American zombie Gothic films have changed markedly in their tone, style, and structure
since September 11, an evolution that expands the Gothic mode to include the mobility of
the narratives protagonists, a popularisation of the movies, and an increased engagement
with a multi-ethnic international community. To remain timely, relevant, and commercially
viable, such alterations must occur, and these shifts in particular can best be explained
by the changing cinematic marketplace, the influence of videogames, and the policies and
anxieties resulting from the (inter)national trauma of 9/11 and the War on Terror. This
essay examines the film version of World War Z as a key text for exploring the current
transition from a localised siege narrative to an international kind of road trip movie, a
shift largely tied to the popularity of zombie-themed videogames.
Post-9/11 Aesthetics of Uncertainty in PlayDead‘s Limbo (2010)
This paper explores the Gothic videogame Limbo (PlayDead, 2010) in terms of an aesthetic and conceptual precariousness and preoccupation with uncertainty that, I suggest, are particularly associated with the traumatic legacy of 9/11. It engages with Judith Butler s post-9/11 reflections in her work Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (2004) on the loss of presumed safety and security in the First World. From here, she expresses the potential for shared experiences of vulnerability to inaugurate an ethics of relationality, without recourse to investment in systems of security. I then contrast this with an alternative critical trajectory that emphasises the use-value of such systems over a desire for moral purity. This critical framework is considered in relation to the treatment of vulnerability in Limbo, through its construction of a dialogic relationship between its diegetic game-world and the formal structure of its game-system. The former is found to articulate a pervasive experience of uncertainty, whilst the latter provides a sense of security. I draw upon psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott‘s theories of play and creative living to argue that the tension between game-world and game-system in Limbo creates a model of how uncertainty can be dwelt with, through a precarious balance between the use of systems of security and disengagement from them.
The aim of this article is twofold. On the one hand, it offers a survey of found footage horror since the turn of the millennium that begins with The Blair Witch Project (1999) and ends with Devils Due (2014). It identifies notable thematic strands and common formal characteristics in order to show that there is some sense of coherence in the finished look and feel of the films generally discussed under this rubric. On the other hand, the article seeks to reassess the popular misunderstanding that found footage constitutes a distinctive subgenre by repositioning it as a framing technique with specific narrative and stylistic effects.
Gothic Terror(ism) and Post-Devolution Britain in Skyfall
The article examines the phenomenon of terrorism presented in Sam Mendes‘s film Skyfall (2012), with relation to Julia Kristeva‘s concept of the abject, developed further by Robert Miles in the context of nationalism and identity. While exploring the extraterritorial nature of terrorism, which in Skyfall breaches the borders of the symbolic order, threatening the integrity of the British nation-state represented by M, Bond, and MI6, the article also focuses on the relationship between the major characters, whose psychological tensions represent the country‘s haunting by the ghosts of colonialism, as Britain is forced to revisit its imperial past(s) and geographies at the fragile moment of post-devolutionary changes.
Post-9/11 Horror and the Gothic Clash of Civilisations
Kevin J. Wetmore
Twentieth century cinema involving monster conflict featured solitary monsters in combat (Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, for example). The writing of Anne Rice and the RPG Vampire: The Masquerade by White Wolf Games introduced the idea of Gothic communities and civilisations in conflict. It was not until after the terror attacks of 11 September that the idea of a clash of civilisations between supernatural societies fully emerged into the mainstream of popular culture. This essay explores the construction of a clash of civilisations between supernatural communities as a form of using the Gothic as a metaphor for contemporary terrorism in film and television series such as Underworld, Twilight, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. Inevitably, it is the lycanthropes that are the disempowered and disenfranchised society and are alternately exploited by and rebel against the dominant vampire civilisation grown decadent and on the verge of collapse. Post-9/11 Gothic posits a world in which vampire society is the new normal, and werewolves represent a hidden danger within. Lycanthropes must be controlled, profiled and/or fought and defeated. Through close readings of the cinematic and televisual texts, I explore the vampire/werewolf clash as metaphor and metonym for the war on terror.
With reference to films such as The Terror Experiment (2010) and Osombie (2012), this paper explores the figure of the zombie terrorist, a collectively othered group that is visually identifiable as not us and can be slaughtered with impunity. In cinematic treatments, the zombie terrorist operates within a collectivity of zombies, erasing the possibility of individuality when the transformation from human to zombie takes place. The zombie terrorist signifies otherness in relation to selfhood, and is characterised by a mind/body split. Emerging from the grave in the archetypal zombie primal scene, this reanimated corpse is undead in its animate corporeality coupled with a loss of all mental faculties. The erasure of individual identity and memory along with broader human characteristics such as empathy or willpower coincides with the zombie terrorist s physical movement and action.
The escalation of systematic, if random, violence in the contemporary world frames the
concerns of the article, which seeks to read Baldwin for the present. It works by a
measure of indirection, arriving at Baldwin after a detour which introduces Chinua Achebe.
The Baldwin–Achebe relationship is familiar fare. However, here I explore not the shared
congruence between their first novels, but rather focus on their later works, in which the
reflexes of terror lie close to the surface. I use Achebe’s final novel, Anthills of the
Savanah, as a way into Baldwin’s “difficult” last book, The Evidence of Things Not Seen,
suggesting that both these works can speak directly to our own historical present. Both
Baldwin and Achebe, I argue, chose to assume the role of witness to the evolving
manifestations of catastrophe, which they came to believe enveloped the final years of
their lives. In order to seek redemption they each determined to craft a prose—the product
of a very particular historical conjuncture—which could bring out into the open the
prevailing undercurrents of violence and terror.
James Baldwin and Ray Charles in “The Hallelujah
Based on a recent, archival discovery of the script, “But Amen is the Price” is the first
substantive writing about James Baldwin’s collaboration with Ray Charles, Cicely Tyson,
and others in a performance of musical and dramatic pieces. Titled by Baldwin, “The
Hallelujah Chorus” was performed in two shows at Carnegie Hall in New York City on 1 July
1973. The essay explores how the script and presentation of the material, at least in
Baldwin’s mind, represented a call for people to more fully involve themselves in their
own and in each other’s lives. In lyrical interludes and dramatic excerpts from his
classic work, “Sonny’s Blues,” Baldwin addressed divisions between neighbors, brothers,
and strangers, as well as people’s dissociations from themselves in contemporary American
life. In solo and ensemble songs, both instrumental and vocal, Ray Charles’s music evinced
an alternative to the tradition of Americans’ evasion of each other. Charles’s sound meant
to signify the history and possibility of people’s attainment of presence in intimate,
social, and political venues of experience. After situating the performance in Baldwin’s
personal life and public worldview at the time and detailing the structure and content of
the performance itself, “But Amen is the Price” discusses the largely negative critical
response as a symptom faced by much of Baldwin’s other work during the era, responses that
attempted to guard “aesthetics” generally—be they literary, dramatic, or musical—as
class-blind, race-neutral, and apolitical. The essay presents “The Hallelujah Chorus” as a
key moment in Baldwin’s search for a musical/literary form, a way to address, as he put
it, “the person and the people,” in open contention with the social and political
pressures of the time.