Sunday, April 29, 2018
final girls and terrible places
I spent the whole of yesterday at a pop culture conference devoted entirely to slasher films, which made my ten year old self very filled with glee at the idea of an afternoon discussions about whether Sleepaway Camp is problematicly anti-trans, whether Nightmare on Elm Street sequels had actual scripts (at least one of them according to the producer most certainly did not) and general musing on the final girl trope. It got some gears turning on my exquisite damage project, which is working out to be memoir/ lyric essay-ish pieces about women and the gothic--mostly novels, but by extension, all of pop culture.
I started watching Sleepaway Camp again last night, probably haven't watched it in over a decade, and then only once since childhood, when we had a dubbed beta version that we nearly wore out on the player. That I made every girl who came to my fifth grade slumber party watch the entirely of, even though looking back, probably not really appropo for general audience 10 year olds. I was steeped in horror from infancy, so it wasn't even remotely scare for me, but I enjoyed the story and Angela as the outcast. Also that the characters, unlike Friday the 13th, where adults played the roles, were closer to my own age and therefore, duh, it was practically a kids movie. I think it was only displaced as my favorite horror film when we rented Nightmare on Elm Street later that year. Of course, my 10 year old self had no idea how bizarre that movie truly was from the creepy aunt to the pedophile cook to the twist at the end. It actually was doing things that went far beyond the genre conventions that Friday the 13th had set.
There was also some good discussion about whether or not it was scary or more satisfying to know the killer's motives in those films, or with something like It Follows, which is my fave from the past 5 years or so, to just be mysteriously evil. I also would not say that It Follows was scary in the way other films like The Ring and Insidious scared me, but more evoked this feeling of slow, inescapable dread (and also was fucking beautiful visually due to its Gregory Crewdson-esque cinematography) So much goes into making it work--the camera work, the script, the suspense, the set. Some movies excel in one of these, but fail in another. Hush was a good one, where you didn't really know much about the killer or his motives, but the sense of containment and suspense was spot-on. Everyone likes The Witch, but I watched it around the time I was binging episodes of Salem, so it was less-interesting for me and again, not scary. Or something like Get Out, mostly just scary because people in general and society is scary. (which was also why I like The Purge: Election Year a month or so back.)
I also was introduced to the phrase "the terrible place" which is usually a house or structure (or in The Witch) the woods, especially interesting s in light of thinking about the woods/forest in plump and what space signifies.