Browsing Tag


Posted on November 23, 2023

Why You Should Watch The City of the Dead (and its Striking Resemblance to Psycho)

Dawn Keetley

It’s a moment of uncanny serendipity in horror film history.

The City of the Dead (re-named Horror Hotel in the US) – the first directorial project of Argentinian-born British director, John Llewellyn Moxey – was released in the UK in September 1960. Produced by Americans Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg, the film is generally considered to be the unofficial first of their Amicus Productions (a British company they would officially found shortly after the release of City of the Dead, and which had an impact on the horror genre in the 1960s that was second perhaps only to Hammer Studios)[i]. Filming commenced “at Shepperton Studios [in Surrey, England] in the Summer of 1959,” [ii] running at least through October.

The vastly more famous Psycho, produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, made at Universal Studios in the US and distributed by Paramount Pictures, was released in New York City in June 1960 and saw general distribution, like City of the Dead, in September 1960. Also like City of the Dead, filming began on Psycho in the later half of 1959 (running, specifically, between November 1959 and February 1960).

In other words, there’s virtually no way that either City of the Dead or Psycho could have influenced the other. And yet, they share some striking similarities. They are also, I should add, profoundly different in their approach to horror. Both these similarities and this difference are worth exploring.

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Posted on November 9, 2023

Saw: Liberalism’s Favourite Franchise

Guest Post

I recently came across a web-comic that satirised the premise of Breaking Bad. The gist of it is that Breaking Bad would never work in a country with free healthcare, since Walter White’s impetus for selling drugs is to cover the exorbitant cost of his cancer treatment.

Now this is arguably an oversimplification, but it is funny nonetheless and does illustrate how neoliberalism is often a driving force behind films and series.  This is especially so if the media in question is a US-based production where the liberal ideology of individual choice, meritocracy, and pulling oneself up by their bootstraps is firmly entrenched in the larger social consciousness. In the US, you are the master of your own fate, and you don’t need a handout. Now while it might not, at first glance, appear to be the case with the Saw franchise, the series has a deeply entrenched philosophy of aggressive individualism that covertly celebrates liberalism and glosses over systemic and societal factors underpinning many social ills.

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Posted on October 24, 2023

The Best of R. L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour

Dawn Keetley

R. L Stine’s The Haunting Hour is an excellent – and distinctly underrated youth horror series. It ran for four seasons from late in 2010 until 2014 on Discovery Family and should definitely be talked about more than it is.

In this essay, I’m going to highlight some of the best episodes of the series – adding to the list over time. I’d love to hear from readers – and viewers of the series – what your favorite episodes are.

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Posted on October 4, 2023

Feminine or Feminist? Abortion, Motherhood, and the Traditional Final Girl

Guest Post

It is generally accepted that the final girl in late-twentieth-century slashers evidences a “moral integrity mark[ing] [her] as special” (Gill 19). Less discussed, however, has been the final girl as a mother figure who, in contrast with her peers, shows traditional maternal values (Christensen 40). These maternal qualities include “female self-sacrifice and motherly love” (Nickerson 14). Traditionalists often emphasized motherhood as the most fulfilling outlet for women’s special qualities as “life-bearers” (Jepson 340). The final girl in slasher horror films exhibits many of the traditional womanly qualities of caretaker and comforter.

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Posted on September 28, 2023

“There Are Better Ways to Die”: Final Girls and Ecohorror

Guest Post

Named for their natural settings, The Handmaid’s Tale season four finale, “The Wilderness” (2021) and Land (2021) are both, importantly, women-directed stories that expand ecohorror elements and the feminist horror genre, flipping the Final Girl horror trope. Protagonists June (Elisabeth Moss) and Edee (Robin Wright) are not simply the stereotypical Final Girls walking out of the woods after violence – a too-common horror trope in which girls and women are victims of violence, at the hands of men, in natural spaces where only men “survive.” June and Edee’s stories start after their traumas – horror already experienced – as they walk into the woods for their own types of healing and then walk out as complicated protagonists rather than flat female-victims-as-porn.

Carol Clover (2015) writes that while the Final Girl is a survivor, her role is mostly based in being demeaned and abused, a ‘“victim-hero,” with an emphasis on “victim”’ (p. x). And that victimhood has historically been rape/ trauma porn made for a certain type of male viewer (there are too many examples to list here). But June and Edee’s survival and renewal, rather than trauma, is the focus in these texts as they find redemption in the classic horror natural spaces for a very different audience. In a reversal of typical Final Girl horror tropes, ‘The Wilderness’ and Land empower women in natural spaces rather than using such spaces as instruments of trauma. These texts utilize ecohorror elements but showcase such natural spaces as redemptive for women, extending the Final Girl horror trope past the immediate violence and past its emphasis on women as victims.

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