Start your review of Horror: The Film Reader Write a review Apr 01, Zack rated it really liked it This is an enormously useful book for anyone interested in understanding the horror genre, or looking for some of the foundational texts relating to its interpretation in modern culture. For the most part the essays presented here are remarkably insightful and useful for thinking about the topics and tropes of classical and modern horror films, with the only downfall to the selection being that it really makes you want to go out and buy the full-length versions of many of these essays in the This is an enormously useful book for anyone interested in understanding the horror genre, or looking for some of the foundational texts relating to its interpretation in modern culture. For the most part the essays presented here are remarkably insightful and useful for thinking about the topics and tropes of classical and modern horror films, with the only downfall to the selection being that it really makes you want to go out and buy the full-length versions of many of these essays in the books they originally appeared in, which could turn out to be a pretty expensive proposition. Also, the cover art deserves mention--what the heck were they thinking? How did this book ever get released this way?
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The Element of Surprise in Anthology Horror Film by Sonia Lupher on September 30, The subset of films commonly known as anthology horror is comprised of many lesser-acknowledged films within the genre, judging by their absence in most academic works that address the horror canon. Fitting somewhere in between shorts and features, these films remain a covert, but potent, counterpart to the generic tendencies of horror film.
My current investment in anthology horror film is not to expound on the reasons for its diminished and overlooked status within the horror genre, but to highlight its idiosyncrasies and situate elements of its unique vocabulary alongside standard or non-anthology horror. Since this is an ongoing topic of interest for me, I intend to pursue this study in more detail along several different paths.
Anthology films, also known as portmanteau or omnibus films, can be described as films that consist of short, autonomous segments running anywhere from a handful of minutes to nearly an hour. Films such as Three Extremes… and Spirits of the Dead , which contain segments connected only by a common theme, fall into this category. Link-narrative anthology horror films enjoyed brief proliferation in the ss and were primarily associated with the England-based Amicus Productions.
While standard horror strives to push the boundaries of shock and fear, anthology horror unless specified otherwise, any mention of anthology horror from now on will refer to link-narrative eschews these horrific and frightening elements to prioritize humor and silliness. As a result, it shies away from the extremities of standard horror, still incorporating many stylistic features of most genre films but producing a vastly different effect.
In this way, anthology horror films offer a rich tonal contrast to standard horror. Link-narrative anthology horror films can be difficult to approach in terms of genre because they contain so many subgenres; gothic horror, creature features, and revenge plots can appear alongside one another in a single film.
More importantly, each segment in anthology horror films and the overarching story that holds them together conclude with a twist or surprise. Looking at Dr. Specifically, I will explore how these films emphasize humor through their most defining feature, the surprise. Peter Cushing left as Dr. The general plot of Dr. An older sixth man Peter Cushing appears outside the compartment, peering in through the window, a dark hat covering his eyes.
He enters, sits down, and scrutinizes each member of the car. When the journey is underway, the old man drops some tarot cards, which piques the interest of the other passengers. He introduces himself as Dr. Schreck terror in German and, using the tarot cards, begins to reveal their respective futures and subsequent fates. Enraged, the critic sets out to get even and eventually runs the artist over with his car, severing his dominant hand.
The devastated artist kills himself, but his zombified hand returns to enact further revenge upon the critic until he drives his car off a highway and loses his eyesight. After hearing the tales, the passengers are reasonably unsettled by Dr. Schreck disappears. The train stops and the five men exit to find themselves in a dark, deserted station. A newspaper falls out of the sky and one catches it, only to read that five died in a train crash. Schreck reappears near the station gate and turns around to face the men, but he is now a skeleton in a hooded cloak: Dr.
Schreck is death, and the passengers are his victims. Creepshow connects its disparate tales primarily through the use of animation to imitate horror comics.
After the animated credits sequence, the first story out of five commences, starting with a freeze frame that imitates the first page of a comic book. He alerts a professor and the two force the crate open, finding inside a murderous ape-like creature that mauls the custodian to death. In a panic, the professor runs to the aid of his friend and colleague, Henry Hal Holbrook.
Upon hearing about the creature, Henry carries out a plot to lure his obnoxious wife, Wilma Adrienne Barbeau , to the basement of the building, where the creature also kills her. Henry locks the creature inside the crate and disposes of it over a cliff leading to water.
However, the final scene of the segment shows that the creature survived the fall and implies that its reign of terror has just begun. After the final segment, the link-narrative resumes. Two garbage collectors pick up the comic book and notice that an advertisement for a mail order voodoo doll has been cut out.
Upstairs, it is revealed that Billy is using the voodoo doll to take revenge on his father, repeatedly stabbing it with relish. The master of ceremonies — Dr. Schreck in Dr. In Dr. Terror, Dr. Schreck teases the passengers, enticing them to try their hand at the tarot deck and hiding the final card, inevitably death, from each character after his turn. However, I sometimes foretell things that are frightening. The character of The Creep in Creepshow is presented as a whimsical, though wordless, initiator of each story.
The link-narrative of each film, furthermore, also concludes with a final twist. Edward Branigan argues that in order to build suspense, the spectator must know more than the characters In contrast, Branigan defines surprise as the narrative situation in which a character knows more than the spectator.
The short lengths of the segments and link-narratives in anthology horror are perhaps better suited to the surprise format, but their general avoidance of suspense and shock is unusual for horror. Because the general narrative structure of anthology horror film does not place much emphasis on creating suspense, most surprises are named so because they are impossible to predict based on the lack of previous clues.
These surprises are not necessarily meant to shock the viewer, but often provide a tongue-in-cheek means for the film to directly address the viewer. In contrast, many standard horror films that employ twists tend to preface them with a sense of dread that is not as present in anthology horror. In these cases, the twist is not meant to invite viewers to laugh at or with the generic tropes in practice, but rather to shock them.
However, while this tactic is employed in anthology horror film, Dr. Terror and Creepshow do not always use these opportunities to shock the viewer. In many ways, this crucial characteristic significantly differentiates anthology horror from standard horror films. However, while it is possible that the makers of Dracula did not intend to make the monster any less frightening, the same cannot be argued for Dr.
In the final segment of Dr. Soon after their arrival, the town is plagued by a series of nighttime attacks that appear to be the work of a vampire. Blake Max Adrian , the only other doctor in town. Blake catches onto her true nature and convinces Bob to kill her using a wooden stake. When the police arrive to the scene after Bob has committed the crime, Dr. As Dr. The Creep invites the spectator to take part in "Creepshow.
Blake reveals his monstrousness to the viewer. Branigan might argue that suspense would build for the spectator had Dr. Blake revealed himself as a vampire earlier in the segment. However, that approach would diminish the humorous effectiveness of the surprise.
By eschewing suspense in favor of surprise, Dr. Terror prioritizes a unique interaction with the spectator: Dr. Blake breaks the fourth wall to directly let the audience, and the audience alone, in on the joke.
Therefore, suspense, shock, and other elements that could have been used to instill fear — arguably the primary purpose of most horror films — are undercut in favor of a humorous, whimsical conclusion. Blake, furthermore, is not the only one to address the viewer: in most cases, the master of ceremonies also enjoys that facility.
Near the beginning of Dr. Terror, while Dr. Near the beginning of Creepshow, the Creep turns his glance from Billy to stare directly at the camera and emit a wicked cackle. The horror film knows to elevate the levels of shock and gore to appease the perverse demands of the audience, who will see horror films even when they repeat the same devices to the point that spectators know exactly what to expect.
While for Brophy, the horror film plays with the viewer by recycling scare tactics, anthology horror goes one step further: it knows you know and it tells you anyway. Like much standard horror, anthology horror knows that you have seen its plots and characters before, but instead of elevating the shock elements to make the experience more frightening, it turns the tension into a punchline — like Dr.
Again, this is partially due to the length of each segment. Standard horror typically follows one major storyline, which allows it to readily build suspense and, as Linda Williams notes, makes the moments of shock more effective. Anthology horror re-appropriates many elements typical of standard horror for its own purposes. In a longer version of this paper, I argue that much of the fun in seeing anthology horror films lies in seeing an everyday evildoer punished — many of the characters who get it in these films deserve it.
Yet the punishment is usually so excessive that it becomes ridiculous and laughable. The fact that the evil figures are normal humans, rather than monsters or otherwise inhuman characters, resonates with a theme that has since become pervasive in horror: it reminds the spectator that anybody can be a monster.
Because no suspense precedes them, these surprises are arguably neither scary nor all that shocking for the viewer. Instead, they generate laughter and enjoyment. Anthology horror film diminishes or even eradicates the suspense and shock that standard horror films use to inspire real fright.
I intend to delve further into the idiosyncrasies of anthology horror film, partially with an intertextual investigation of them with reference to horror comics and the short film.
Furthermore, I believe that considering anthology horror film in terms of its power to withhold its fearful elements, rather than embracing and pushing their boundaries, opens a rich discourse about how horror films engage with viewers.
Along these lines, I aim to continue exploring how the ends of anthology horror are ultimately at odds with and conspicuously removed from the horror tradition. Narrative Comprehension and Film. New York: Routledge, Brophy, Philip. Ken Gelder. Hutchings, Peter. Manchester: Manchester University Press, The Horror Film.
The horror film reader
Bibliography of film: horror