasts.

In Chainsaw Massacre 2, Leatherface instigates a relationship with Stretch (Caroline Williams), the final girl, which like Bruno and Guy’s relationship, can be viewed as a homosexual seduction. Leatherface corners Stretch, about to impale her with his phallic chainsaw. In desperation, Stretch acts flirtatiously towards him, and his sexual gratification acts as a substitute for the kill. Later, when Stretch infiltrates the family’s lair, Leatherface conceals her from the rest of the family and attempts to further their romantic involvement. In distaste for her physical form, Leatherface places a mask of flesh upon her, made from ‘male’ skin, and they dance romantically. Like Bruno’s seduction of Guy, Leatherface is converting the symbolically male Stretch to his perverse homosexual lifestyle. At the film’s climax, Stretch is pursued by Chop-Top (Bill Moseley) to Great Grandmother’s shrine and the conversion instigated by Leatherface reaches fruition. Defensively, Stretch bites Chop-Top, unleashing her carnal depravity. Stretch takes a chainsaw from the dead hands of Great Grandmother, symbolically accepting the corruptive influence of the matriarch. She skewers Chop-Top with the symbolically phallic chainsaw, the kill again used as a metaphor for homosexual intercourse. Stretch proceeds to whirl her chainsaw in a fit of insanity, directly paralleling Leatherface’s actions at the end of the first film, symbolising she has become like him; a sexual deviant.

Halloween’s (dir. Carpenter, 1978) Michael Myers (Nick Castle, Jr.) is another killer with strong roots in the films of Hitchcock, confirming his position as another homosexual tormentor. Like Norman, Michael had a traumatic childhood and killed a family member due to distaste for heterosexual sex, having murdered his sister (Sandy Johnson), at age six, after discovering her in bed with her boyfriend (David Kyle). Like Bruno, Michael is a predatory figure, watching from the shadows, stalking his victims through a suburban setting. Another acknowledgement of the influence of Hitchcock is the casting of Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), the ‘final girl’, who’s played by the daughter of Psycho star, Janet Leigh. An indication that Laurie, like Stretch, is symbolically male is her androgynous appearance. She shares this trait with other ‘final girl’s’, such as Stretch and Silence of the Lambs’ Clarice (Jodie Foster), who all have short hair and wear masculine clothing, such as shorts, trousers, and suits. Questioned on whether his film punished female sexuality, director John Carpenter had this to say:

“They (the critics) completely missed the boat there, I think. Because if you turn it around, the one girl who is the most sexually uptight just keeps stabbing the guy with a long knife. She’s the most sexually frustrated. She’s the one that killed him. Not because she’s a virgin, but because all that repressed energy starts coming out. She uses all those phallic symbols on the guy… She and the killer have a certain link…sexual repression.” (Clover, 1992, P.48-49).

Carpenter acknowledges the sexual repression of both the killer and the ‘final girl’, and also the phallic symbolism of the weapon. Crucially, the final girl’s association with the phallic symbol reveals her symbolic manhood.

But if the ‘final girl’ is representative of a male, why is she played by a female? A film that breaks from this convention is A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (dir, Sholder, 1985). Revenge sees the traditional position held by the ‘final girl’ assumed by a male, namely, Jesse (Mark Patton), and the themes of non-heterosexual fear are made manifest. Jesse has nightmares of being a misfit and being uncomfortable with girls. This shows that Jesse, like past ‘final girls’, is socially awkward, and sexually anxious and resistant. Jesse’s social awkwardness is also visible in reality, as depicted in several embarrassing incidents involving Grady (Robert Rusier), including Grady pulling Jesse’s gym shorts down in front of his classmates. This is the beginning of a relationship between the two boys with patent sexual undercurrents. Grady refers to Jesse as a “pretty boy”, the couple discuss wet dreams, and a sexually fuelled row erupts when Jesse snaps at Grady when he asks him out to the movies. Like past killers, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) takes on the role of homosexual aggressor and tempter. Freddy visits Jesse in his nightmares in an attempt to seduce him and enter his body so he can wreak havoc in the real world; the possession of Jesse’s body clearly acting as a metaphor for homosexual intercourse. The sexual nature of the relationship is made apparent via Freddy’s flirtatious actions and dialogue, as he is seen to stroke Jesse’s face and declare, “I need you Jesse”.

“Freddy Krueger seems to exist solely in order to work the frightening generic and social connections between horror and homosexuality.” (Benshof, 1997, P.246).

Revenge’s depiction of homosexuality is evidently in-line with the dated opinions of Boys Beware, with homosexuality presented as an evil temptation that Jesse must resist, an abhorrent contagion that can be passed on by an elder aggressor. The film’s writer freely admits the film’s subtext:

“I started thinking about guys being unsure of their sexuality and thought that’s pretty scary.” “Freddy appeals to that gay part; he appeals to the questions Jesse is asking himself.” (David Chaskin, 2010).

Troubled by Freddy’s nocturnal visits, Jesse begins to act erratically, and Revenge displays more outdated opinions on homosexuality via Jesse’s parents. Jesse’s mother (Hope Lange) is protective of him, showing great concern for his wellbeing and defending him against his disapproving father (Clu Gulager).

Freddy ignites homosexual feelings in Jesse that begin to reach fruition during the sequence at the pool party. As the young, heterosexual couples start to pair off, an anxious Jesse is escorted to the changing room by Lisa (Kim Myers), a female suitor. The reluctant Jesse declares, “I’m not into this”. Lisa insists she wants to help, but Jesse berates, “How can ‘you’ help?”, emphasising his feelings for her sexual inadequacy as a woman. Jesse is cajoled into a sexual encounter with Lisa, but Freddy intervenes, his tongue emerging from Jesse’s mouth and sending Jesse into a panic. Freddy symbolises Jesse’s homosexual nature, an evil that restrains his heterosexual feelings. Freddy releases Jesse’s homosexual urges, sending him running to Grady’s bedroom. Jesse’s sexual intentions are apparent as he throws himself upon Grady, demanding, “I need you to let me stay here”. Jesse confesses, “something is trying to get inside my body” and Grady replies, “yeah, and she’s female and you wanna sleep with me?” The ‘final girl’s’ conversion into the killer, as seen in  Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Halloween, becomes literal as Freddy bursts out from within Jesse’s body, impaling Grady against the door. Symbolising the unleashing of Jesse’s destructive homosexual urges, with the kill again substituting for homosexual intercourse. Like Norman, Jesse has a chance of redemption through heterosexual love. Lisa confronts Freddy; Jesse’s consciousness begs for death rather than becoming Freddy, but Lisa declares her love for Jesse and kisses Freddy. Lisa’s heterosexual love destroys Freddy’s malignant homosexual force, sending Jesse’s gay nature into remission, and a new heterosexual Jesse rises from the ashes of Freddy’s corpse.

Although Revenge follows all the conventions of the classic ‘Slasher’ film, bar the casting of the male lead, it is not well regarded by fans, being mockingly referred to as “the homo nightmare by a million pubescent boys” (Mark Patton, 2010). The cast and crew also acknowledge the film’s failings and cite the casting of a male in the role of the ‘final girl’ as responsible.

“When you suddenly cast your male lead in the victim role and then you have him scream like a girl for ninety minutes, you’re gonna have some people going ‘well, you know, that’s not the most manliest performance I’ve ever seen’.” (Producer, Joel Soisson, 2010).

To understand the failure of casting a male in the ‘final girl’ role, it is vital to consider audience expectations when viewing ‘Slasher’ films. Films that are used as a form of romantic courtship by millions of young, heterosexual couples.

“Teenage boys enjoyed a horror film significantly more when they were sitting next to a female companion who expressed fright, whereas teenage girls enjoyed the film more when the male companion with whom they were paired showed a sense of mastery and control.” (Zillmann, et al., 1986, P.586).

Accepting this, to directly depict a male protagonist having his sexuality put into question and his control threatened, would work contrary to the popular appeal of the films. Therefore, it becomes clear why although the ‘final girl’s’ identity remains male, she must physically become female.

Bibliography

Books

Bershoff, H., 1997. Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality and the Horror Film. Manchester; Manchester University Press.

Bieber, I., Dain, H.J., Dince, P.R., Drellich, M.G., Grand, H.G., Gundlach, R.R., Kremer, M.W., Rifkin, A.H., Wilbur, C.B. and Bieber, T.B., 1962. Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals. New York; Basic Books.

Clover, C.J., 1992. Men., Woman and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton, New Jersey; Princeton University Press.

Lewes, K., 1989. The Psychoanalytic Theory of Male Homosexuality. New York; Plume.

Perrault, C., 1697. Fairy Tales from Past Times with Morals. Paris: Publisher Unknown.

Zillmann, D., Weaver, J. B., Mundorf, N., and Aust, C. F., 1986. Effects of an opposite-gender companion’s affect to horror on distress, delight, and attraction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. [Journal Article] 3(51), 586. Available through Zotero Website < https://www.zotero.org/mbeam/items/itemKey/BDRMT58F >. [Accessed 15 March 2013]

DVD Extras

Interview with director Tobe Hooper, 2008. [DVD Extra] USA: Dark Sky Films

Interview with writer Kim Henkel, 2008.  [DVD Extra] USA: Dark Sky Films

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2008. [DVD Commentary] Tobe Hooper. USA: Dark Sky Films

Films

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, 1985. [Film] Directed by Jack Sholder. USA: New Line Cinema

Boys Beware, 1961. [Film] Directed by Sid Davis. USA: Sid Davis Productions

The Bride of Frankenstein, 1934. [Film] Directed by James Whale. USA: Universal

Dressed to Kill, 1980. [Film] Directed by Brian De Palma. USA: Cinema 77

Flesh Wounds, 2006. [Documentary] Directed by Michael Felsher. USA: Dark Sky Films

Friday the 13th, Part 2, 1980. [Film] Directed by Steve Miner. USA: Paramount

Halloween, 1978. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. USA: Compass International

Never Sleep Again, 2010. [Documentary] Directed by Daniel Farrands & Andrew Kasch. USA: 1428 Films

Psycho, 1960. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. USA: Paramount

Rope, 1948. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. USA: Warner Brothers

The Silence of the Lambs, 1991. [Film] Directed by Jonathan Demme. USA: Orion

Sleepaway Camp, 1983. [Film] Directed by Robert Hiltzik. USA: American Eagle Films

Strangers on a Train, 1951. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. USA: Warner Brothers

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974. [Film] Directed by Tobe Hooper. USA: Bryanston Films

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, 1986. [Film] Directed by Tobe Hooper. USA: Cannon Group

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, 1995. [Film] Directed by Kim Henkel. USA: Return Productions

Online Newspaper Articles  

Maher, K. 2010. Psycho: The Impact Made by Alfred Hitchcock’s Classic Movie. The Times [Online] March 26. Available at: www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/film/article2467719.ece

Webpages  

Kelly, A.S., 2010. Mother Issues. [Online]. Available at: www.screenjabber.com/psycho-50th-importance [Accessed on 15.03.2013]

Genre Revisionism within New Hollywood

This essay will examine the extent to which New Hollywood can be considered ‘new’. It will focus on the New Hollywood trend of ‘genre revisionism’. Genre revisionism is the practice of adopting the conventions of an existing genre and then converting them. This is done to subvert an audience’s expectations, in an attempt to provide something new and distinct from what went before, thus keeping interest in the genre alive. Two films of contrasting genres will be focused upon to provide a greater overview of the scale of genre revisionism within New Hollywood. The Long Goodbye (dir. Altman, 1973), a Film-Noir, and The Shining (dir, Kubrick, 1980), a Horror film. The essay will examine what they present that’s new and how they differ from the traditional standards of their respective genres. It will also provide evidence and draw conclusions about two points of view situated at extremes ends of the spectrum. One viewpoint is that the films have been subverted to such a degree, that they can no longer be considered part of the original genre they set out to revise. The alternative opinion is that they cannot be considered new as they offer little that is different from past examples of the genre.

The Long Goodbye employs the common Film-Noir protagonist of the private-eye, in this case, Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould). The private-eye is traditionally characterised as shrewd, righteous, and displaying effortless confidence and charisma. He is depicted as a loner, a character alienated by a corrupt society populated by characters such as crooked cops, seedy villains, and the femme-fatale. Although the private-eye chooses to live apart from this corrupt society, he understands the rules by which it functions and, therefore, is always able to triumph while still adhering to his strong moral code. Raymond Chandler, whose novel The Long Goodbye is based upon and whose other novels have been adapted into films, including the classic Film-Noir, The Big Sleep (dir. Hawks, 1946), sums up the private-eye with this quote, “down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.” (Chandler, 1950).

Chandler once stated, “The private eye is admittedly an exaggeration – a fantasy. But at least he’s an exaggeration of the possible.” (Rafferty, 2007). With The Long Goodbye, Altman sets out to prove that this statement is no longer valid. Altman has stated, he wanted to “update the [Film-Noir] setting but act as if Philip Marlowe had awaked from a twenty odd year slumber.” (Rip Van Marlowe, 2002). Altman and Gould referred to Marlowe as Rip Van Marlowe in reference to Rip Van Winkle. Rip Van Winkle is a fictional character who fell asleep and woke up twenty years later in surroundings that were entirely alien to him. In reference to this, at the beginning of the film, Marlowe awakens in a daze and is immediately depicted as a character completely out of his time and place, unable to function in his alien surroundings. Marlowe spends the first ten minutes of the film on a thankless mission to feed his ungrateful cat. Marlowe remains loyal to his cat, his hippy neighbours who he runs errands for, and his friend, Terry Lennox (Jim Bouton), who he is on a mission to prove innocent of uxoricide. He endeavours to please all these characters while receiving no reward or successful results. He fails to feed his cat, who then abandons him, and for the majority of the film, he is too naive to realise Terry’s guilt. Furthermore, while traditionally, attractive female Film-Noir characters would be used to prove the virility of the private-eye, Marlowe is impervious to the flirtations of his attractive neighbours and acts towards them as a kindly old man. All this contributes to Altman’s viewpoint that the private-eye and his strong moral code can no longer believably achieve results in the narcissistic world of 1970’s Hollywood, and he now must be considered an ineffectual character. “Altman says in a 1974 interview that he meant to bid adieu to Marlowe; ‘Marlowe is dead’, he quips.” (Redmon, 2011).

Classic Film-Noir iconography and conventions are used in The Long Goodbye, but merely to further Marlowe’s depiction as an outdated character. Marlowe wears a 1950’s style suit, drives a vintage sedan, and chain-smokes while no other characters smoke. Marlowe’s wisecracks, while traditionally used to display the private-eye’s quick wit and natural charisma, are treated with disdain by other characters. Conventional characters are used, such as the seedy criminals and femme-fatale, but unlike Marlowe, they’re shown to have changed with the times. The criminals are now unafraid to use excessive violence, and the femme-fatale, Eileen Wade (Nina Van Pallandt), no longer dresses in the vampish black attire of the classic Film-Noir era, and as with his neighbours, Marlowe is immune to her charms. Conventions such as filming in black and white, canted angles and chiaroscuro lighting are discarded, and the traditional night-time city setting is abandoned in favour of a sunny beachside. All this is done to present Marlowe as a character inhabiting a world in which he doesn’t belong. The film has been subjected to ‘flashing’ to lower the definition of the images, making them appear faded. Shots are filmed through foregrounds such as panes of glass and bushes, and overlapping dialogue is used; all to present Marlowe as a character lost in the hazy confusion of an alien world.

At the film’s climax, on the beach, Marlowe’s unfamiliar world suddenly shifts, to signify his unravelling of the mystery, but also his realisation that his old ways are no longer relevant. Dialogue no longer overlaps, images become clear, foregrounds are no longer used to obscure, and finally, in Mexico, Marlowe brutally murders Terry for his betrayal of his trust. This complete rejection of the character’s moral code is Altman’s final statement on the irrelevance of the private-eye and his outdated characteristics. The film’s final shot of Marlowe strolling down a road lined by trees mirrors that of a classic Film-Noir, The Third Man (dir. Carol Reed, 1949), in which the private-eye faced a similar dilemma to Marlowe but chose to adhere to his moral code. This is done to deliberately draw attention to The Long Goodbye’s detachment from traditional Film-Noir standards and its rejection of its protagonist’s basic principles. These factors mean that it cannot be considered part of the Film-Noir genre.

As the genre’s title suggests, Horror films, at their most basic level, have always been designed to shock, scare, and unsettle an audience. They do this by tapping into our most primal fears; fears of the grotesque, isolation, vulnerability, loss of identity, the unknown, violence and death. These fears often manifest in the form of monsters, and often, either directly or through subtext, provide warnings about the dark side of our own natures; the monster within. So, how can The Shining, a film which is part of a genre based on the exploitation of such primal fears, present anything new? Some detractors suggest it doesn’t, most notably the author of the novel The Shining was based on, Stephen King, who was quoted as saying:

“Kubrick set out to make a horror picture with no apparent understanding of the genre. Everything about it screams that from beginning to end, from plot decision to the final scene – which has been used before.” (LoBrutto, 1999).

King and Kubrick did not have a healthy relationship. Kubrick originally commissioned King to write the screenplay to The Shining, but King’s screenplay was rejected by Kubrick. Kubrick decided to write the screenplay in collaboration with Diane Johnson, and the final script deviated greatly from King’s novel.

So, is King’s criticism of The Shining merely due to feelings of bitterness and resentment towards Kubrick, or do his claims have a solid foundation? First, let’s consider the primal fears that the Horror genre built its reputation on, and if The Shining deviated from the use of these basic principles of fear. Grotesque imagery abounds throughout The Shining, from the river of blood gushing forth from the elevator doors to the deformed Old Hag (Billie Gibson) in room 237. The setting provides the theme of isolation, which goes hand in hand with vulnerability. The danger becomes increasingly palpable as Jack (Jack Nicholson) slips deeper into the depths of murderous insanity, and we witness the helpless Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and Danny (Danny Lloyd) struggling for survival, trapped in the remote Overlook Hotel, surrounded by an icy wasteland. Jack’s transformation provides the theme of loss of identity. The cause of Jack’s devolution remains ambiguous, it never being made clear if it is the result of a supernatural influence or the strange events are merely manifestations of Jack’s madness. This mystery provides the fear of the unknown. Jack’s descent eventually results in violence and the death of Dick (Scatman Crothers), but the prospect of death and violence is established from the outset, with the story of the previous slaughter that took place at the hotel being told within the film’s first ten minutes.

So, there is no doubt that exploitation of these primal fears is prevalent throughout The Shining, but is its presentation of these traits significantly different enough to be considered new? Traditionally, these Horror principles were presented in the guise of various subgenres. Although clearly not directly part of one of these subgenres, The Shining shares a number of their conventions. One of the earliest subgenres is the Vampire film. Vampire films present the monster within by use of the vampire, whose non-consensual consumption of his victims’ blood is a metaphorical warning against losing control of our carnal desires. Jack feels stuck in a loveless marriage and shows resentment against Wendy for holding back his career. His sexual encounter with the phantom Beautiful Woman (Lia Beldam) shows he’s also starved of sexual gratification, and his violent retribution against Wendy is his means of quenching his lustful hunger. The vampire’s unholy task is often passed to him by a senior vampire, much as Delbert Grady (Philip Stone) encourages Jack to duplicate his own murderous rampage. One of the first notable Vampire films is Nosferatu (dir. Murnau, 1922). Nosferatu is one of the earliest and seminal purveyors of the theme of the doppelganger. The doppelganger is a representation of the dark side of human nature. It is often symbolised through reflections, doubles, and silhouettes; as shown in Nosferatu, with the iconic image of Orlok (Max Schreck) climbing the stairs. The theme of the doppelganger is prevalent throughout The Shining, the focal point being Jack’s twin personas, but double imagery is also used excessively during the film to support the theme. Danny has a twin identity, Tony, who he communicates with while looking into a mirror, suggesting he is Danny’s mirror image. Tony attempts to warn Wendy through backwards writing, which is only interpreted when reflected through a mirror. The Beautiful Woman transforms into the Old Hag once viewed through a mirror, and the Grady twins (Lisa & Louise Burns) are mirror images of each other, their death at the hands of their father, a crime in danger of being mirrored by Jack.

The Shining’s theme of a man’s reversion to a more animalistic state is a central theme of Werewolf films. Werewolf films see the physical and mental transformation of a human protagonist into a wolf-like creature. As Jack descends into his degenerative state, wolf references are made in his dialogue, such as “hair of the dog that bit me” and “little pigs, little pigs”. It is not only Jack’s violent actions which can be viewed as beastlike, by the end of the film, he has deteriorated both mentally and physically. By the film’s climax, Jack’s language has become slurred, resembling little more than primitive grunting, and as he pursues Danny, he hobbles along with an abnormal primordial gait. The Shining fits most easily into the Haunted House subgenre, clearly sharing its core conventions. Haunted House films conventionally involve a group of individuals staying in an isolated building and experiencing various encounters with ghosts and ghouls.

Throughout The Shining, Kubrick fashions an underlying theme of the plight of the Native American Indians. A number of references to the Native Americans appear throughout the film. The hotel is said to have been built on an Indian burial ground. Indian artwork appears on wall hangings and carpets, and cans with an Indian chief logo are visible in the food locker. The July 4th Ball takes place on a day celebrating the birth of a nation that was formed through the genocide of its native people. The Ball’s patriots represent the privileged few, who are seen indulging themselves, having profited in a stolen land. For their crimes, the patriots must endure eternity at the cursed Overlook Hotel, experiencing and inciting further slaughter. Although the connotations of this oblique theme are less apparent than those previously mentioned, it too has its roots in an old Horror cliché, that of punishment for corrupting an ancient culture; a convention of numerous Mummy films.

Clearly, The Shining borrows heavily from past subgenres, but is its conversion of their conventions extensive enough for it to be considered new? Jack is not a grotesque monster, and outwardly, he largely remains normal, with his psychopathic tendencies not resulting in a substantial physical change, as is predominant in past Horror films. Though not as common as the themes previously mentioned, the horror of the hidden monster, the outwardly innocent psychopath hiding in plain view, was nothing new. It was a particular favourite of Alfred Hitchcock, which he used on more than one occasion, in films such as Psycho (dir. Hitchcock, 1960) and Strangers on a Train (dir. Hitchcock, 1951). This quote from Hitchcock himself sums up how slight deviations in the depictions of protagonists do not alter the basic principles of fear:

“Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. What frightens us today is exactly the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. It’s just a different wolf.” (Goodreads, 2012).

The Shining unabashedly relies heavily on the ‘doppelganger’ and ‘monster within’ themes, two of the oldest and most commonly used Horror themes, which Kubrick freely admits:

“One of the things that horror stories can do is show us the archetypes of the unconscious: we can see the dark side without having to confront it directly.” [Visual-Memory, 2012].

It is true that it subverts the conventions of various Horror subgenres, so as no longer to be firmly placed into any of them, but its reliance on these conventions is so rife that the film must be considered a pastiche. By definition, a pastiche is an artistic work that imitates that of another work, artist, or period, and, therefore, due to The Shining’s extensive imitation, it cannot be considered new.

The Long Goodbye successfully presents something new by offering a satire of an obsolete character and parodying the classical conventions of Film-Noir. The Shining’s over-reliance on clichéd Horror conventions fails to present anything significantly new and merely presents a pastiche. Yet they are both labelled as New Hollywood films. “Chandler said of his novel [The Long Goodbye], ‘I wrote this as I wanted to because I can do that now’ and Altman, in that spirit, made his movie as he wanted to, because he could do that in the early ’70s.” (Rafferty, 2007). During the ‘Classic Hollywood’ era, a vertically integrated system was used. This gave studios complete control over their films. This resulted in films developed with the aim to produce maximum profits taking precedence over the need for artistic merit. “Some have compared the Hollywood studio system to a factory, and it is useful to remember that studios were out to make money first and art second.” [Fathom, 2012]. The New Hollywood era dawned at the disbandment of the vertically integrated system, and although New Hollywood films sometimes failed to present content that can be considered drastically new, it was an era of cinema where directors were able to gain artistic control over the studios and present an unadulterated vision of their work. For this reason, overall, New Hollywood can be considered a new era of artistic achievement.

Bibliography

Books

Chandler, R. (1950) The Simple Art of Murder. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin.

Kolker, R. (2011) A Cinema of Loneliness. 198 Madison Avenue, New York: Oxford University Press.

LoBrutto, V. (1999) Stanley Kubrick: A Biography. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press.

DVDs

The Long Goodbye (1973) Directed by Robert Altman [DVD]. USA: United Artists.

The Making of the Shining (1980) Directed by Vivian Kubrick [DVD]. USA: Warner Brothers.

Rip van Marlowe (2002) Directed by Greg Carson [DVD]. USA: MGM.

The Shining (1980) Directed by Stanley Kubrick [DVD]. USA: Warner Brothers.

The Shining (2008) Garret Brown and John Baxter. [DVD Commentary] USA: Warner Brothers.

Webpages

Ager, R (2008) “MAZES, MIRRORS, DECEPTION AND DENIAL” an in-depth analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING. Available at: http://collativelearning.com/the%20shining.html (Accessed: February 26, 2012).

Bozzola, L (2012) The Long Goodbye (1973). Available at: http://www.allmovie.com/movie/the-long-goodbye-v29924/review (Accessed: February 26, 2012).

Bozzola, L (2012) Nosferatu (1922). Available at: http://www.allmovie.com/movie/nosferatu-v35687/review (Accessed: February 25 2012).

Ebert, R. (2006) The Long Goodbye (1973). Available at: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060423/REVIEWS08/604230301 (Accessed: February 26, 2012).

Fathom (2012). Classical Hollywood Cinema. Available at: http://www.fathom.com/course/10701053/session2.html (Accessed: February 25, 2012). 

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Physical Cosmologies: The Shining (2012) Available at: http://www.mstrmnd.com/log/802http://www.filmsite.org/horrorfilms.html (Accessed: February 26, 2012).

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Self, R (2011) Robert Altman. Available at: http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2005/great-directors/altman/ (Accessed: February 26, 2012).

The Shining an analysis of the Stanley Kubrick horror classic (2002) Available at: http://www.drummerman.net/shining/ (Accessed: February 26, 2012).

THE SHINING notes on the study of the Film (2012) Available at: http://www.fulltable.com/vts/s/sh/me.htm (Accessed: February 25, 2012). 

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The Housemate From Hell

This is a short film I made in the final year of my Film & Video Degree. Unlike my other scripts, it was not motivated by any overriding moral message. Instead, it was more of a technical exercise for my filming and editing abilities, and also a chance to have some fun. It took inspiration from the Doctor Who episode, Love and Monsters. In particular, the idea of a protagonist who is also an untrustworthy narrator. I was also inspired by the theory that the ending of Love and Monsters could be false; a fabrication by the protagonist to help deal with his trauma.