Blending aspects of the religious novel with Gothic motifs, Horace Smith’s 1845 novel Mesmerism: A Mystery employs mesmerism to make its case for a radical transvaluation of death. Prematurely spiritualised by mesmeric treatment, the protagonist Jane Harvey attains a preternatural awareness of the liminal space between life and death, and, in the novel’s affirmative re-conception of the Death and the Maiden motif, she repeatedly encounters a mysterious phantom that proves to be the mildly uncanny yet enticing embodiment of death itself. The text evokes the ‘mistaken terror of death’ in order to dispel it and enthusiastically affirms both the Evangelical ‘good death’ and what Phillipe Ariès calls the ‘beautiful death’. However, in its disproportionate emphasis on death per se, and its polemical drive to reconceive death as ‘the universal friend’, the novel flirts with the heterodoxy that its personified Death is the principal redeemer of humankind.
National identity and the spirit of subaltern vengeance in Nakata Hideo’s Ringu and Gore Verbinski’s The Ring
This chapter discusses Gore Verbinski's 2002 film The Ring, a remake of Nakata Hideo's Ringu, which was itself an adaptation of Suzuki Koji's 1991 novel The Ring. Both Ringu and The Ring are ideally positioned to explore the ideological function of models of national identity promulgated by the media in Japanese and US society internalised by members of each. These were often in direct contradiction of the realities of national history or contemporary social and cultural practices. Sasaki Sadako, as spirit of vengeance, asserts her own right to survive, and to reproduce, by becoming both mother and father to a new breed of infected individuals. Her meta-hybridity echoes in the book's inference that her father was not in fact human but a water spirit summoned by the real-life ascetic En no Ozunu.
In The Brothers Grimm, Terry Gilliam is attracted to the darker sense of the fairy tale, understanding it as a suitable genre for mature children and open-minded adults. Bob McCabe had already produced Dark Knights and Holy Fools, a critical survey of Gilliam's films up to Fear and Loathing, and would put together The Pythons Autobiography By The Pythons. The book that came from Gilliam's request, Dreams and Nightmares: Terry Gilliam, The Brothers Grimm, and Other Cautionary Tales of Hollywood, offers a sobering account of the tribulations Gilliam underwent in making The Brothers Grimm. Tideland takes Gilliam into new territory, the world of Gothic horror, and he claimed that in Tideland, Alice in Wonderland meets Psycho. There are elements of the Gothic in The Brothers Grimm, but that film's comic undertones relieve the tension, which builds menacingly in Tideland.
This chapter explores a few of the female Gothic dramas in an attempt to define the particular ways in which narratives of domestic fear and entrapment appear on television. It outlines the ways in which the heroine negotiates her position within the domestic space of the Gothic narrative. The chapter focuses on a topographical analysis of the mise-en-scene of female Gothic fiction on television, and identifies the connection between text and domestic viewer. The television adaptation of Northanger Abbey plays upon the representation of Cathy as a diegetic stand-in for the female Gothic reader-viewer by fully visualising extracts from her reading matter through imagined point-of-view sequences at key moments in the narrative. The Wyvern Mystery alters the generic approach to the heritage location to express the distinct uneasiness attached to domestic spaces within the female Gothic narrative.
In thematic terms, a sense of desire as a dangerously uncontrollable force can be seen to inform Terence Fisher's later films. In the horror work, the powerful and effective heroes tend to be celibate while those individuals who succumb to desire usually end badly. In the pre-horror work discussed in this chapter, one gains a sense that Fisher is more engaged in those scenarios which afford him the possibility of exploring or commenting upon the perils of desire. Possible traces of Fisher's input are minimal, as one might expect from a project in which Noel Coward was so obviously the leading light. Most of the films he directed at Highbury and Gainsborough were thoroughly conventional, both generically and in broader aesthetic terms, and rarely went beyond the norms and types that characterise British cinema at this time.
Terence Fisher was always something of a latecomer, so far as his career in cinema was concerned. However, there was something about Fisher's career in what might be termed his 'wilderness years' that, while of no apparent importance at the time, would in retrospect become significant. Of the nineteen low-budget films directed by Fisher up until 1957, eleven were for a small, up-and-coming independent production company called Hammer. Hammer's horror production represents one of the most striking developments in post-war British cinema. Particular genres can be seen as organising both an audience's belief and interactions between realism and fantasy within films. A neglect of the collaborative contexts within which film production takes place, and a reliance on what might be termed 'elitist' concepts of artistic value. Both these factors seem seriously to undermine the credibility of looking at film in terms of directors.
The Frankenstein and Dracula myths in Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos
Fulcanelli, an early twentieth-century alchemist, describes his art as 'a spiritualistic chemistry, for it allows people to catch a glimpse of God through the darkness of substance'. In the opening scene of Guillermo del Toro's Cronos, a fictional representation of Fulcanelli has discovered the secrets of the unknown animator. Cronos is, therefore, just as much an atypical Frankenstein film as it is an atypical vampire film. Toro has combined the myths of Dracula and Frankenstein in order to form his own creation myth. His film, therefore, takes the evolution of these myths one step further. Rather than containing an image of one dark twin that conjures the other by contrast, as in films like House of Dracula, Cronos presents people with the scientific, vampiric Fulcanelli and his vampiric monster, Jesus.
According to its director, Terence Fisher, The Gorgon was not a horror film at all, but a romantic fairy tale and 'frustrated love story'. Although the film is set in Hammer's usual stylised middle Europe, the Gorgon herself derives not from Gothic literature, like Dracula and Frankenstein's monster, but from classical mythology, unfamiliar imaginative territory for the British studio. Relocating an ancient monster within the paraphernalia of Victorian Gothic, the film was Hammer's most striking experiment in free adaptation before the frankly bizarre transnational genre-fusion of The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. The Gorgon was Fisher's first Hammer film since The Phantom of the Opera and his only film about a woman. Significantly, it marked an attempt to invent a new monster at a time when, as the Dracula and Frankenstein films trailed off, Hammer sought to diversify its range for a wider international audience.
The gothic and death is the first ever published study to investigate how the multifarious strands of the Gothic and the concepts of death, dying, mourning, and memorialization – what the Editor broadly refers to as "the Death Question" – have intersected and been configured cross-culturally to diverse ends from the mid-eighteenth century to the present day. Drawing on recent scholarship in Gothic Studies, film theory, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Thanatology Studies, to which fields it seeks to make a valuable contribution, this interdisciplinary collection of fifteen essays by international scholars considers the Gothic’s engagement, by way of its unique necropolitics and necropoetics, with death’s challenges to all systems of meaning, and its relationship to the culturally contingent concepts of memento mori, subjectivity, spectrality, and corporeal transcendence. Attentive to our defamiliarization with death since the advent of enlightened modernity and the death-related anxieties engendered by that transition, The gothic and death combines detailed attention to socio-historical and cultural contexts with rigorous close readings of artistic, literary, televisual, and cinematic works. This surprisingly underexplored area of enquiry is considered by way of such popular and uncanny figures as corpses, ghosts, zombies, and vampires, and across various cultural and literary forms as Graveyard Poetry, Romantic poetry, Victorian literature, nineteenth-century Italian and Russian literature, Anglo-American film and television, contemporary Young Adult fiction, Bollywood film noir, and new media technologies that complicate our ideas of mourning, haunting, and the "afterlife" of the self.