Thursday, March 05, 2009

I need games to play while I'm waiting for the bus in the fog at 6:45 am in the moring.

In part because of a current writing project, and in part because of recent thoughts/discussions about the gurlesque and the grotesque, my recent game is this: if everyone in my family were characters from a horror film, novel, or short story, who would they be? I'm not going to tell you my thoughts just yet (or maybe ever, unless I finish the project and someone publishes it). But the question lead me to think about female characters in horror, and then female perpetrators of violence in horror, and then to dynamics where the violence is specifically or mostly female-female OR where the major dynamic in the film is a relationship between two women.

The two that immediately came to mind were Alien 1 (Ripley vs. the female alien monster) and Suspiria (female protagonist discovers that her ballet school is really a cover for a coven of witches). Below is a list of others that immediately came to mind. Tell me what I'm missing--and yes, I know that this list is full of mostly films in English from the Western part of the world, but I suspect if I started looking at some of the recent anime other's have pointed me towards, I'd find more:
  • Carrie (girl with telekinetic powers is abused by crazy Christian mother, eventually destroys her school, is stabbed in the back by her mother, but then telekinetically crucifies her mother with kitchen tools)
  • Succubus (duh)
  • Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla (female vampire!)
  • Rosmary's Baby (Not so female-female violence, but it is a pregnancy horror)
  • It's Alive (Also about the horror of babies)
  • Friday the 13th (it's actually Jason's mom who is the killer, not Jason)
  • The Ring
  • Psycho (maybe only half makes the list, because the mom is dead, but she still exists as a taxidermied version of herself and in her son's head)
  • "Ligeia," by Edgar Allan Poe (also only half on the list--a woman inhabits another woman's body, but it's a male fantasy)
  • The Brain that Wouldn't Die
  • Lair of the White Worm (mostly female-male violence, but some female-female violence)
  • Dagon AD (The fish girl--although it's mostly about her trying to convince her brother that he should mate with her so they can live under the sea together forever)
  • Dracula's vampire women should get a mention, even though they are clearly subordinate to him.
  • The Exorcist (Definite mother-daughter thing)


Joseph said...

Robert Altman's Three Women could be called a psychological horror film; it's more like proto-David Lynch.

Michelle Detorie said...

I love making lists!
Ginger Snaps. Buffy. Firestarter. Teeth. Species. And there is a big gaping vagina and little girl stuff in Poltergeist. Not sure if I would consider Rebecca or Heathers horror, but obvs those are great. And the scenes with Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty are pretty great. Also, if you can get your hands on an old copy of Bitch, there is a great article on girls in horror films in the Summer 2003 issue:

hope that you are doing well!

K. Lorraine Graham said...

@Joseph--I'll have to get a hold of Three Women; thanks for mentioning it.

@Michelle--Buffy, of course! I'm not a fan of the film, but both it and the TV series need to be on here. And it's been ages since I've seen Firestarter. I was thinking about Poltergeist, too. It at least deserves an honorary mention because it's the daughter that gets sucked away and wooed by a monstrous, vindictive, alternative mother thing. I haven't seen Teeth (another one to look up). In Species, is the alien violence mostly towards men, or is it towards everyone?

Keep the thoughts coming!

Anonymous said...

If you liked The Ring, you should watch the movie it was taken from: Ringu. A much more logical horror story from the Japanese, as opposed to the primarily visual based American films.

If you take Anime into consideration:
Paranoia Agent

Again, I think most American horror films are primarily visual, and I like the mind games better.

The twins from The Shinning were good.

Kevin Killian said...

Hi Lorraine,

A few horror films that jump to mind are THE HUNGER with Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve; THE BAD SEED with the incredible Nancy Kelly and Patty McCormack as her daughter; THE SEVENTH VICTIM from the early 1940s, and several other Val Lewton productions including I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, CAT PEOPLE, and CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE.

By the way and this is totally unrelated and very male oriented, but if I remember right you are a fan of Vincent Price? If so let me know, I have something for you.

K. Lorraine Graham said...

@Mike--Thanks for your comments. The Ring genuinely did creep me out and it's relevant to my blog post because a daughter-mother relationship is at the heart of the plot/violence. It's interesting that in the English version of the film, it's the mother that drops the daughter down the well, but it's the father who does it in the Japanese version.

I'll have to check out Paranoia Agent.

I'm not sure that US horror films in general are primarily visual, although maybe that's true of more recent ones. I don't really know, since my knowledge of horror from the past 5 years isn't especially deep. I'm interested in the psychology of horror, for sure, but visuals can be a big part of that. Val Lewton, the director Kevin mentioned above, for example, is known for using very simple visuals to suggest complex psychological situations, and voyeurism seems to be a pretty important part of the horror genre in general. Are there any horror films where the visuals are genuinely secondary to the dialog and movement? That could be interesting.

@Kevin--I really like Val Lewton films, especially I Walked with a Zombie and Cat People. I'm not sure how I forgot about them. There's that great moment in Cat People where the older woman addresses the Simon Simon character in the restaurant...

Yes, I am a huge fan of Vincent Price--I just can't resist his particular form of spooky camp. The project that I'm working on is a series of dream dialogues with people in my family. They will all be characters from horror films, books, etc, and I will sometimes be me and sometimes Vincent Price.

Michelle Detorie said...

What about the Craft? And Witchboard? and witches in general? Do they fit in this category? Also, this book looks related,M1

The dream dialogue seems interesting in the context of your project b/c so many horror movies employ the dreamlike or "trance" state. Also, I remember thinking that they creepiest thing about Freddy Krueger (sp?) was the fact that he could be in your dreams. That scared me way more than the scissor fingers.

Also, I didn't see the most recent Beowulf movie, but Grendle's mother might be an analogue for the mother/killer.

And the Bad Seed! I love that movie!

Let's have a Buffy viewing party someday!

Michelle Detorie said...

Oh! I just remember this other Brian de Palma movie with spooky sisters called...Sisters.

K. Lorraine Graham said...

Michelle, I love all of your suggestions, and yes, I'd love a Buffy viewing party. I've been wanting an excuse to take that 4 hour train ride up to Goleta, and anytime you want to come bird watching in Carlsbad, you let me know...

Grendle's mom is definitely an important prototype for the horrific female mother/monster--she's even more horrific then Grendle--I can't help but think of her in relation to, well, every female monster that exists, but especially Alien.

K. Lorraine Graham said...

How does one spell Grendel? I think it might be el instead of le.

tmorange said...

joseph that was exactly the film i was going to mention so glad you beat me to it! yeah three women is the best american film i've seen in years -- precisely because it leaves things open-ended in very unamerican or at least unhollywood fashion. (and in the 1978 or thereabouts no less!)

[word verification: "freski," included specifically for those of you who remember fondly the closely-named diet grapefruit soda of days gone by...]

Nada said...

Fangs of the Living Dead with Anita Ekberg.

I just got it for $1!

Oh Kevin, I am a great fan of Vincent Price. I do adore Vincent Price. He makes an unrecognizable appearance in my new movie...

Johannes said...

What a fun post.

There are several Poe stories like this. I like the one where the mother dies giving birth to the daughter who then grows up exponentially fast into an exact replica of mom. Vampirella or somethign like that.

I just blogged about "let the right one in" about a little vampire girl who is actually a boy so maybe not applicable....

yes, I love the Bad Seed.


D said...

Audition by Takashi Miike!!

Audition - #11 in Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments