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Monstrous adaptations

Generic and thematic mutations in horror film

Edited by: Richard J. Hand and Jay McRoy

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.

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Monstrous adaptations

An introduction

Richard J. Hand and Jay McRoy

The history of horror film is full of adaptations that draw upon fiction or folklore, or have assumed the shape of remakes of preexisting films. From its earliest days, horror film has turned to examples of the horror genre in fiction (such as the Victorian Gothic) or legend (as diverse as classical mythology, biblical stories or the ‘The Golem’ from Yiddish folklore) for source

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Douglas Morrey and Alison Smith

as the sources chosen bring with them some unusually cumbersome cultural baggage. Suzanne Simonin, la Religieuse de Denis Diderot (1966) is an apparently straightforward adaptation of Diderot’s classic eighteenth-century novel that is a staple of French literature courses, but whose anti-clericalism was still powerful enough to provoke a scandal on the occasion of Rivette’s film treatment. Hurlevent (1985) adapts Emily

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Paradigms of metamorphosis and transmutation

Thomas Edison’s Frankenstein and John Barrymore’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Richard J. Hand

Two great works of fiction at opposite ends of the nineteenth century continue to be paradigms of horror with the concept of ‘adaptation’ at their heart: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus ( 1818 ) and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886). Both present mad scientists who experiment with adaptation in the sense of

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‘Our reaction was only human’

Monstrous becomings in Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers

Jay McRoy

1978 adaptations of Finney’s novel, no solitary or thoroughly convincing explanation for the events in Ferrara’s film emerges. Rather, viewers are left with multiple explanations that contradict, compliment, and erase one another. In other words, contrary to J. Hoberman’s contention that the ecologically charged, toxic waste story line is a ‘red herring’ (Hoberman, 1994 : 31), Ferrara’s film is a

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‘Everyone will suffer’

National identity and the spirit of subaltern vengeance in Nakata Hideo’s Ringu and Gore Verbinski’s The Ring

Linnie Blake

Seven (1960), whilst the perilous transportation of a politically significant princess, the central plot device of Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958), would be profitably transposed onto George Lucas’s Star Wars (1977). Such adaptations, of course, erased Japanese cultural specificity, whilst more liberal offerings such as John Boorman’s Hell in the Pacific (1968) mounted a doomed plea for

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Imperfect geometry

Identity and culture in Clive Barker’s ‘The Forbidden’ and Bernard Rose’s Candyman

Brigid Cherry

five of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood ( 1985 ) followed by a line of dialogue from the film Candyman (Bernard Rose: 1992), an adaptation of this story – provide a telling parallel to the spectatorial pleasures expressed in the third – a quote from a female horror fan with a particular love for Barker’s work. In terms of its aesthetics (and this is true of both written word and image), the horror

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The Gorgon

Adapting classical myth as Gothic romance

I.Q. Hunter

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 (1974). The Gorgon was Fisher’s first Hammer film since The Phantom of the Opera (1962) and his only film about a

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The unfilmable?

H. P. Lovecraft and the cinema

Julian Petley

Lovecraftian presence in films of the fantastic are thus multifarious and can be found across all its periods and to different degrees. However, direct adaptations of his stories are few indeed in number. It is more a matter of ambiance, notions, themes, indirect and indeed unfaithful adaptations, drawn from Lovecraft’s universe. From this angle, the makers of

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Painting the life out of her

Aesthetic integration and disintegration in Jean Epstein’s La Chute de la maison Usher

Guy Crucianelli

and motifs, Epstein’s adaptation draws from several of Poe’s works, allowing the director a wider assortment of narrative ideas upon which to perform his experiments. While the film adheres to the title story’s basic framework, it borrows generously from Poe’s ‘The Oval Portrait’, incorporating the latter story’s emphasis on the almost-supernatural powers of portraiture. The film also