The new movie The Conjuring has been called "scary as hell" and "the summer's scariest movie"—it's so frightening, in fact, that it earned an R rating despite an absence of any explicit violence, sex, gore, or foul language. According to star Patrick Wilson, the film gave the ratings board a case of the willies that was simply too intense for a mere PG-13.
Today's entry marks the first official selection of the horror genre. It isn't my intention to project ill will toward familial bonding the Friday after Thanksgiving, as I'm having a fine time with my partner and parents. However, maybe this post will entertain those waking from food comas or folks heading back home.
I'm a recent convert to horror movies. I started my master's program in media studies four years ago dead against them. Apart from being an easy scare, I was convinced as an avowed feminist that there was nothing salvageable about such a violent genre. I was quickly put in my place by some members of my cohort, whose feminist identity was defined in part because of their horror film fandom. My appreciation began with reading portions of film studies professor Carol J. Clover's Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. I learned a great deal from her theorization of the archetypal Final Girl, a smart, resilient, often androgynous protagonist with feminist potential for whom Halloween's Laurie Strode serves as an exemplar. A smart commenter brought up the Final Girl in my recent post on Catherine Breillat's Fat Girl. The influence of Clover's ground-breaking book continues to be felt in the academy, and insinuates itself in movies like Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. I continue to be inspired and challenged by commentary from sites like Dark Room and Fangirltastic.
Another important aspect of horror movies that needs more critical inquiry is the foregrounding of female homosocial bonding. Recent releases star groups of women engaging in physically exhausting or extreme activities. British writer-director Neil Marshall's 2005 feature The Descent focuses on six women who go spelunking in an unmapped cave system in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.