During the silent film era, early filmmakers had to rely primarily on cinematography and mise-en-scène to establish setting and mood in order to engage the audience. Naturally, with the advancement of technology, films became more developed and complex, adding dialogue and making actors’ delivery and performances more important. But through all the developments of the film industry, one factor remains the same: a film must have great cinematography; and, a good cinematographer can make, or break, any film, especially on the independent circuit. John Carpenter knew this when gathering his crew for a small independent film titled Halloween, now historically preserved as one of the greatest films in history, and he chose a man who would end up changing not only his own career but Carpenter’s as well—that man is Dean Cundey.
Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) presents a unique take on the slasher/stalker subgenre as it questions reality with the implementation of veracious nightmares throughout the narrative. Additionally, a door is opened with the underscored killer, Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund), as his supernatural origin opposes anteceding existential killers of the subgenre. Analogous to previous slasher films such as Halloween (1978), Craven’s film proves worthy of its similar subsequent laudable franchise. However, during the time of A Nightmare on Elm Street’s release, the slasher film model had been stretched thin with repetitive exploitation of the framework. From less recognized films such as Prom Night (1979) to highly praised films like Friday the 13th, the narrative of the film model was becoming more quotidian with each new release. It was up to Craven to resurrect and restore the viewer’s faith in the sadistic subgenre. Through Freddy Kruger’s introduction to the established slasher film structure, Craven provides his viewers with the antidote to their boredom. While Craven intermittently relies on special effects to construct his killer’s full transcendent potential, Jacques Haitkin, the cinematographer, artfully complements these effects by contextualizing colors and sound; pressing the significance of key scenes on the viewer. As a result, the terrifying film grossed $25 million in the United States box office while leaving the horror fan-base with a venerable killer who would be a mascot of the genre for years to come.
For our Spring 2019 issue of Jet Fuel Review (with cover art by artist Delano Dunn) there is a special section that presents collaborative writing, which is writing that multiple artist’s crafted. As a way to celebrate the successful launch of our 17th issue, we’ve asked some of students, faculty, and alumni to join in and construct a piece, or multiple, that they created with their peers.
Presented below is a segment of the Special Section’s introduction as written by JFR Managing Editor, Zakiya Cowan, and a collection of fantastic collaboratively written pieces by some of our very own editors of Jet Fuel Review as well as some members of the Lewis University community. In summation, each of these pieces remain as a showcase of the bridge of collaboration and we are excited to present this talent.
I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip. – Patrick Bateman.
Mary Harron’s American Psycho (2000) is a captivating slasher film rich with intertextuality, allegories and novel slasher-film conventions. With the addition of Christian Bale’s mesmerizing portrayal of the deranged Patrick Bateman, the audience is gifted with a complex, psychotic killer, constantly holding the viewer’s interest. Straying from traditional slasher films, Harron immediately aligns her viewers with Bateman by presenting the film through the underscored killer’s perspective. Through incorporating cinematographic techniques such as frequent internal diegetic dialogue, various allegories and diverse camera angles, Harron immerses the viewers in Bateman’s methodical routine along with his unhinged, loathsome thoughts alluding to his psychotic condition which complicates the slasher film killer trope.
Found below are two reviews of Jennifer Kent’s 2014 film, The Babadook, written by Lewis University students Margaret Gotsch and Elise Rosenberger.
Margaret Gotsch: The “Black Dog” in The Babadook
Research shows that mental illness remains one of the strongest taboos and that people with mental illness face wide-spread stigmatization and discrimination. Mental illness is often described as a black cloud. Portrayals of mental illness frequently appear in films and the media; for instance, the 2010 film by Darren Aronofsky, which detailed a dancer’s struggle with schizophrenia, was entitled Black Swan; and, Winston Churchill – reportedly a manic-depressive – called his mental illness the “black dog.”
In director Jennifer Kent’s 2014 film, The Babadook, the black dog of mental illness is depicted as a large, amorphous black shape. In the film, Amelia is reeling from the loss of her husband, the demands of single parenthood, and the troubling behavior of her only son, Samuel. At first, it appears that Samuel is the problem, but like a canary in a mine, it becomes apparent that Samuel’s misbehavior merely foreshadows greater problems within this nuclear family. Samuel has violent outbursts and is expelled from school for hurting a classmate. Samuel blames Mr. Babadook, a character from a book, for his misdeeds. Babadook – “a bad book” – predicts that Mr. Babadook will come to a child and ask to be let in and will then ask the same of the child’s mother.
Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) closely follows in the footsteps of the social justice framework set by Bryan Forbes’ Stepford Wives (1975). However, as opposed to sexism, Peele confronts contemporary systemic racism in a similar head-on fashion. Being one of the most “black and white” color films of its time, the viewer is exposed to hyperbolic visual motifs tacit to the segregation within our society. Within the first scene, we watch an unsuspecting African-American man out for a midnight stroll down a suburban sidewalk. Suddenly, a lurking white car pulls up behind the man akin to Michael trailing behind Sally in Halloween (1978). Through this scene, Peele immediately conveys his directional intent for the film, and it only builds from there.