The psychoanalytic approach to cinema is an essential one and dominates the study of film. When it comes to the field of horror, one of the most seminal psychoanalytical studies remains Freud’s book The Uncanny (1909). Freud’s account of what frightens us is largely associated with the making strange of that which is familiar. He says that ‘unheimlich’ (the familiar made strange) is at the heart of fright and fear. This essential text is often referenced by both critics of the horror genre and scholars alike. Horror is similarly preoccupied with the repression and exposure of that which is hidden below the surface and Linnie Blake’s book The Wounds of Nations (2008) demonstrates how horror helps expose the repressed and thus heal issues of national identity. Blake reflects on many different eras and national identities but the most revealing is her reflection on Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) and how this film articulated the disillusionment of a generation in the wake of the Vietnam War. For a more direct application of psychoanalytic theory to a particular film take a look at Steven Jay Schneider’s reflection on Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark. The author argues that the film challenges conservative capitalist norms instead of reaffirming them.
Laura Mulvey’s seminal “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1988) is tremendously important to both feminist theory and film academia. Mulvey’s analysis of the fetishism in mainstream Hollywood cinema and the roots of visual pleasure is quintessential to any reflection on gender in cinema. The sadism inherent in the “male gaze” is revealed and Mulvey calls for the subversion of the visual pleasure and a new form of cinema. Carol Clover and Williams’ work in many ways reveals that female visual pleasure is present in mainstream Hollywood and these authors reflect upon gender in the horror genre. Clover’s Men, Women and Chainsaws (1992) explores the complexity of gender in the horror genre and more specifically in the slasher film, the rape revenge, and supernatural sub genres. Similarly Sarah Gwenllian Jones in her article ‘Vampires, Indians and the Queer Fantastic: Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark’ reflects on gender in Near Dark and asserts that the film critiques the gender roles of the western and gothic genre. Linda Williams’ essay reflects on excess in the horror genre and posits that horror is a ‘body genre’. The ‘body genre’ often portrays the female body in ecstasy or horror and its goal is to evoke a physical reaction in the viewer.
Jason’s Zinoman introductory chapter to his book Shock Value (2011) gives an anecdotal account of the rise of postmodern horror. Zinoman reveals how horror changed from the gothic to a visceral, nihilistic vision of the world that is both violent and volatile. Fredric Jameson’s ground-breaking work on postmodernism revealed that the postmodern text is marked by simulation, nostalgia and is preoccupied with decay and the body. The work of Isabel Pinedo and Michael A. Arnzer take the Jameson’s theories of postmodernity, amongst others, and apply them to the horror genre and account for this new wave of horror that is distinctly postmodern.
Rooted in the categorization by Jeffery Sconce, the two articles represented in this section reveal an alternative academia that sets itself apart from the mainstream. The author focuses on the excess of these films and reveals the importance of an alternative kind of academia. He champions gritty and taboo cinema that has been overlooked by the mainstream. It is for this reason that Kay Dickinson’s article, ‘Troubling Synthesis’, fits so well within this category. The article brings up issues of taste and reflects on how the musical synthesizer creates a sense of ambivalence in the audience.