This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explains generic and thematic adaptations in horror cinema from a wide range of aesthetic, cultural, political and theoretical perspectives. The history of horror film is full of adaptations that draw upon fiction or folklore, or have assumed the shape of remakes of pre-existing films. From its earliest days, horror film has turned to examples of the horror genre in fiction (such as the Victorian Gothic) or legend for source material. The book offers an insightful and timely investigation of adaptation in horror film as an increasingly trans-cultural activity. To account for why horror film narratives remain a consistently successful source for adaptations, be they generic or thematic, in horror cinema, one needs to consider horror's relation to the broad concept of myth.
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.
Several Australian films of the 1990s incorporate Gothic elements, and often exaggerate the irony, black humour and reflexive characteristics exhibited by Gothic films of the 1970s and 1980s. Death in Brunswick adopts the Gothic sensibility wholeheartedly in its blackly humorous portrait of individual inadequacy, family authority and racial tension. A superior rendition of formative experience, which combines the rite of passage with the Gothic and the period film, is found in Celia. Having been made with the assistance of the Australian Film Finance Corporation (AFFC), Death in Brunswick went on to become the second highest grossing Australian film at the home box office in 1991. Muriel's Wedding is centred in the rite of passage formal. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert extends the motifs of personal growth allied to travel seen in Muriel's Wedding by adhering closely to the road movie genre.
The factory-based drama series, Clocking Off, provided the BBC with an opportunity to return to its traditional strengths with a northern working-class drama intent on updating social realism for a new 'postmodern' television audience. The use of primary colours is one of the most distinctive features of Clocking Off and one of the several ways in which it 'updates' social realism for a new audience. Like the camerawork, editing and production design, the music in Clocking Off is designed to enhance the vibrancy and vitality of the drama. It provides an example of the way in which the series reworks and updates social realism for the twenty-first century. A concession to postmodernity in Clocking Off was the introduction of a number of stylistic changes which differentiate the series from its more sombre and sometimes pedantic social realist predecessors.
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.
This chapter looks at the apparent simplicities of the situation comedy, comparing some 'classic' 1960s and 1970s British sitcoms with a more recent example, The Office. It aims to clarify the relationship of narrative form to ideological and historical content. The chapter focuses on the question of linear narrative development in sitcom: a vexed question in a genre that has traditionally been marked by, and has indeed in important respects relied on, a distinctive episodic circularity. By comparison with other forms of popular television drama, and notwithstanding its eternal popularity with programmers and audiences, sitcom remains notably underdiscussed. The fine line between humour and grim psychological realism trod by Alan Simpson's Steptoe and Son's comedy of frustration and entrapment was seized upon by critics as a means of redeeming the series from sitcom status.
Recursive and self-reflexive patterns in David Cronenberg’s Videodrome and eXistenZ
In an overview of David Cronenberg's career, the author has deliberately chosen Videodrome and eXistenZ as crucial turning points for several reasons. Both films share a host of thematic interests that extend beyond the scope of authorial consistency most critics are willing grant all of Cronenberg's films, even those not based on an original script by Cronenberg himself. David Thomson singles out Videodrome when he argues for the emergence of a self-reflexive turn in Cronenberg's films. Having appeared in brief cameos in directors' films, Cronenberg established a public persona in 1999 when he served a term as president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival. It was a form of public recognition unthinkable for the man who had been dubbed the 'King of venereal horror' and 'Baron of blood' in the early years of his career.
Aesthetic integration and disintegration in Jean Epstein’s La Chute de la maison Usher
Adapted from Edgar Allan Poe's story, 'The Fall of the House of Usher', Jean Epstein's 1928 film La Chute de la maison Usher incorporates nearly all the major avant-garde trends of the previous one hundred years. It also interprets them through an early twentieth-century modernist sensibility. Ultimately, the film is a sort of cryptic and anachronistic palimpsest whose modernist tendencies exist specifically in this blending and integration of a variety of aesthetic attitudes at the service of purely formalist concerns. Epstein's theories, with their conflation of 'poetic and scientific language', would greatly influence French avant-garde cinema and Impressionist cinematic theory, in particular. The entire sequence of the film is a meticulously orchestrated progression of cinematic effects, with multiple exposures, abstract imagery, slow-motion photography and dramatic camerawork. They all operate in conjunction with the melodramatic movements of the actors to create a textured imitation of dazed mourning and grief.
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. They are Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus and Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Both present mad scientists who experiment with adaptation in the sense of metamorphosis and transmutation. This chapter looks at the Thomas Edison Company's Frankenstein and John S. Robertson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, two intrinsically 'melodramatic' adaptations that nonetheless resonate profoundly over the subsequent legacy of popular horror culture. Film adaptations of Frankenstein would remain as the Edison studios pioneered: a monstrous adaptation reliant upon special effects for an explicit creation sequence with an actor beneath extreme make-up at its conclusion. John Barrymore was already a legendary stage actor by the time he appeared in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Terry Gilliam was drawn to Watchmen, with its dark overtones and caustic take on American dreams, as well as its ambitious scope, making it for him 'the War and Peace of comic books'. Gilliam joked that The Fisher King was his 'selling out' film. The film had another distinction: few filmmakers are involved in hits based on the legend of the Holy Grail; The Fisher King made Gilliam perhaps the only individual to have performed the feat twice. The Fisher King offers a diagnosis of the soul's scurvy. The screenplay casts a critical eye over the egotism and vacuous materialism of contemporary America, depicting and denouncing that society as a sterile wasteland, lorded over by indulgent, vicious, morally corrupt and emotionally unaware elites.