La Femme Fatale: An “Inside” Look at the Female Murderer
Recently I asked my co-workers at Lewis University’s Writing Center to indulge me with their response to a question concerning a specific genre of horror film: What physical and psychological features do you think of when you imagine a serial killer from a slasher film? With a few laughs and questions as to why I wanted this information, I received similarly-phrased answers: A creepy psychopathic man shrouded in black, wielding a sharp object (knife, axe, etc.); they also pointed out how the man usually isn’t physically fit, but overpowers his victims easily regardless.
Although these characteristics are undoubtedly very true of the killer in the case of most slasher films, there is one crucial element mentioned that is an interesting point to analyze. The word man is continuously used to describe the gender of a serial killer, but the potential of a woman to be murderous is brought up rarely, if not at all. Fairly recently, French filmmakers brought this possibility to fruition with their creation of the slasher filmInside.
Welcome to the Carnival of Souls – deserted by day, and a dance floor by night. Tossing and turning around in the endless circles of a waltz are the spectral forms of pale persons, completely void of thriving personality and purpose. Dancing with one man is a tall, blonde beauty – independent and vivacious only moments before (or what seemed like moments – time holds no importance when one is entrapped in a dance). She is the sad state of an ostracized woman of early 1960s America. Waltzing away until dawn, she is both the terrified and a terror of her time, morosely manifested.
The description above is near the ending of the independent horror/suspense film Carnival of Souls(1963). Filmed in black and white, its script was very colorfully written – and its underlying religious, psychological, and even sexual messages show through with just as haunting of a hue. Although the film may have provided corny scares (literally – it was a low-budget Midwestern cornfield flick) to unsuspecting audiences, I have found that it is much more intelligent than what may have been intended in its creation. The carnival of souls is the prison of feminism and its muse – the “liberated woman” – making each and all wallow in a waltz of purgatorial punishment, clinging to that which has terrorized them the most: man.
Imagine for a brief moment that you are a child again. I ask you not to remember yourself, but instead to picture yourself as someone else. Your name is Norman, but your life is anything but “normal”. Born and raised in a small town known for its history of punishment of “witches”, you have the tragically ironic ability to see and hear ghosts. As a result, you are bullied both at home and in school by persons who believe that you experience this in order to garner attention. The only solace you have lies in your own company. While you do not fear how these bullies treat you, you fear responsibility, and the possibility of changing who you are in the process. When a curse placed upon your town hundreds of years ago goes into effect and the dead rise from their graves, you are called to save the living. Will you fight or be frightened?
This is ParaNorman, a clay-animated comedy/horror feature film that is currently playing in theaters nationwide. I went to a screening of it this last weekend, and was not disappointed. Upon telling some of my peers about it, however, I was disappointed (but not surprised) with what they said. Most responded similarly: “I’m not even going to bother with that movie,” “It isn’t worth paying for,” and the most unfortunate response, “That movie looks stupid”. Although I agree that animated movies are not for everyone – especially adults who prefer to watch realistic films – I absolutely disagree that ParaNorman is a “stupid” movie.
In the beginning, there was horror. Birthed from what seemed like the rib of a cadaver,”Hitchcock“, “Romero“, and “Carpenter” emerged as prominent directors in the field of horror filmmaking. Containing suspenseful, violent, and sometimes sexually suggestive themes (such as Hitchcock’s incorporation of “voyeurism” into his movies), their films were set apart from others not only in execution, but substantiality. These directors’ films were quite obviously for adults only; though there were subtle scares in children’s films for years, most youngsters knew little of their fears on-screen. Many adults would argue that this was for the best, but something sinister lurked in the mind of one individual, who would soon change the genre of children’s animation for the scarier.
The artistically eccentric film director “Tim Burton” is most well known for entering the movie-making scene with the production of “Edward Scissorhands“. Most had recognized him for that specific work up until the 1993 release of “The Nightmare Before Christmas“, an animated film made entirely of clay characters and settings that was considered by many to be “too creepy” for children. Although both Burton films remain popular, there is one that many have never heard of – but that is nonetheless important in understanding how intelligence can exist in horror films – even those meant for children.
Greetings to my readers – both horror film fans and those whose curiosity calls for creepiness! Have you ever watched a horror film that had a profound effect on you, other than terrifying you? Did the film have some interesting camerawork, or bloody-good color usage? Are you perhaps not even a horror film fan at all? Do these sorts of films cause you to shake, both in body and in mind? Have no fear – I am here – and will try my best to help you to understand and perhaps even realize more about horror films than you have before. Although you are entirely responsible for answering the questions asked above, and they will vary from person to person, my job in writing this blog is simply to answer this: What are horror films trying to accomplish in being so gruesome and nerve-wracking?
I have a confession to make to you, my readers. For the longest time, I was afraid of horror films. Most of the time because of this fear, I just did not bother watching them. I would not be caught dead (pun intended) in my home at night, watching a horror film by myself – hoping and praying that a serial killer, ghost or zombie would not harm me as I slept. What your curious mind is asking you now, though, is why I am now willingly writing a horror film blog.