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Stuart Hanscomb

This article explores the relationship between existentialism and the horror genre. Noël Carroll and others have proposed that horror monsters defy established categories. Carroll also argues that the emotion they provoke - 'art-horror' - is a 'composite' of fear and disgust. I argue that the sometimes horrifying images and metaphors of Sartre's early philosophy, which correlate with nausea and anxiety, have a non-coincidental commonality with art-horror explained by existentialism's preoccupation with the interstitial nature of the self. Further, it is argued that, as with some of the more sophisticated examples of the horror genre, the way for existential protagonists like Roquentin and Gregor Samsa to meet the challenge of the horrifying involves an accommodation of these features of the existential condition within their developing identity, which results in them appearing monstrous to others. Lastly, it is claimed that the association between existentialism and art-horror can explain the (paradoxical) appeal of horror.

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Acoustic Startles in Horror Films

A Neurofilmological Approach

Valerio Sbravatti

The acoustic blast is one of the most recurrent sound devices in horror cinema. It is designed to elicit the startle response from the audience, and thus gives them a “jump scare.” It can occur both in the form of a diegetic bang and in the form of a nondiegetic stinger (i.e., a musical blare provided by the score). In this article, I will advance the hypothesis that silence plays a crucial role in contemporary horror films, both perceptually, since it leaves the sound field free for the acoustic blast, and cognitively, since it posits the audience in an aversive anticipatory state that makes the startle more intense. I will analyze the acoustic startle using a neurofilmological approach, which takes into account findings from experimental sciences in order to better understand the relationship between physiological and psychological factors that make such an effect possible during the filmic experience.

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‘Loving and Cruel, All at the Same Time’

Girlhood Identity in The Craft

Emily Chandler

The teen horror film The Craft (1996) has remained a cult classic with girl audiences for two decades. Scholarship about the film has focused on its negative representation of girls’ friendships, sexuality, and desire for power. In this article, I honor the significance of girl culture by accounting for The Craft’s appeal to girl audiences. I argue that The Craft’s relevance to girls arises from its subversion of teen film tropes. The Craft explores adolescent girls’ fear of isolation by depicting a mentally ill teenager who draws strength and happiness from the company of her friends, and becomes depressed when they oust her. By flouting the imperative for adolescent girl protagonists to be white, middle-class, mentally healthy, and normatively bodied, The Craft portrays girls’ desire for understanding over the pursuit of so-called popularity, girls’ anger arising from marginalization, and girls’ exploiting of friendship as a weapon.

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Steve Jones

Both the slasher movie and its more recent counterpart the “torture porn“ film centralize graphic depictions of violence. This article inspects the nature of these portrayals by examining a motif commonly found in the cinema of homicide, dubbed here the “pure moment of murder“: that is, the moment in which two characters' bodies adjoin onscreen in an instance of graphic violence. By exploring a number of these incidents (and their various modes of representation) in American horror films ranging from Psycho (1960) to Saw VI (2009), the article aims to expound how these images of slaughter demonstrate (albeit in an augmented, hyperbolic manner) a number of long-standing problems surrounding selfhood that continue to fuel philosophical discussion. The article argues that the visual adjoining of victim and killer onscreen echoes the conundrum that in order to attain identity, the individual requires and yet simultaneously repudiates the Other.

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Eric S. Rabkin

Frankenstein and Dracula represent two different genres in print but only one in film. The emergence of science fiction from the Gothic exemplifies normal public genre development. The translation of the written Frankenstein and Dracula into film exemplifies genre development as an adaptation both to historical moment and to medium. In both the print and film cases, we can see the same mechanisms by which a genre is not only established in the public sphere but in the mind of a reader or viewer, a dialectic process in which the genre forms and informs reading and viewing and potentially, as a genre, is reformed by reading and viewing. Consideration of cognitive mechanisms involved in verbal and visual cognition shows both the interaction and the typical dominance of the visual, although genre, and hence individual works, can be modified by increasing our focus on the verbal.

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The Complete Story of the Galveston Horror

Trauma, History, and the Great Storm of 1900

Andy Horowitz

This article considers the lurid accounts of looting and lynching that circulated after the 1900 Galveston, Texas, hurricane, the deadliest storm in United States history. Previous accounts of the flood have tended to ignore or subsume these stories in narratives of heroic recovery and progress. But Galvestonians' fantasies of racial violence suggest that the specific catastrophe of the flood was part of the ongoing disaster of racial terror in Texas at the turn of the twentieth century. Understanding disaster as a chronic human process rather than an acute wound from nature reveals that, instead of allowing white Galvestonians to transcend their history of violence against African Americans, the storm seemed to authorize them to further enact and reenact the imposition of suffering.

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Gary Taylor

This article proposes that Q1 Hamlet is best understood as an early Gothic tragedy. It connects Catherine Belsey’s work on Shakespeare’s indebtedness to ‘old wives’ tales’ and ‘winter’s tales’ about ghosts with Terri Bourus’s evidence of Q1’s connections to Stratford-upon-Avon, the 1580s, and the beginnings of Shakespeare’s London career. It conducts a systematic lexical investigation of Q1’s Scene 14 (not present in Q2 or F), showing that the scene’s language is indisputably Shakespearian. It connects the dramaturgy of Q1 to the dramaturgy of Titus Andronicus, particularly in terms of issues about the staging of violence, previously explored by Stanley Wells. It also shows that Titus and Q1 Hamlet share an unusual interest in the barbarity and vengefulness of Gothic Europe (including Denmark and Norway).

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Rikke Schubart

Looking at television series True Blood (2008-), The Vampire Diaries (2009-), and The Walking Dead (2010-), this article analyzes positive emotions in horror: the sexual emotions, trust, and hope. The article starts by substituting the positive-negative dichotomy of emotions with seeing emotions as coming in a “package“ (Solomon) and having a “story“ (Frijda), thus working together and not in opposition. It goes on to discuss the interaction of predation and sex in True Blood, torture and trust in The Vampire Diaries, and disgust, despair, and hope in The Walking Dead. The article then considers horror emotions, positive and negative, from a functional and evolutionary perspective. Comparing horror to play fighting and fiction to the pretend of play, the article suggests four reasons why horror is attractive: we learn to feel emotions (sensation), to react to emotions (evaluation), control our emotions (action tendency in the here-and-now), and to experiment (action tendency and planning for what comes next).

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“Huns” and Other “Barbarians”

A Movie Ban and the Dilemmas of 1920s German Propaganda against French Colonial Troops

Julia Roos

In the early 1920s, Germany orchestrated an international propaganda campaign against colonial French troops stationed in the Rhineland that used the racist epithet “black horror on the Rhine,” and focused on claims of widespread sexual violence against innocent Rhenish maidens by African French soldiers, in order to discredit the Versailles Treaty. I argue that black horror propaganda fused elements of Allied propaganda—especially images of the barbaric “Hun”—with Germany's own wartime propaganda against colonial Allied troops. I use the significant film against colonial soldiers, Die schwarze Schmach (The Black Shame, 1921), to highlight the tensions and pitfalls of the German propagandistic strategy. As the debates over the film illustrate, black horror propaganda often had the effect of reminding audiences of German war crimes rather than diverting attention away from them. The ultimate ban of Die schwarze Schmach demonstrates the complex political nature of the 1920s backlash against atrocity propaganda.

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Christopher Blake Evernden, Cynthia A. Freeland, Thomas Schatz and Frank P. Tomasulo

Rikke Schubart, Mastering Fear: Women, Emotions, and Contemporary Horror (New York: Bloomsbury, 2018), 384 pp., $117 (hardback), ISBN: 9781501336713.

Xavier Aldana Reyes, Horror Film and Affect: Towards a Corporeal Model of Viewership (New York: Routledge, 2016), xii + 206 pp., $49.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9781138599611.

David Bordwell, Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 592 pp., $30.00 (paperback), ISBN: 9780226639550.

Todd Berliner, Hollywood Aesthetic: Pleasure in American Cinema (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 320 pp., $39.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9780190658755.