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Posted on December 22, 2022

Medusa: A Failed Feminist Look at Evangelical Extremism

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What’s scary about Anita Rocha da Silveira’s second feature is neither its monstrous metaphors for the Evangelical extremism on the rise in her native Brazil, nor its Argento-esque aesthetic of hallucinogenic hues and contrast colors. It’s how the ignorant ideology which the sprawling story overtly criticizes asserts itself in the subtext of this supposedly feminist fairytale. Like many fairytales, it revolves around a haughty heroine humbled by losing her beauty and being thrown off her privileged pedestal. Excluded by her previous peers and having of necessity to engage in lowly work, her character becomes reformed so that when she regains her physical charms they are matched by spiritual perfection.

Despite openly parodying duplicitous definitions of physical attractiveness, the director-writer relies on archaic concepts of beauty, disfigurement and ugliness. Young, conventionally beautiful protagonist Mari (Mariana Oliveira) and her girl gang of radical Evangelicals pursue an immaculate appearance as one of women’s prime duties to Jesus and to men while at the same time condemning the attractiveness of “sinful“ young women. At night, Mari and the others hunt for “Jezebels“ and “Messalinas“ – epithets evoking the age-old history of slut-shaming women – beating them into renouncing their “depraved“ lifestyle to embrace religious piety. The forced confessions and conversions are instantly posted online where they draw likes and supportive comments. Read more

Posted on September 2, 2022

Return of the Zombie Salesman: A Review of Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse

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Picture this: you are playing a video game about a zombie outbreak. Perhaps your avatar is struggling to survive as undead enemies hunt them in claustrophobia-inducing environments, like Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine in Resident Evil (1996). Then again, maybe your avatar is the one doing the hunting, slaughtering hordes of zombies with relative ease as Frank West and Juliet Starling can in Dead Rising (2006) and Lollipop Chainsaw (2012), respectively. Either way, you are likely imagining the following scenario for your hypothetical video game: a zombie outbreak has occurred, and the living must escape from, or do battle with, the undead to survive.

Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse, which originally released for the Xbox in 2005 and was re-released on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch in 2021, is a zombie video game. Yet, in a subversion of the above-mentioned scenario, Stubbs the Zombie has players take on the role of a zombie: an undead salesman by the name of Edward “Stubbs” Stubblefield to be precise. In Stubbs the Zombie, the goal of the playable character is a wholesome one; Stubbs must find a way of reuniting with his love interest, a Marilyn Monroe lookalike named Maggie Monday. Yet, despite his wholesome quest, as an undead monstrosity Stubbs is a harbinger of death.

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menacing video game character set against a red backdrop
Posted on August 16, 2022

Bloodwash Review: A Giallo-Inspired Horror Video Game Awash with Gore

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Bloodwash is the latest video game to be published by Torture Star Video, a publishing label launched by Puppet Combo, the developer behind notable instances of playable nightmare fuel such as Babysitter Bloodbath (2013), Nun Massacre (2018), and Murder House (2020). Like these games, Bloodwash has a distinctive low-poly style reminiscent of video games from the PS1 era, as well as a story straight out of an old school slasher film.

As pointed out in publicity material for the game, Bloodwash is “giallo-inspired.” In a broad sense, the Italian term Giallo “has become synonymous … with mysteries and thrillers” (Koven, 2013: 204). More specifically, the term has come to describe “the Italian style of psycho-killer movies, which dominated much of Italian vernacular film-making in the 1970s, and, in many respects, were the precursors to the ‘slasher’ films from Canada and the US in the late 1970s and early 1980s” (ibid.) Tropes of Giallo cinema include stylised murder scenes, mysterious killers, and tormented women – three components that feature prominently in the video game, Bloodwash. Read more

Posted on February 6, 2022

The Villa and the Vortex: Supernatural Stories by Elinor Mordaunt

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The Villa and the Vortex: Supernatural Stories (1916-1924), Elinor Mordaunt, edited by Melissa Edmundson (Handheld Press, 2021).

Melissa Edmundson’s Women’s Weird anthologies were, for me, an invaluable window into the work of a number of long-neglected women writers and a trove of weird, unsettling short fiction of astonishing breadth. Stories like the cosmic horror of Francis Stevens’ ‘Unseen – Unfeared’, or the deeply oneiric tragedy of ‘The House’ by Katherine Mansfield, demonstrated that women writers are not just the equal of their male counterparts but, often, far exceed them. We should be thankful, then, that Edmundson has continued her partnership with Handheld Press to begin a series of single-author collections, starting with The Villa and the Vortex, a retrospective of Elinor Mordaunt’s strange, melancholy tales. Read more

Posted on August 9, 2020

Masks in Horror Cinema: Review & Interview

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Masks are ubiquitous in horror films, to the point that they’re almost like oxygen – prevalent enough that we hardly think about them, but it is difficult to imagine horror without them. When we think of the laconic villains of horror, many of them come standard with mask. Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, and Leatherface are obvious examples, but further reflection reveals that masks are important to the persona of a number of other movie monsters: while we see Hannibal Lecter’s face frequently in Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991) it’s hard to shake the image of him in the prison-assigned mask meant to restrain his cannibalistic tendencies.

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’s new book, Masks in Horror Cinema: Eyes without Faces (2020), discusses all of these films, and many more, offering the first book-length overview of masks in horror cinema. But the importance of the book lies not in its function as a survey text, but in its fascinating readings of the different uses and symbolic functions to which masks can be put. With this entry into University of Wales Press’s new Horror Studies series, Heller-Nicholas has made an important contribution to an overlooked area of horror. Throughout this monograph, Heller-Nicholas not only helps to point out how frequently masks are an integral part of horror narratives, but she also works to unpack the variety of functions they serve.

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