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Darkness into Light: An Introduction to the Four Tissue Types of Horror Cinema

  • Larrie Dudenhoeffer
Chapter
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Abstract

What is so horrifying about horror films? A number of theorists attempt to answer this question in a number of different ways. Those who approach these films from a psychoanalytic standpoint, as does Robin Wood, for example, often draw attention to the relationship of the cinematic experience to such Freudian orthodoxies as the revelation of sexual, violent, or self-destructive desires in the unconscious that remain inadmissible to the ego’s self-concept; the repetition of certain traumas, such as the symbolic threat of castration, in order to master them; or the sense of the uncanny, of “something from ordinary life that is familiar, yet alien and frightening.”1 Wood writes that the viewer of a film sits in darkness, which invites a “switching off of consciousness,” so that the relaxation of its censorship functions can admit desires to “emerge in disguise,” as fantasies that only seem silly or trivial, “innocent or apparently meaningless.”2 He takes this analogy further so as to define horror films as “collective nightmares,” as reactions to unconscious desires that, in a culture that values family, monogamy, cisgender identification, and the redirection of surplus sexual energies, must appear as monstrous, disgusting, or criminal to the viewer.3 The monsters or villains in these films, according to Wood, represent “the return of the repressed,” in that they embody the sexual differences, racial or ethnic markers, ideological alternatives, or same-sex desires that might seem to their viewers abnormal, uncomfortable to think about, or even sinister.4

Keywords

Tissue Type Motion Sickness Narrative Structure Evil Spirit Horror Cinema 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Cynthia Freeland, “Explaining the Uncanny in The Double Life of Veronique,” in Horror Film and Psychoanalysis: Freud’s Worst Nightmare, ed. Stephen Jay Schneider (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 90.Google Scholar
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    Robin Wood, Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan…and Beyond (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 70.Google Scholar
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  4. 8.
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    Malcolm Turvey, “Philosophical Problems Concerning the Concept of Pleasure in Psychoanalytical Theories of (the Horror) Film,” in Horror Film and Psychoanalysis: Freud’s Worst Nightmare, ed. Stephen Jay Schneider (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 79.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, Mary B. Campbell, “Biological Alchemy and the Films of David Cronenberg,” in Planks of Reason: Essays on the Horror Film, ed. Barry Keith Grant and Christopher Sharrett (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004), 333–345Google Scholar
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  25. Becoming Visionary: Brian De Palma’s Cinematic Education of the Senses (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008); Kendall R. Phillips, Dark Directions: Romero, Craven, Carpenter, and the Modern Horror Film (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2012)Google Scholar
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  29. and Suzie Young, “Restorative and Destructive: Carpenter and Maternal Authority,” in The Cinema of John Carpenter: The Technique of Terror, ed. Ian Conrich and David Woods (London: Wallflower Press, 2004), 128–39.Google Scholar

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© Larrie Dudenhoeffer 2014

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  • Larrie Dudenhoeffer

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