Returning to the Archaic Mother: Collet-Serra’s Orphan, Muschietti’s Mama, and Flanagan’s Oculus
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This chapter offers further commentary on the return of the archaic mother in the horror genre, examining the use of myth and fairy tale in Jaume Collet-Serra’s Orphan (2009), Andrés Muschietti’s Mama (2013), and Mike Flanagan’s Oculus (2014). It also serves as a bookend for chapter 1 in that it offers alternate mythic formulae through which the feminine might free itself from the fetters of the past and begin to redefine itself The films treated in this chapter take the focus off of the patriarchal line almost entirely, focusing instead on mothers and daughters and on mythic paradigms other than the oedipal drama. The earliest of the three films, Orphan offers the most pessimistic vision of the future of the nuclear family. As the title indicates, Orphan is linked to the Orpheus myth, but like the other films in this study, the myth has been rewritten to include a female protagonist and antagonist. While mother and daughter survive their struggle with an infernal antagonist, their ultimate fate remains highly uncertain in the end, and it is unclear if they will ever be free of the monstrous feminine fury she unleashed. Elements of myth and fairy tale are much more overt in Mama and Oculus, and perhaps it is this conscious return to origins that allows the later films to envision an alternate ending to the tragic struggle against patriarchal oppression.
KeywordsFairy Tale Symbolic Order Supernatural Force Female Protagonist Horror Film
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