From its earliest days, horror film has turned to examples of the horror genre in fiction, such as the Victorian Gothic, for source material. The horror film has continually responded to cultural pressures and ideological processes that resulted in new, mutated forms of the genre. Adaptation in horror cinema is a useful point of departure for articulating numerous socio-cultural trends. Adaptation for the purposes of survival proves the impetus for many horror movie monsters. This book engages generic and thematic adaptations in horror cinema from a wide range of aesthetic, cultural, political and theoretical perspectives. These diverse approaches further evidence the horror genre's obsession with corporeal transformation and narratological re-articulation. Many horror films such as Thomas Edison's Frankenstein, John S. Robertson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, David Cronenberg'sVideodrome, Abel Ferrara's Body Snatchers, and Terence Fisher's The Gorgon are discussed in the book. The book sheds welcome light upon some of the more neglected horror films of cinema's first century, and interrogates the myriad alterations and re-envisionings filmmakers must negotiate as they transport tales of terror between very different modes of artistic expression. It extends the volume's examination of adaptation as both an aesthetic process and a thematic preoccupation by revealing the practice of self-reflexivity and addresses the remake as adaptation. The book analyses the visual anarchy of avant-garde works, deploys the psychoanalytic film theory to interpret how science and technology impact societal secularisation, and explores the experimental extremes of adaptation in horror film.
transformation from life into death, being into non-being. And
even if the journey results in catharsis, or if the forces of death are
occasionally surmounted, the next horror film we see may take us back to
square one on our voyage.
In truth, when it comes to the monstrousadaptations of
horror cinema, the torture never stops . . .
Thomas Edison’s Frankenstein and John Barrymore’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Richard J. Hand
becoming an enduring landmark in
horror animation. Film adaptations of Frankenstein would never
venture into stop-motion animation but would remain as the Edison
studios pioneered: a monstrousadaptation reliant upon special effects
for an explicit creation sequence with an actor beneath extreme make-up
at its conclusion.
If the Edison Frankenstein establishes special
National identity and the spirit of subaltern vengeance in Nakata Hideo’s Ringu and Gore Verbinski’s The Ring
has excelled at all her life, the hitherto indestructible assassin is
despatched by our all-American heroine The Bride.
Such monstrousadaptation of Japanese history, culture and
self-image undertaken by mainstream US cinema is only the starting point
of this paper though. What is of real interest here are the ways in
which such a project is effectively undercut by the generic conventions
This chapter analyses four films written and directed by Mario Bava between 1960 and 1966: La Maschera del demonio, La Frusta e il Corpo, Operazione Paura and Sei donne per l'assassino. The first three titles belong to 'the supernatural horror film', the latter to the Italian genre of the giallo. The first point worth noting is that the three examples of 'supernatural horror' are all 'period pieces', set in the nineteenth century, whereas Sei donne per l'assassino is set in the contemporary period. Since he is directing a 'period piece', Bava chooses to concentrate on questions of honour, the family, patriarchy and the selfishness of a power that goes without saying as everyone accepts it. La Frusta e il Corpo extends the notion of submission to take in the male members of the family, but the concomitant notion of adapting for the woman remains intact: now two women are unhappy.
This chapter suggests that Van Sant's film Psycho extracts, exteriorises, and diffuses gender onto the surface of consciousness. The film is less of a romantic secret to be penetrated through shadowy hints and cloaks of anxious ambiguity and more a uniform topography of social fact, presence, utility, and kinesis. If it was earlier a catafalque and chrysalis for desire, it is now a banality, like weather. The rainstorm through which Marion Crane drives to the motel, once pathetic fallacy, is now nothing more than a realistic setting. There is realism, too, as Marion packs to take flight in underwear that is money green. The film brings to the surface of awareness and attention a stash that was earlier a guilty secret. Dying a second death, Marion is not packaged in guilt or gender, but is only and pathetically a passer-by in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Horror and the avant-garde in the cinema of Ken Jacobs
This chapter examines how the contemporary experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs adapts the legacy of magic. His work might seem a bit out of place in the context of the horror genre. Jacobs' work, like much of the American avant-garde, rages against the commodification of the image and its seemingly passive consumption. With his seminal film Tom Tom the Piper's Son, Jacobs rescues a 1905 Biograph slapstick movie of the same name from cinematic oblivion. Cinema emerged in the late nineteenth century, accompanying capitalism's monstrous progeny: alienated production and the fetishised commodity. Jacobs' 'Nervous Magic Lantern' apparatus is similar to his 'Nervous System' performances, but it pares the cinematic experience down to even more primitive elements. Adapting the lens of the horror genre to Jacobs' 'Nervous Magic Lantern' and 'Nervous System' performances is particularly apt.
Monstrous becomings in Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers
Approximately one-third of the way through Abel Ferrara's 1993 film, Body Snatchers, army doctor Major Collins questions the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) representative about the toxicity of chemicals stored on the military base. In Ferrara's adaptation, monstrous becomings have an erotic potential absent from earlier cinematic incarnations of Jack Finney's novel. Ferrara's revelation of the social and cultural logics is at work in US millennial culture. It is only fitting that the most pronounced moments of cinematic horror in Body Snatchers arise not from the fear of what one may become, but from the very act of becoming. In their increasingly spectacular representation of the narrative, social, familial and corporeal body in flux, Don Siegel, Philip Kaufman, and Ferrara's adaptations of Finney's The Body Snatchers engage historically-specific cultures in transition.
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.
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.