The War on Terror and the resurgence of hillbilly horror after 9/11
This chapter explores the remarkable cinematic resurgence of hillbilly horror in the years since 9/11. For as George W. Bush pits the ostensible civilisation of the United States (US) against the oriental barbarism of the terrorist threat, providing himself in the process with justification for both the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and the introduction of a range of ‘homeland security’ measures that have restricted US civil liberties with an effectiveness that would have made Nixon proud, a new generation of horror film makers have brought the next generation of hillbillies to cinema screens. Engaging with the traumatic inheritance of 9/11 though the new hillbilly horror, like Trauma Studies itself, is concerned with the complex relation between knowing and not knowing the truth, seeing and not seeing the wounds inflicted on the national psyche by recent events. This chapter later emphasizes that the sub-genre, hillbilly horror, comes to encapsulate all the archaic disorder, medieval darkness, anti-classical savagery and pantheistic paganism of the American other and the terrorist threat alike while making amply apparent the simultaneously repressive and oppressive qualities of everyday civilised life.
Generic hybridity and gender crisis in British horror of the new millennium
This chapter addresses some concerns of British horror cinema with specific reference to an extraordinary proliferation of what Noël Carroll would term ‘fusion monsters’, represented in various films. In each of these highly self-reflexive films a new kind of ‘fusion hero’ can also be seen to emerge: one who undertakes a hybridisation of earlier models of British masculinity in his mission to conquer the monster and become a man. Thus, in new millennial British horror one can also see not only a tendency to parody and pastiche earlier horror texts but a will to explore earlier models of British masculinity—specifically those drawn from Britain's imperial past. As such, attitudes to women are highly significant in each of these films. Thus a new form of masculine identity can be seen to emerge from the ruins: one that is simultaneously hard-hitting and gentle, innovative and steady, decisive and compassionate. British horror of the new millennium not only points to the traumatised nature of the contemporary British male self-image but to the ways in which it is possible to work through the horror and, in so doing, become a new kind of man. Various examples of films are also presented that are indicative of the patterns followed in British cinema.
This chapter reveals that this study is engaged with a number of debates drawn from horror film scholarship, trauma theory, post-colonial studies and cultural studies. This chapter also discusses that horror cinema's specific sub-genres, such as the onryou, the necrophiliac romance, the hillbilly horror adventure and others have been shown not only to allow for a mediated engagement with acts so disgusting or violent that their real-life realisation would be socially and psychologically unacceptable, but for a re-creation, re-visitation or re-conceptualisation of traumatic memories that lie buried deep within the national psyche; memories themselves so outrageous that their very actuality as past events appears a logical impossibility. Within a traumatised culture in which hegemonic conceptions of national identity are loudly contested by dissenting groups whose challenges are nonetheless marginalised or suppressed by their economic and political masters, horror cinema can be seen to fulfill an additional function. This chapter highlights how horror cinema's socially engaged deployment of humorous pastiche and affectionate parody might bring forth a new form of subjectivity from the trauma of the past, unbinding the wounds of the nation and in so doing offering them the opportunity to heal.
Dominic Mitchell's BAFTA award-winning three-part series In the Flesh was first broadcast on BBC3 in March 2013, with a second six-part series following in May 2014. This chapter argues that the series participates in the contemporary mass-cultural deployment of the zombie as a means of exposing and exploring the impact of neoliberal economics on the social and cultural organisation of the world and, in turn, the models of subjectivity available to its inhabitants. In its deployment of mad science, its depiction of the dungeons of Big Pharma's contemporary torture-house and the bleak wildness of the rain-lashed northern moors, in its broken urban estates and hellfire-preaching villages, In the Flesh undertakes a highly gothic queering of neoliberal England. Thus it interrogates both the contemporary state of the nation and the rights, responsibilities and subjectivity of us all.
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.
Over the course of the past twenty-five years, as neoliberal economics has transformed the geopolitical landscape, monsters have overrun popular culture. This book explores literary, televisual, filmic and dramatic works from distant and diverse countries. It traces the vampire's evolution from the nineteenth-century past of industrial capitalism to the neoliberal present's accelerated violence and corrupt precarity, and discusses the NBC television mini-series Dracula, perfectly encapsulating our own post-recessionary subjectivity. The book addresses state capitalism but turns readers' attention away from the vampire and towards the ghost, focusing on the ways in which such spectral figures have come to dominate new German theatre. On the biotechnology sector, the book presents three examples: cinematic depictions of the international organ trade in Asia, the BAFTA award winning three-part series In the Flesh broadcast in BBC3, and literary representations of the dehumanised South African poor. The book moves from the global to the local, and charts the ways in which post-2006 house owners are trapped in the house by the current economic situation, becoming akin to its long-term resident ghosts. The ghost estates, reanimated and reimagined by the Irish artists and film-makers, are shown to embody the price paid locally for failures in global economic policy. The preoccupation with states of liminality is encapsulated by showing that the borders of the nation state have become a permeable membrane. Through this membrane, the toxic waste of first world technology seeps out alongside the murderous economic imperatives of the neoliberal agenda.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book engages with the geopolitical context of the gothic's migration from the periphery to the fast-beating heart of popular culture, specifically the rise to economic and cultural pre-dominance of global neoliberalism. It traces the vampire's evolution from the nineteenth-century past of industrial capitalism to the neoliberal present's accelerated violence and corrupt precarity. The book explores the political, social and cultural contradictions that have emerged in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis. This was a period that has been characterised by substantial cuts to public expenditure, bank bailouts and mass unemployment. The book also examines the Mexican-American border as a gothic space created by a combination of postcolonial power relations and the new economic and political conditions created by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).