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Dissertation on Intertextual Messages of Horror Movies

Info: 10628 words (43 pages) Dissertation
Published: 11th Nov 2021

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Tagged: Film StudiesMedia



In my thesis I will examine the tradition of horror, slasher movies remakes, spin-offs, etc  to analyze them from the “continuum” perspective in reference to the whole “genre”, its approaches, style, limitation and structure, rather then addressing each film as individual. Outlining the different intertextual messages these films, or range of films convey, through several remarkable examples. Textual traditions are often understood as a range of distinctively different units as individual texts with a claim to being perceived as unique.[1]  However, in practice, these separated texts, or snippets from the whole “text” are rarely self-contained and perceived as individual, rather, they are connected to the other texts and can often be a part of different series or groupings. [2] These multiplicities take on a number of forms, which, while remaining distinct (at least, from classification perspective), are hardly unique or exclusive. These are various remakes, sequels, spin-offs, adaptations, etc. Cinema has always depended on these multiplicities, one can argue, profit-wise, for the remake it self has an already established audience and that rather then promoting individual films emphasizing their unique value.[3] The reuse, reconfiguration, extension of existing resources, materials, motifs, etc is part of a model of supporting the economies of scale upon which the film and television industries rely on, heavily.[4]  The connection between texts becomes a crucial aspect of media consumption as it links texts to one another and  afford an opportunity for experiencing aesthetic enjoyment in its complex forms (coined as “trans-textual”).[5]

This dependence connected all forms of media – including cinema, television, and the Internet; their individual rich multiplicities, on the other hand, have been anticipated in earlier periods of production strategies.[6]  For example, In the Middle Ages, the constituting “matters” was corpus of interconnected texts that were defined by the general unified subject. [7] “The matter of Britain” was depicting King Arthur, and the history of his kingdom, supplying generations of poets and prose writers with opportunities for linked intervention and extension, recontextualization, etc.[8] Medieval Arthurian matter can be considered a vast cycle of tales that repeat, revise, and reformulate etc. and remained productive for several centuries. [9]

The “new” and “old” discourse answers industries needs for regularity of income, in order to maintain, and originality, in a sense of attraction, to satisfy viewers’ desire of unseen. Therefore, introducing certain productive capacity to genres can help satisfy this contradictory need. [10] It is obvious, that every genre has somehow lost sight of the so-called “Original Object,” which pattern was repeated through time until its origin was no longer clear. [11]This leads to an idea that a genre could only exist as so-called “trans-individual” concept, culturally, or as a language, in other words, and is capable of producing an infinite amount of “never heard before” statements. [12]A “new” text replaces and yet can not replace what the previous, or what came before. These forms of multiplicity fluctuate the original by emphasizing its incompleteness, by announcing that there is a “more”. There is a desire for continuation or repetition that the original can no longer satisfy. [13] The original text, at the same time, is acting as a legitimizing foundation for the other texts to follow. Thus, the deriving texts can only be properly digested and valued through being acknowledged of the connections to what came before. [14]

Meaning in film comes out of and interpreted through multiple interaction of various modalities that include images, sounds, various gestures, camera effects, etc.,[15]  which are lined together by means of film editing in a chronological, linear order. The interplay and correlation of these modalities results in a narrative text. In order toto comprehend and interpret it, one is required to take an active participation in the process. [16] The change in time and space is controlled and set to continually produce meaningful sequences which are to be analyzed during their progression. [17] This analysis is dynamic and progressive in nature. The main idea is to find links between filmic devices and to construct the unfolding discourse structure of the text. Thus, film interpretation is an active process of relational meaning-making and inferring its content in terms of assumptions and hypotheses, which the person who analyzes makes according to concrete cues within the text. [18]

Looking at film as text is setting a new direction for investigating the spaces between general approaches to film analyses and meaning-making principles in multimodal texts from the side of modern linguistic analysis. [19] During the last decade numerous traditional semioticians involved in film analyses were trying to define decoding mechanisms by finding and channeling connections and analogies between film and language. Contemporary linguistics, and discourse semantics specifically, saw new methods and approaches which led to the possibility of revision and re-adoption of how the film characteristics are being examine, in the similar vein as language on the text level.[20]The main point of interest is a proper description of the inference processes that need to be operated during the interpretation of film as a narrative text.

These mechanisms are set to guide and prompt the recipient, thus affecting and constraining person’s inferences within the interpretation of the narration,  which, in modern linguistic accounts, are defined as central mechanisms of textuality. [21]This is the point of contact between the cognitive approaches to film analysis and the linguistic analyses of its meaning-making strategies. [22] Making it possible to point out exactly how meaning in film can be pursued and constructed.

Since its early beginning, film theory was dealing with the notion of film as text and it was pursued from this perspective. [23]It was always of central interests in film analysis to search for meaningful connections between filmic devices and systematically outline these connections. [24] Literary approaches often served as a basis for examinations of film’s narrative with the primary source for the comparison between film and text has been, and still is, the general structural composition of the film. [25] The final significance of the film is in the way the elements are order much more than in their objective content. That is where the substance of the narrative is derived from – relationships between those elements, no matter how realistic is the individual image.[26]

For this reason, in order to analyze the ability of film to create coherence in time and space, the questions on how montage and composition of film work in general has always been put forward and considered as significant. [27]This very idea of the film and text, or language of the text, sharing comparable and relevant elements is considered to be one of the more innovative assumptions of film theory followed and investigated for years. [28] Following this route, early theorist of film, notably Pudovkin in 1926 and Eisenstein in 1949 were trying to apply basic linguistic methods (e.g. syntactic structure) to film structure, to illustrate and/or establish logical relations in the shot structure. From other examples, Tseng (in 2009 and 2013) contained a short summary of Russian formalist work in this direction. [29]

Nevertheless, they also feature basic qualities of traditional verbal texts. Gunther Kress, for example, outlines the following attributes built-in multimodal texts, in general. He defines text as a “multimodal semiotic entity” that is seen “having completeness” only by those who engage with it. The sense of completeness comes from understanding of the specific social action or event in which it was produced, in which it functions, or which it has references to. According to Kress, the text has features of internal and external cohesion and, as an integrated meaning-entity, of coherence.[30]

Thus, a meaningfully structured, some what concrete definition of film as perceived from the perspective of a multinodal text can be drawn. It is a dynamic, but formally confined artefact in chronological, linear order. It might contain various correlation within the contexts, base itself on the intertextual references to other text types and produce communicative variations.[31]

Both definitions point out the qualities of coherence and structure, that are perceived as crucial basis for the film interpretation.[32] This goes back to the generally accepted postulate that coherence in discourse is a precondition and its absence will certainly lead to a misunderstanding of the meaning of any text.[33]

This accounts as well for filmic meaning, that is usually based around the viewers’ knowledge of the world, in general, and also linked to the context and is needed to be activated during the process of interpretation. [34] The way the meaning is expressed today is a familiar route for the film viewer, who have a basic idea of how the films are created. It can therefore be assumed that there is a general ability for film understanding, which, as has been suggested in the analysis above, functions in great part similarly to the understanding of verbal texts. [35]

Text interpretation, both for verbal and filmic discourses, is an interactive process to activate and make sense of meanings within which the viewer is trying to establish links between various entities. [36] Following the tracks back historically, Aristotle envisioned text connection and coherence through relationships between its clauses. For him, the meaning of relations is covered in properties that are characterised by causing connections. Therefore, in order to generate a coherent text one has to deal with the overall relatedness of discourse which hold the text.[37]

film analysis and interpretation is based around inferential reasoning combining the content of the film, the events that take place in the story, their functional and social connection within the context of the film, participants involved, etc. [38]In reasoning about the discursive relationships which maintain these principles, the viewer is trying to find various interconnected circumstances in the film and its story.[39]

Exploring the dynamic of the viewer’s prediction of film’s meaning, from the perspective of the fundamental narrative is indeed relative in the context [40] In order to relate the fabula (which is the actual representation of the film’s story inferred by as a cognitive construct)to the plot, the articulation of story events by montage and cuts in a film, the recipient constructs certain patterns among those events. These are the patterns of time and space as well as the narrative logic.[41]Mainly the pattern of time plays a central role in film, since the filmic content unfolds in temporal succession and, at the same time, the film as a medium is played linearly in narrative time. [42] Spatial information is often additionally provided, for example is described visually by depicting the setting, etc, or giving, citing specific location. This information represents the fabula in a “spatial frame of reference, however vague or abstract”. [43] Finally, the narrative logic explores relations among the events which are primarily causal or feature more abstract, comparative principles.[44] Thus, the narrative can be defined as discursive phenomenon which is used to organize segments of the film (or discourse, in general) to provide meaningful unfolding. [45]

Chapter 1: Memes and Misogyny

“Meme” the meme, as a term, was first used by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. [46] He defined “meme” as a cultural unit to transmit data that spreads between people by means of copying or imitation. He was trying, in a larger scale, to apply evolutionary theory to cultural change and used genes as analogy. [47] Dawkins further illustrates the concept through various examples of memes such as catchphrases, Melodies, outfit fashion, and other cultural artifacts, as well as various abstract and religious beliefs. [48]He suggested memes to act as replicators, similarly to genes. Thus, these, as we know from the genes analogy, are subjects to selection, variation, competition, and retention.[49] Memes are constantly fighting for the attention of hosts. Those fitting the particular social and cultural environment is spreading successfully, while the others drop out. [50]It was also cited that certain groups of co-adaptive memes tend to be replicated together – strengthening each other in the process. Dawkins called such groups “co-adaptive meme complexes”.

The word “meme” derives from the Greek mimema, meaning “something which is imitated,”. Dawkins’ version shortens it in the same vein as “gene.” Nearly a century before it, Ewald Hering, Austrian sociologist, used the term “die Mneme” (from the Greek mneme, meaning memory), which was used by Richard Semon, German biologist, who used it for the title of his book in 1904. [51]Unaware of this existing terminology, ironically, Dawkins’s “imitation” version proved to be successful as his concept survived and developed in the scientific world. [52]

More than a decades in existence, memetics—described by Francis Heylighen and Klaas Chielens as “the theoretical and empirical science that studies the replication, spread and evolution of memes” – operated as an active research program in 1990s and enlisted a vast number of scientists from different fields.[53] Important contributions on this way included those from the influential philosophers as Douglas Hofstadter, Daniel C. Dennett, etc, the creation of the Journal of Memetics in 1997 and its publication until 2005, and the publication of several meme-oriented books. Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine from 1999 remain the most disputed one, as well as, arguably being the most influential. [54]

Since it first emerged, memetics has drawn several discussions. Two controversies surrounding memes – one of these is based around likening memes to genes and viruses, in order to explain their mechanics. [55] It suggests meme to operate the same way as disease agents. It considers memes as the cultural equivalents of flu bacilli, from epidemiological perspective. With it being transmitted through the communicational equivalents of sneezes.[56] In Internet culture, this metaphor is spread in the highly visible discourse on viral content. It was asserted the metaphor to be used in a negative way. It was believed to envision people as helpless and passive creatures, who are unable to sustain the domination of so-called media “snacks” that intoxicate their minds. [57]

The other metaphor for memes – derived from Dawkins’s own work – takes evolutionary genetics as its model. Some works, though, have taken this analogy too far, in seeking cultural parallels and connection between memes and various evolutionary concepts as genotype, phenotype, transcription, etc. [58] This idea was criticized due to “oversimplification” of the human behavior that were obvious due to the way memes behave.[59] Indeed, it is not necessary to think of biology when analyzing memes. Memes main aspects and ideas of replication, adaptation to a certain environment can be analyzed from a purely sociocultural perspective. [60]

The second fundamental controversy in memetics, relates to the human participation in the process of meme transition and diffusion, suggesting to envision people as actors behind the process of cultural transmission, rather then the vectors of the process. [61] Therefore, the distribution of memes is based around intention of agents that posses decision-making powers. [62]

Therefore, “meme” can also be defined as memory which has a potential to be transferred and is transferred. It may involve transfer from person to person or though various mediums, such as books, recordings, digital media means, etc. So it is similar to the replicator, in it principles. It can occur in two forms – as a direct copy, or replication, or through the transmission to the brain, other brain, etc. Within the brain, replication may occur through direct contact with other neurons and conferring the memory to them, or through reinforcement of the memory within the neuron which results in increased potential for the meme to reach consciousness and thus to be broadcasted or transmitted to other brains or media. [63]Another crucial side of Memes is that they need not be consciously transferred to be spread effectively, or in any way at all. Imitation is an example in which memes are created by simple observation. Such memes created through imitation may be either transmitted consciously in language or transmitted nonverbally through imitation by others. The critical point here is that the imitated behaviour is remembered and, therefore, has a potential to be further transferred. Here is a quick example of such process. Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital, and gave rise to the communismmeme. It spreader from brain to brain, resulting in the meme taking over the governing structures of many countries during the twentieth century. It also evolved differently in different locations, so that the communisms practiced in different countries, e.g., Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Hungary, were very different. [64]The complex memeplex that is communism consisted of many memes, or sets/ divisions of memes, including ideas concerning economics, equality, labor, profit, collectivism, universalism, nationalism, etc. [65]

It is worth noticing that various ideas inside this memeplex are of contradictory nature, on the other hand, other, reinforce each other. Thus, the complex can be replicated in various forms according to the context, adapting to it, while maintaining some elements of the original meme. Various structures and formations, such as political and religious organizations reinforce the memes, and schools and institutions replicate themselves in fresh brains. [66] Memes have been compared to a virus, which can replicate itself only when it finds a suitable cell for the task. Memes are more like prions. Once a prion is in contact with a suitable protein, it changes the configuration of the existing protein, which, in turn, changes the configuration of an adjacent protein. So does an infected brain change adjacent brains through communication. [67] With the information age, memes have acquired the means of self-replication, thus no longer need brains to be actualized or copied.

Misogyny is another type of meme entirely. The women’s movement and the quest for equality has a significantly larger historical footprint, and the ideal of gender equality had gained adequate acceptance to render it comparatively less controversial or revolutionary in mainstream Western/American public discourses and ideology.[68] The reality, is that gender equality still remains more an ideal than a fully practiced norm. Although certainly more progressive, particularly in the public and professional domains, than in other world, gender tensions and anxieties still exist, only much of the resentment and frustrations appear to have been driven in uneven directions.[69]

Although Hollywood has a tendency to consider itself a liberal industry, scholarly studies of mainstream Hollywood film in general, and horror film in particular, tend to stress chauvinism and misogyny that continues to accompany most cinematic narratives and thematic content.[70] It can be envision on the examples of certain sub-genres of Hollywood horror, in which the notion of the monstrous feminine and the connection of femininity with otherness, with destructive forces, etc are shown at best. This, by the way, is true for the ghosts in many Hollywood films. [71]

In The Uninvited, the supernatural forces and their victim are all female: Stella, the victim, is haunted by her mother’s ghost and terrorized by the ghost of her father’s mistress. The film’s male hero saves Stella after exorcizing the ghosts. [72]The House on Haunted Hill’s main villain is the manipulative and murderous Annabelle, who is discovered and defeated by her intended male victim. The Tormented’s human villain, Tom, is matched against the ghostly Vi, whose relentless romantic pursuit of Tom takes on supernatural and demonic dimensions. [73]In The Haunting, the supernatural events center around the haunted Hill House’s dead mistress and Nell, a mentally vulnerable young woman staying at the mansion. Moreover, The ghosts of the Blair Witch and the murdered mistress in What Lies Beneath continue Hollywood’s equation of evil and horror with the feminine. [74]

Historically, after WWII, many women were forced to leave jobs the’ve taken during the time American men were fighting on the front. One can argue those tendencies to have then proceeded with second-wave feminism movements that had peaked in 1960s and continued till 1990s that might as well contributed to the depiction of the monstrous females in a wide range of horrors like Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960), David Cronenberg’s Rabid (1977) and The Brood (1979), and the sci-fi horror series Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979; James Cameron, 1986; David Fincher, 1992; Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997). [75]

In all of these films, the terrifying nature of the feminine is based around two main principles. The first is female sexuality, which most of the time is depicted as avid and uncontainable, usually channeling some disgust on the way. The second one is certain representations of maternity that are envisioned, or presented as monstrous because they operate without the contribution and managing from the side of the male paternal. These sides and aspects female threat and monstrosity have remained popular elements of terror in Hollywood horror film and continue to structure the American horror remakes.

On the other, hand, Japan, which we are going to discuss further in the work, due to it’s contribution to the phenomena of horror and, eventually, being involved in various remakes, both local and international, has similar misogynistic traditions throughout the history of film. Moreover, the patriarchal values, are endured also through the influence of Western notions of gender equality, that assume views of female submission to male.

References to women who work outside the home continue to evoke stereotypes of the Japanese tea girl and office lady, women who are hired by Japanese companies essentially to serve tea and perform largely menial tasks that support their male coworkers and ‘decorate’ the office environment with their youth and beauty. [76] A perspective that takes its roots from Confucian beliefs that shaped the hierarchies and relationships at familial and state levels during the Tokugawa/Edo era (1603–1868). Confucianism, which has a significant impact on the ideological and social foundations of Japan, as well as many other Asian cultures in the twenty-first century remain highly conservative and intensely hierarchical male-dominated society. [77] According to the Confucian thought, women were subordinate to man. There were also obliged to serve and obey their men. This notions supported by the belief that male were protecting, defending and guiding them. Though, it also meant that men had to unsure women’s well-being and protection. If a ruler, a father do not fulfill their duties the way he is supposed to, or they abuse their power which leads to the collapse of ritual property and causes social disorder and political chaos, the teaching states that is allowed and even necessary for the subordinates to rise against these authority figures, in order to reestablish the order. This perspective is clearly dramatized in the popular historical Japanese narratives of female onryō. [78]

In contemporary Japan, though, the traditional vision on gender equality is being argued by the new generation of women who are not willing to follow the idealized gender roles and behavior models. From 1970s, an increasing number of women entered workplace rejecting to obey the traditional identities. In 1990s, though, Japan public was concerned about growing number of high-school girls’ engagement in part-time prostitution and the phenomenon of young-adult Japanese women traveling to the West with the planned intention of engaging in sex with ‘foreigners’.[79] This led to a public debate playing out in the media and in Japanese popular culture in general with women becoming increasingly other, unreachable, having demonic qualities in contemporary Japanese cinema and fantasy literature as well as horror films. [80]

Chapter 2: Parody and Pastiche

Parody derived from the Ancient Greek parodia, parody has accumulated a range of differing meanings in its long history. [81] It is generally used as the generic term for a range of related cultural practices, all of which are imitative of other cultural forms, with varying degrees of mockery or humour. [82] In Greek and then Latin usage, parodia signified a specific form of mock poetry or ode, which used the manner and diction of the high forms and applied them to a trivial topic. [83]But it also uses a more widespread and more neutral practice of quotation. In neoclassical usage (about seventeenth and eighteenth centuries), parody could mean no more than an extended allusion to another writer included in a longer work. [84] The predominant modern usage defines parody as a mocking imitation, which seeks, first – to a more neutral or neoclassical usage in which the element of mockery would be absent – in which case parody would be more like the practice of imitation. The second, to reconnect it with the fully comic practice of parody. [85]

A helpful distinction can be made between specific and general parody. The former consists of a parody of a specific art-work or piece of writing. [86] General parody, by contrast, takes as its hypotext not one particular work but a whole genre, style or discourse. [87] The practice of general parody, is indeed very close to pastiche, and both forms can move into and out of a satirical or ironic distance from the manner imitated. [88]

Pastiche is a French word pastiche has now largely replaced the Italian pasticcio, but in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the latter was actually the more usual term. [89] In Italian, the word means a pie made of various ingredients; by metaphorical extension principally to art and music criticism, pasticcio or pastiche denoted a musical medley or pot-pourri, or a picture made up of fragments pieced/glued together. [90] It is in painting the term took on the meaning of imitation of another style without critical distance, and it is this meaning that has come to be dominate in contemporary usage of the term. [91] In literary usage, pastiche denotes the more or less extended imitation of the style or manner of another writer or literary period. The term pastiche has been given particular currency by Fredric Jameson in the essay ‘Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’, [92]in which he distinguishes pastiche from parody on the grounds that pastiche takes no critical distance from the material it recycles: pastiche, in fact, is ‘blank parody’. [93] Pastiche is then seen as characteristic of postmodernism and thus expresses the cultural logic of late capitalism, since the absolute extension of the commodity system prevents the recourse to any discourse of nature or tradition (as in earlier Modernism) which could be used to measure or ironise the forms that are pastiched. [94]

Karaoke Culture

At the level of high culture, architecture and possibly other arts, parody is one of the ways in which artists and writers can invoke the cultural past, or other contemporary discursive modes, to ‘double-code’ their understanding of the present. [95] The particular ways in which individual writers manage this double-coding, and the particular relations that they have to their hypotexts, vary remarkably, and require careful and individual analysis; these attitudes, however, can include loving reconstruction as well as political outrage, more or less explicit structural parody as much as outright verbal imitation. [96] Postmodernism in this context alludes to a variety of cultural practices whose only common characteristic is the inclusion of references to other discursive possibilities in a way that makes discourse itself a part of the topic of the art work. [97] These postmodernist works of art or of literature are not insignificant; they represent an important and indeed powerful current in contemporary culture, which can be inflected in different ways and in differing political directions; it is a current which includes some of the major cultural renegotiations of the present moment. [98] But it is equally possible to list other modes, conventions and cultural productions which are in no sense ‘postmodernist’ and in which parody plays no part. [99]

At the level of popular culture, this infinite cycle of parody and its similar forms, manifested though constant reconfigurations and recycling, can be defined as “karaoke culture”.[100]  In a world with no cultural hierarchy, parody is not only that ‘high’ by the ‘low’. It usually utilizes other products of popular culture, when comedians and celebrities parody each other, pop musicians and Djs sample and remix each other, in a similar vein as karaoke gives a chance to mock or mimic constantly reemerging voices of popular music. [101]

Just as the specific techniques of the postmodernist novel have mostly been anticipated in the history of the novel, so too the parodic practices of contemporary popular culture can often be found in the systems of popular entertainment in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. [102] What is different about the present moment is the dominance and scale of penetration of the culture industries, made possible by specific technical innovations; this in itself is a massively important transformation. [103] Some of this parody is sharply directed at deflating self-importance, and is politically and socially pointed and telling. Other parody, meanwhile, is done simply for the fun of it.  There is no general politics of parody; you cannot decide in advance whether it seeks to contain the new or to deflate the old. Equally, at the level of popular culture, no general decisions can be made in advance about the cultural value of parody. [104] Karaoke too can be a mode of empowerment, if that does not seem too preposterous a claim for it: it permits people to assimilate and transform the productions of contemporary popular culture in a peculiarly intimate and powerful way. [105]

Parody and Intertextuality in “Scream”

Scream (1996) is one of the more popular slashes of 90s, is different comparing to earlier genre production titles, mainly, due to in its multiple references and allusion to other horros and various art forms that preceded it. [106]Its uniqueness based around the fact that while it is composed of fragments of previous ‘texts’ (or films of the genre), these are reconfigured in order to create a set of revised aesthetic and specific narrative elements for the genre, which, eventually provides a template for slasher films to follow. [107]

Moreover, although these intertextual references are pointed towards an audience who can relate to the earlier titles and specific elements of the genre, the film is horrific indeed, partly because its scenes of death while offering homage to the slashers classic also stress the overwhelming aspects of the genre.[108] In short, it displays both visual and intertextual excess and numerous cross-references signals. It manages to maintain its self-referentiality despite the amount of references being dropped, including certain directors and their style associated with the genre. [109]

Moreover, while the use of intertextuality reflects the postmodern path, in this particular case, it occurs to such an extent that it becomesthe film’s text. The Scream films take the previously subtle intertextual references and transform it into an overt, discursive act. [110]Such aspects become more apparent throughout the whole franchise with each film looping up its textual fragments. It not only takes account of its postmodern characteristics and revised characterization, as others have already done, but also considers its aesthetic devices, particularly those that intrinsically horrify. [111]

Even though Scream could be perceived as just simply unoriginal and banal, due to allusion that is sums up the slasher that came before, one might argue that, in fact, it distances itself from them. Narrated as idiotic and unselfconscious, it, in fact, presents an ironic twist on the genres norms and traditions. [112]Interestingly enough, It also contains endless references on Halloween, addressing itas a central text within the slasher movie. Many critics at the time saw it as a clearly clever, knowing and self conscious play with the genre, though it is questionable that Carpenter have seen Halloween as a slasher movie because there was no such category at the time. [113]

Scream has similar mystery of masked killer theme, that is reappearing though the series. One of the more interesting details that is obvious in all films of the series is a rule of the killer who is trying to catch up his female opponent, with woman not only survive the threat but face a new “villain” each movie. This reversal is worth noting because in doing so, the trilogy preserves the significance and importance of the (female) survivors over that of the killer, while inverting the genre’s traditional formed conventions. The female survivors ultimately displace the killers as the recurring characters and effectively adopt the central narrative roles thought the series. This effectively allows the female characters to develop and evolve across the film’s various installments. [114]

Despite constantly coping elements from various past films and series (everything from artworks through some particular scenes, twists, etc) Scream conjures the sense of irony that moves past the notions of parody and pastiche. According to Richard Dyer, pastiche can also be defined as recreation that imitates other art, as opposite to the real life, in such a way as to make consciousness of this fact central to its meaning and affect. [115]

It is therefore also suggested here that Scream moves beyond parody, since, its qualities, though clearly referencial to previous slasher films, remain autonomous of them and reinterpret them as film’s own. [116]Moreover, the film lacks any traces of overt humour or elements of comedy which are the significant elements of parody. As Mark comments, “I do not believe the films themselves are comic parodies of the slasher genre. While characters in the Scream films offer ironic observations about the conventions of slasher films, the films themselves remain “straight” slasher films.” [117]

Some argue, Scream’s allusiveness is more akin to a heightened or advanced level of intertextuality that some scholars refer to as the ‘hyperpost-modern’ and which is essential to the text itself. [118] the Scream is packed withinter texts to the extent that it becomes its structure, it is constructed of them. Such approach can be traced as an advanced form of postmodernism, which is sometimes referred to as ’hyperpostmodernism’, and is explained as:

(1) a heightened degree of intertextual referencing and self-reflexivity that ceases to function at the traditional level of tongue-in-cheek sub-text, and emerges instead as the actual text of the films; and

(2) a propensity for ignoring film-specific boundaries by actively referencing, ‘borrowing,’ and influencing the styles and formats of other media forms, including television and media videos – strategies that have further blurred the boundaries that once separated discrete media. [119]

Chapter 3: Simultaneous Impossible, Possible

Drawing the ideas stated above, I want to try and compare horror films from 1970s and their remakes from 2000s and argue the differences between them, and/ or try to establish some correlation in the sense of ongoing discourse inside this “genre”. Starting with 70s titles such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), and Dawn of the Dead (1978) in terms of their politics, all three films attack an American way of life that rests on an alliance between consumer society and the nuclear family, and denies its own violent historical foundations.[120] When compared to remakes – Texas (2003), Dawn (2004), Hills (2006), later is argued to end up sacrificing the critique in favor of the intensification of danger through aesthetics, notably, disgust and danger. The subversive potential of the horror film can be correlated to the unstable balance between “human” and “monstrous” that must be played out across the spectrum of characters to deliver a subversive political subtext. [121]

All of these films reflect concerns specific to their times, but the remakes tend to establish their politics explicitly, while, in the independent films of the 1970s, these concerns are more subterranean, organized, notably, on the level of narrative structure and the handling of space. The aesthetics and politics of Halloween (2007) are especially well-aligned as both inform the remake’s meta fictional critique of Halloween (1978) and the slasher. [122]

It should also be reasonable to address the meaning of “disturbing” in this context to see the way in which films revisit, update, modernize the conventions of horror genre, which can be argued to be its “originality” and the way it produces various forms of emotions within the framework. There is no clear-cut difference between the films of the 1970s and the remakes of the 2000s in their use of intertextual references, though the popularity of Tarantino’s films and the Scream franchise (1996) might have led us to expect them to fully engage with film history and film genre. [123] The remakes also pursue two other trends that developed at the same time: the emphasis on danger rather than disgust in the representation of the monstrous, and the insistence on character motivation.[124] The implications are both political, involving, as previously mentioned, the dialectic between the “monstrous” and the “human,” and aesthetic. As stated by Robert C. Solomon, for more time is devoted to worrying about the “monstrous” character’s potency, less to contemplating its monstrousness.

Therefore, this emphasis on danger is clearly visible in contemporary horror (mainly Hollywood) cinema to be synonymous with effects, gory violence, and physical pain. [125] This approach is also informed by strategies through which the film is presented or told, that is based on typical slasher conventions – the linear progression from dread to terror to horror, from the complete to partial absence of the presence to the presence of a presence whose interpretative frameworks are momentarily absent. [126]

On the other hand, the approaches from the 1970s are somewhat different. One of the great examples to illustrate it is being  Halloween (1978). “Monstrous” characters often being slow and vulnerable in the flicks of the time, which enables (or rather pushes) to produce less predictable relationship between dread, terror and horror. The visual style of the Hollywood remakes of the 2000s, which favors close singles, mobile cameras, and fast-paced editing, is symptomatic of the contemporary Hollywood style. [127] With the viewer encountering sudden graphic images of bloodshed that is there to trigger disgust, so that there is a ‘rapid alternation between registers – between something like “real” horror on one hand and a camp, self-parodying horror on the other – is by now one of the most conspicuous characteristics of the tradition’. [128]

One can argue it to diminish their potential to “disturb” the spectator’s expectations, and allow for less variation than in the independent films of the 1970s, though I envision it to be a “logical” progression of the “genre” with the technology presenting some “fresh” production values. Still, the 00s remakes could be described as “normative,” adaptations of the originals, referring to the words by Thomas Leitch who has stressed the “paradoxical promise” the remake make to the audience: “that [it] is just like its model, and that it’s better”. [129] This statement makes an interesting point of what exactly it can be better in. It’s, of course, mainly used for the marketing purposes, because if it were not better than the original then viewers might as well watch the original instead.[130]

Rob Zombie’s direction to the cast in Halloween (2007) was: “Keeping it real is what it’s all about, you know, even if it seems like something ridiculous.”[131] Surely, he is not referring to the film itself being in any sense realistic, with all the living dead, mutants zombies, etc. Rather the attitude towards the genre as a continuum, in the sense of drawing originals production values and various elements and mock them, in the “real” way. In this respect, the American independent horror films of the 1970s are more “realistic” than the remakes of the 2000s, which, also dramatically increase the superhuman quality of the “monstrous” characters. In this context they are envisioned as “original”, eventually being mocked, remade. [132]

John Romero and producer Richard P. Rubinstein describe the violence in Dawn (1978) as, “not quite so realistic”, comic-booky, and silly. In this case, Romero dresses his distaste for slow-motion in the action scenes. [133] This devotion to the “genre” or particular “style” is best described by Bazin who used the term “total cinema” which was based on an integral realism, a recreation of the world in its own image. Bazin addresses an evolutionary model of the cinema, and comments that old films, even ones from the not too distant past, draw attention to the premature obsolescence of film technology and style, thus asserting the regular if not constant mobility of cinematic conceptions of reality and, thereby, filmic aesthetics of realism. [134]

This argues the idea that films, due to extremely dynamic nature of technological progress, become outdated just in few years. Thus, remakes attempt to compensate for this. Therefore, envisioning remakes as some form of restoration, where the team tries to use modern technologies to “improve” the “outdated” film. As Thomas Leitch noted, “true remake is pretending, that it has no discourse of its own to become outdated”. [135] Thus, “paradoxical promise” involves two contradictory positions, firstly it is “classical” essence of masterpieces and cult films, and that of the ephemeral nature of technology and the cinematic experience, or the illusion of reality. [136]

Nevertheless, it is seen how certain technical constraints can sometimes contribute to a film’s “disturbing” quality. Moreover, this “style” that is built upon using outdated technologies can be mocked in order to achieve a certain quality and eventually certain atmosphere. In fact, the films of the 1970s are more “disturbing” not because they look more realistic than the remakes of the 2000s. Rather, the “disturbing” quality has to do with the tension between various elements force the creators to discover “fresh” ways to convey certain emotions. In no way I’m arguing modern film technologies to be somewhat “untrue to the form”, rather try to point out the importance of the “involvement” and interest in the obscure sides of films, no matter how outdated they are.

Finally, I want to touch on how the horror films are perceived according to the cultural background of the viewer, and the film itself. One of the amazing contradictions of the horror films is that even as every film draws from and is based around similar values and explores some known topic and concerns, usually they are unable to gain universal popularity which could be explained through fundamental inability to transcend its cultural particularities and appeal to broader audiences worldwide. [137]

The value in pushing together and comparing popular Japanese and Hollywood horror films lies in the complex insights that could provide into the dominant sociocultural realities and concerns of the society producing and consuming these texts, while also acknowledging the ways in which key anxieties and fears transcend their social and cultural roots to offer evidence of shared concerns that extend beyond nation-specific perspectives to infect and affect a larger global imagination. [138] This tension between the culturally specific and the universally common lies at the core of investigation of the distinctly different ideologies and their specific narrative tendencies that shape each nation’s cinematic representations of films, and horror, in particular even though the ways in which many of the concerns and fears expressed in these films, and felt in these cultures, often overlap and intersect. [139]

Mass culture articulates social conflicts, contemporary fears, and utopian hopes and attempts at ideological containment and reassurance. [140]The traditional horror film narrative centers on a world organized around accepted norms that are disrupted and threatened by the arrival or appearance of a terrifying, horrifically destructive force. [141]Although this very basic, and admittedly simplistic, structure is common to both the Japanese and Hollywood horror film tradition, the underlying attitudes toward these oppositional forces are notably distinct and different in a number of ways. [142]

All the contemporary Japanese horror films in this study offer a treatment of the supernatural, the unknown, and the mysterious as unambiguous and accepted elements within reality. [143]It is also worth noting that despite the presence of the supernatural within the natural/physical realm, the relationship between the two is characterized less by a sense of conflict and opposition, in which one must defeat or destroy the other, and more by a quest to reestablish equilibrium and to correct a wrong. [144] To anyone more grounded in Western religious traditions it is a strange fact that supernatural forces are not necessarily considered ‘Evil’ or shunned by Buddhists. Japanese depictions of supernatural forces are not founded in ideals of good and evil, nor is there a sense of a constant battle between these forces in order to reach dominance [145]

Rather, Eastern views of the supernatural are also dualistic, encompassing both positive and negative potential. This side is also expressed in Shintoism, another significant and ancient Japanese religion embraced by the Japanese people.[146] The Shinto tradition does not believe that there is an absolute dichotomy of good and evil. Quite the contrary, all phenomena, are believed to poses different sides, both positive and negative, and it is possible for either of this opposites to be manifested in the given context.[147]Thus, the supernatural from Japanese perspective, as depicted in these films has both positive and negative potential, which introduces another degree of duality.

Another fascinating side of traditional Japanese culture is in the fact that the Japanese worldview pays much more attention to notions of right and wrong doing, than to ideals of good and evil as stated above. [148]The Japanese perspective is founded on the notions of morality that are determined by questions of responsibility, honorable behavior, which are most commonly equated with honoring one’s social and communal responsibilities. [149]Therefore, Japanese cultural narratives are less interested in evaluating characters and their actions in terms of any preset notions of good and evil, and more interested in examining them in the light of right or wrong, or to be more precise, socially acceptable or socially irresponsible behaviour.

Unlike Western/Judeo-Christian notions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ that are often in relation with notions of God in opposition with Satan or the Devil, Japanese supernatural spirits and demons are perceived as revenants with ‘unfinished business’ in the physical realm. [150]


Klein, Ann; Palmer, R. Barton. Cycles, sequels, spin-offs, remakes, and reboots : multiplicities in film and television. University of Texas Press, 2016

Wildfeuer, Janina. Film discourse interpretation: towards a new paradigm for multimodal film  analysis. Routledge Studies in Multimodality, 2014

Hoyle, Leigh. Genes, Memes, Culture, and Mental Illness Toward an Integrative Model. Springer, 2010

Dentith, Simon. Parody The New Critical Idiom. Routledge 2000

Shifman, Limor. Memes in Digital Culture. MIT press 2014 Pheasant-Kelly, Fran. “Reframing Parody and Intertextuality in Scream: Formal and Theoretical Approaches to the ‘Postmodern’ Slasher” from Clayton, Wickham. Style and Form in the Hollywood Slasher Film Palgrave 2015

Roche, David. Making and Remaking Horror in the 1970s and 2000s. Why Don’t They Do It Like They Used To. University Press of Mississippi 2014

Wee, Valerie. Japanese Horror Films and their American Remakes. Routledge 2013

[1] Klein, Ann; Palmer, R. Barton. Cycles, sequels, spin-offs, remakes, and reboots : multiplicities in film and television (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2016), p 2-3

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 5-7

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 7-20

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Wildfeuer, Janina. Film discourse interpretation: towards a new paradigm for multimodal film analysis. (New York: Routledge, 2014), p 2-19

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Klein, Ann; Palmer, R. Barton. Cycles, sequels, spin-offs, remakes, and reboots : multiplicities in film and television. University of Texas Press, 2016, p 19

[32] Wildfeuer, Janina. Film discourse interpretation: towards a new paradigm for multimodal film analysis. Routledge Studies in Multimodality, 2014, p 2-19

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid., 19-21

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Shifman, Limor. Memes in Digital Culture(US: MIT press, 2014), p 20-27

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Ibid

[61] Ibid.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Hoyle, Leigh. Genes, Memes, Culture, and Mental Illness Toward an Integrative Model (New York: Springer, 2010), pp 91-93

[64] Ibid.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Wee, Valerie. Japanese Horror Films and their American Remakes. (New York: Routledge, 2013), p 73

[69] Ibid.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Ibid.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Ibid.

[75] Wee, Valerie. Japanese Horror Films and their American Remakes. (New York: Routledge, 2013), p 68

[76] Ibid.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Wee, Valerie. Japanese Horror Films and their American Remakes. (New York: Routledge, 2013), p 71

[79] Ibid.

[80] Ibid.

[81] Dentith, Simon. Parody The New Critical Idiom (London: Routledge, 2000), p 154-170

[82] Ibid.

[83] Ibid.

[84] Ibid.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Ibid.

[87] Ibid.

[88] Ibid.

[89] Ibid.

[90] Ibid.

[91] Ibid.

[92] Ibid.

[93] Ibid.

[94] Ibid.

[95] Ibid.

[96] Ibid.

[97] Ibid.

[98] Ibid.

[99] Ibid.

[100] Ibid.

[101] Ibid.

[102] Ibid.

[103] Ibid.

[104] Ibid.

[105] Ibid.

[106] Pheasant-Kelly, Fran .“Reframing Parody and Intertextuality in Scream: Formal and Theoretical Approaches to the ‘Postmodern’ Slasher” from Clayton, Wickham. Style and Form in the Hollywood Slasher Film (UK: Palgrave, 2015), p 149-154

[107] Ibid.

[108] Ibid.

[109] Ibid.

[110] Ibid.

[111] Ibid.

[112] Ibid.

[113] Ibid.

[114] Pheasant-Kelly, Fran .“Reframing Parody and Intertextuality in Scream: Formal and Theoretical Approaches to the ‘Postmodern’ Slasher” from Clayton, Wickham. Style and Form in the Hollywood Slasher Film (UK: Palgrave, 2015), p 154

[115] Ibid.

[116] Ibid.

[117] Ibid.

[118] Ibid.

[119] Ibid.

[120] Roche, David. Making and Remaking Horror in the 1970s and 2000s. Why Dont They Do It Like They Used To. (US: University Press of Mississippi, 2014), pp 273-278

[121] Ibid.

[122] Ibid.

[123] Ibid.

[124] Ibid.

[125] Ibid.

[126] Ibid.

[127] Ibid.

[128] Pheasant-Kelly, Fran .“Reframing Parody and Intertextuality in Scream: Formal and Theoretical Approaches to the ‘Postmodern’ Slasher” from Clayton, Wickham. Style and Form in the Hollywood Slasher Film (UK: Palgrave, 2015), p 154

[129] Roche, David. Making and Remaking Horror in the 1970s and 2000s. Why Dont They Do It Like They Used To. (US: University Press of Mississippi, 2014), pp 273-278

[130] Ibid.

[131] Ibid.

[132] Ibid.

[133] Ibid.

[134] Ibid.

[135] Ibid.

[136] Ibid.

[137] Wee, Valerie. Japanese Horror Films and their American Remakes. (New York: Routledge, 2013), pp 56-60

[138] Ibid.

[139] Ibid.

[140] Ibid.

[141] Ibid.

[142] Ibid.

[143] Ibid.

[144] Ibid.

[145] Ibid.

[146] Ibid.

[147] Ibid.

[148] Ibid.

[149] Ibid.

[150] Ibid.

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