Selective Viewing

An exploration of film, video and other media by Kate Blair

Category: horror

Sex, love, and violence: the allure of the vampire film


The vampire genre is one of the classic strands of horror, reaching from the silent era to the present. These movies cover a wide spectrum of styles, from comedy-camp to blood-soaked gorefest. While almost all horror genres have gotten the arthouse treatment at some point, vampire films seem to lend themselves particularly well to stylized direction. Vampires films are the dreams of humanity, directly transcribed to the screen.

Vampires are in the middle of a pop-culture heyday, with the Twilight series recently in theaters and HBO’s TrueBlood, which just finished its 7-season run. Everyone likes a vampire flick. Vampires are sexy. They live forever without aging, as many people wish they could. Their human source of sustenance makes their morality indeterminate. Subsisting solely on blood makes them gaunt, like heroine-addicted rock stars. All the variables in vampire lore make these not-quite-human but not-entirely-inhuman creatures a perfect metaphor for many different themes. These five vampire movies make the most of what the genre has to offer and really give viewers something to chew over, so to speak.  Read the rest of this entry »

B-Movie Television: the Feminist Frontier (Part 2)


A completely unrelated, but relevant B-movie poster of a movie I haven’t actually seen (dir. Lew Landers, 1938)

I ended my last post by saying that commercial cinema is failing women. Allow me to reiterate: As it exists now, the film industry is a betting game, and studios just don’t seem to be banking on women in creative roles, despite the fact that we still make up about half of the audience. Why not? There are many reasons. However, in my last post I argued the disparity may have something to do with attributing so much of a film’s worth to just one individual. In an ideal world, this recognition wouldn’t hold anyone back. But when producers need to make a return on investment, it may be pure sexism that guides their decision to fund one project over another.

In a now roughly 4-year-old article, the often contentious (I mean that as a compliment) Manohla Dargis bemoaned the lack of women in the industry. In the article, she notes how a box office failure doesn’t necessarily spell out the end for a male director. But for a woman, it can potentially wreck a career. Studios appear to be more forgiving to male directors – male auteurs, rather – who have a vision. However, the Hollywood machine doesn’t grant visionary women the same benefit of the doubt.  Read the rest of this entry »

Seeing with the Ear: Mediations Seeing with the ear: Meditations on the use of sound in the films of Dario Argento

Seeing with the Ear: Mediations Seeing with the ear: Meditations on the use of sound in the films of Dario Argento

Check it out: I wrote a piece for CURNBLOG, where I’ll be contributing from time to time. While you’re there, be sure to take a look at the work of the many other talented contributors. 

Review – Gravity (dir. Alfonso Cuarón, 2013)

Gravity Cuaron

How budget and CGI allowed Alfonso Cuarón to reinvent the filmgoing experience.

With Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón finds a perfect setting in which to utilize his love of sweeping camera movements and long takes. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), with it’s otherworldly rules, gave Cuarón a chance to stretch his wings a bit. When Harry hops on his broomstick and hurdles into the air, you can tell the director is enjoying the freedom of green screen and budgeting that allow him to lift off the ground. In Children of Men (2006), Cuarón once again favored camera fluidity, emphasizing the vast amounts of rubbled space in a childless future. The technique also creates a feeling of continuous action, providing an alternative to the rapid editing techniques over-used in action films. Here, harnessing a jaw-dropping environment unlike any other, he lets his instincts run wild. Read the rest of this entry »

The devil is a woman

Sex, women and demonic possession

There is an odd feminist strain running through horror movies about the devil. These films aren’t just about the Beast encroaching on the (usually female) body, but often examine human systems as well. The evil forces oppressing the central woman’s physiognomy are paralleled with the traditionally patriarchal structures of western medicinal practices and religion. Not surprisingly, most of the films under discussion here were made during a time when a woman’s choices during pregnancy were limited, or when government control over her body was a not-too-distant memory. Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanksi, 1968) was released in a time when abortion was still illegal in most states. The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) and Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976) came out in the wake of the landmark Roe Vs. Wade case that legalized abortion in Jan. 1973. Even today, women are not safe from legislations that would determine what they can and cannot do when faced with an unwanted pregnancy.

Carrie movie

Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976)

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Slasher movies: some rules of the game

Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the formation of genre rules

A cannibal family dinner in Texas Chainsaw Massacre

A cannibal family dinner in Texas Chainsaw Massacre

As I was watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) for the first time, it reminded me of Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left (1972). What is ominous about both these movies is how intimate the terrorized victims become with their killers. Subsequently, the viewer also becomes familiar with them. This differs dramatically from a film like Halloween (1978), where Michael Myers/the Shape terrifies because he is an entity of pure evil, remaining unseen until it’s too late.

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