Neoliberalism, Zombies and the Failure of Free Trade
The popular cultural ubiquity of the zombie in the years following the Second World War is testament to that monster‘s remarkable ability to adapt to the social anxieties of the age. From the red-scare zombie-vampire hybrids of I Am Legend (1954) onwards, the abject alterity of the ambulant dead has been deployed as a means of interrogating everything from the war in Vietnam (Night of the Living Dead, 1968) to the evils of consumerism (Dawn of the Dead, 1978). This essay explores how, in the years since 9/11, those questions of ethnicity and gender, regionality and power that have haunted the zombie narrative since 1968 have come to articulate the social and cultural dislocations wrought by free-market economics and the shock doctrines that underscore the will to global corporatism. The article examines these dynamics through consideration of the figure of the zombie in a range of contemporary cultural texts drawn from film, television, graphic fiction, literature and gaming, each of which articulates a sense not only neo-liberalism itself has failed but simply wont lie down and die. It is therefore argued that in an age of corporate war and economic collapse, community breakdown and state-sanctioned torture, the zombie apocalypse both realises and works through the failure of the free market, its victims shuffling through the ruins, avatars of the contemporary global self.
This book explores the ways in which the unashamedly disturbing conventions of international horror cinema allow audiences to engage with the traumatic legacy of the recent past in a manner that has serious implications for the ways in which we conceive of ourselves both as gendered individuals and as members of a particular nation-state. Exploring a wide range of stylistically distinctive and generically diverse film texts, its analysis ranges from the body horror of the American 1970s to the avant-garde proclivities of German Reunification horror, from the vengeful supernaturalism of recent Japanese chillers and their American remakes to the post-Thatcherite masculinity horror of the UK and the resurgence of hillbilly horror in the period following 9/11 USA. In each case, it is argued that horror cinema forces us to look again at the wounds inflicted on individuals, families, communities and nations by traumatic events such as genocide and war, terrorist outrage and seismic political change, wounds that are all too often concealed beneath ideologically expedient discourses of national cohesion. Thus proffering a radical critique of the nation-state and the ideologies of identity it promulgates, horror cinema is seen to offer us a disturbing, yet perversely life affirming, means of working through the traumatic legacy of recent times.
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.
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.
Trauma studies, an interdisciplinary area within the humanities, came into existence in late 1970s through psychoanalytically informed and holocaust-focused academics. This chapter is a theoretical caucus that attempts to articulate and critique the diverse ways in which traumatic memories have been inscribed as wounds on the cultural, social, psychic and political life of those who have experienced them, and those cultural products that seek to represent such experiences to those who have not. Trauma studies can thus be seen as a body of theoretical scholarship that addresses itself to cultural memory, to the modes in which traumatic historical events are representationally transmitted in time and space, to the politics of memorialising such events and experiences, and to the cultural significance of vicarious modes of witnessing trauma. Concerned with the socio-cultural and psychological ramifications of trauma, both Trauma studies and the trauma-raddled and wound-obsessed genre that is horror cinema can be seen to address themselves to psychic and social sites where individual and group identities are constituted, destroyed and reconstructed. Later this chapter turns to a discussion of author's experience with this genre.