Blog post by Rachel Castelino
Why do we watch horror movies? To show our friends we can take it? To scare ourselves? Or because we enjoy the terror?
Over the past few years, we have seen the rise of horror movies from the 1970’s, such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the Hills have Eyes, being revived and presented into the 21st century. Although they differ in setting, the underlying ideologies between the two are quite similar. They both hold an overarching theme of female suffering, something that has drastically evolved over time on our TV screens.
Ryan Lizardi, an assistant professor in New York, bases his research in Digital Media and Humanities. As an academic and a horror movie, here is his take on these remakes.
In your paper you talk about films made in the 60s/70s, and their comparison to current films. Can you give me a sense of what are the overarching themes of these movies?
It does seem to be, despite the decades difference, that these films deal with similar things. Misogyny is an overarching theme. I discussed the ways in which scenes for male characters being killed in these films- the remakes tend it to happen quickly whereas the scenes of torture and violence enacted upon females tended to last longer and brought to new heights. Males are quickly stabbed in the throat- in an almost unfeeling manner. Females are killed in a much more extensive, drawn out/prolonged manner. So, they have similar themes, but within a much more hyper-realised scale
Can you give me an example of that?
In Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we have a standard girl, ending protagonist, who turns the knife onto the killer and is able to escape with her life. In the original, she is chased onto the road and put onto the truck that takes her away. She goes through a lot of torture, but she’s able to get out of there relatively unscathed besides a terrible dinner and some stab wounds to her back. Her counterpart in the remake- played by Jessica Biel, is forced to not only endure one trip into this house of horrors but three separate trips- one in which she has to kill her own friend. Then she must also repeatedly run over her attacker- she is forced to do things that the original protagonist was not asked to do.
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Tell me about the male counterpart; he has a shorter death?
One of her friends walked into the house and doesn’t even understand what the house of horrors is. He does not need to mentally confront the horrors that he’s walking into. Within 6 seconds, he’s killed. Quick death. Just 6 seconds ofconfusion, maybe a little fear, and then death.
On the other hand, the female must understand what is happening. You’ll see this theme during most of the remakes- the females are forced to understand their torture and death, while the male characters are left in the dark- almost like ignorance is bliss.
You mentioned another example as Friday the 13th?
It’s interesting, with all of the massive amount of sequels and iterations of Jason Voorhees. In most of them you get nameless, faceless kills along the way; Jason Voorhees has never shown a tendency to want to interact with his victims other than just to kill them. In the remake we get a female protagonist who is held captive by Jason Voorhees for what seems to be a 6 week period. They never really go into what he does to her while he’s there. – But in comparison to her original counterparts in the non-remake versions, she is meant to endure kind of a mental torture that they never had to.
She had to basically sit in a cave for 6 weeks presumably tortured by Jason Voorhees, or at the very least mentally tortured by knowing what is happening around her.
Earlier you said they were being made to understand. There’s a kind of psychological torture happening to the female character- why is that significant?
Because it exists in remakes that for some reason end on hopeful notes. So we have this psychological and mental torture that the female protagonists are forced to endure. But then somehow, unlike their original counterparts, we’re given these-relatively- happy and hopeful endings that as if this torture- which often involves rape and beatings and severe mental anguish- is somehow like a rite of passage into a more hopeful future, that just doesn’t fit with these hyper-realised version of torture.
Is the redemption at the end- it’s not enough to overcome the brutality and the psychological torture?
It’s somehow that they’ve earned their way out of it by going through this torture.
Almost like a rite of passage- in a very strange way. The Evil Dead- the newest version- has a hyper-realised version of a tree rape scene that forces its protagonist to not only confront the fact that she is being raped by trees, but also…The original has a very similar scene. The difference is that in the new version there is a mirror demonically possessed doppleganger facing herself.
So basically a demonically possessed self basically walks up to this woman as she is being bound by trees and participates and watches while she’s being raped by these trees. It’s almost like a terribly misogynistic and messed up version of LukeSkywalker going into the cave and confronting himself. It’s a weirdmisogynistic and torture filled rite of passage to earn happy ending that justdoes not fit.
Why do you think this is not just one movie, why do you think the trope of the kind of rite of passage exists?
I think it somehow is connected to the genre trope of the final girl. That somehow
Hollywood has decided that, instead of the older version where the chased and nondrinking/non- drug-using androgynous female will be able to dispatch the killer and get away with a little bit of a happy life. That sort of has become hyper-realised as well. We have to trump up everything. Have to amplify the violence, and amplify the ending. Only way that Hollywood can conceive for a female in this genre to have a happy ending- to go through the torture.
The go-to stress to put on a femaleprotagonist-in a lot of genres- especially in horror is to have them raped.Which obviously contributes to rape culture and normalisation of this kindof violence mitigated upon females.In a way that makes it seem like that’s the only way to sort of “grow up”.It’s terribly misogynistic obviously.