Urban legends and their adaptation in horror cinema
Mikel J. Koven
Urban legends, those apocryphal stories told in university dormitories and around campfires about hook-handed psycho-killers and boyfriends discovered hanging above the parked cars, are a form of oral literature. This chapter explores the adaptive processes these largely formless narratives have undergone to be made into mainstream cinematic horror narratives. It expands on Paul Smith's typology by considering some of the structural issues of the urban legend film, that is, films based primarily or largely on orally circulated belief narratives. The chapter defines some of the more textual dimensions to the urban legend horror film in an effort to expand on what Smith began. It identifies four main narrative strategies that filmmakers avail themselves to within Smith's 'complete plot' category: extended, resultant, structuring and fusion narratives. The chapter summarises two multi-strand narratives: fusion narratives and anthologies.
Myths are sacred stories; stories which embody a culture’s most significant
ideas. As a ‘mythic vision,’ these ideas are demarcated in the cinematic
text as moments of discernible difference. Moments which demand we stop and
contemplate the sacred’s imposition in the continuity of the film. This
chapter explores Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (2014) in terms of its
mythic vision, a big-budget mainstream Hollywood biblical epic retelling of
Genesis 6–9. But this chapter will also consider Ridley Scott’s Exodus:
Gods and Kings (2014), a film which, rather than a ‘mythic’ vision,
tries to recontextualise the story of the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt
into a desacralised retelling, a film which denies the mythology inherent in
the narrative. By discussing Scott’s Exodus, Aronofsky’s mythic
vision in Noah is highlighted in relief.