Showing posts with label slasher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label slasher. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Crazy Theory #5: Jason X and Its Prediction of the Future of Academia


Jason X is commonly either derided because of how silly it is, or how sillier it is than the rest of the Friday the 13th series. I like Jason X because it knows how silly it is and it is a fun movie. I admit that it is in my top 3 of favorite installments of Friday the 13th, and the only one I own a copy of. It certainly works better than Jason Takes Manhattan, also a silly, bottom-of-the-barrel concept.

What I have noticed during the past two recent viewings of movie is how well it eerily predicts the corporatization of higher education. Granted, it was likely already taking hold when the film was released, but it is prominent now. Academia is still romanticized to some degree, and it is because of this romanticization, as well as the rather poisonous culture of "Do What You Love" that has now resulted in more adjuncts being hired to teach undergrads and the adjuncts being paid at an extremely poor rate. I read early on in my graduate school career that 75% of people teaching undergrads at the university I was attending were graduate and PhD students. There were horror stories of an adjacent department where the PhD students had to teach large lecture classes of 200-300 students with no TA's.

And Jason X predicts this to some degree. The field trip conducted by the professor in the film does seem to be both a lesson and a form of work for various students once they are back on the space ship, with the work seeming to fall mostly on the older students, presumably grad students. The professor puts the lives of everyone on the ship in danger after he is told that Jason Voorhees would be worth a lot of money if brought back to Earth 2. He even dismisses the idea that the students would want credit or money for finding Jason by stating that the learning experience will be enough for them.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Crazy Theory #4: Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4 as Superhero Origin Story



I think between my research a couple of years ago and the documentary Never Sleep Again, in my mind, the Nightmare on Elm Street series has kind of built itself up as the only respectable slasher series. It was consistently trying different things within the confines of slasher sequels, while also having an almost enclosed narrative because it rather smartly stuck to one town or one circle of people. Within the enclosed narrative, only maybe parts 2 and 6 were somewhat jettisoned out of the entire Nightmare narrative to various extents, because Nancy was not linked much in those films. Nancy exists in a sort of off-screen space in 2, with the new inhabitant of her room finding her diary. When she returns for part 3 and later dies after teaching the kids that their "superpowers" within their dreams can help defeat Freddy, she still manages to become the link to the fourth and fifth films. 

Part 4 quickly jettisons the remaining survivors of Part 3, who have returned to relatively normal teenage, high school lives. Kristen manages to call her friend Alice into her dream right before she dies. Alice then gains Kristen's power. As each of her friends and her brother begin to fall victim to Freddy, she gains their skills or powers. Her brother was into karate, her above-pictured friend was into weightlifting, another friend is highly skilled in science and can create tools out of simple objects. Alice becomes the only person who can defeat Freddy with her superpowers and release the souls of her friends and his other victims. Essentially, the film is a sweet story about how your loved ones never really die wrapped in a superhero origin story. This is not to say this storyline is maintained into the fifth film exactly, but it's an interesting experiment for the fourth Nightmare film.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

(Film) books, check 'em ouuuuuuuuut!

Repost from 2011, pre-grad school days. I re-read the two middle books at least twice during the course of my graduate education. The nitpicking may still stand, but I can discuss the theoretical issues with the two books pretty well when I want to.
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Here are some of the film books I was reading a month or so ago. Other than the Jonathan Lethem book, I felt the need to start out with some classics and basics

Feminist Film Theorists (Routeledge Critical Thinkers Series) - Shohini Chaudhuri
I think the number one thing I learned from this book is of the divide in early feminist film criticism that was American (sociological) versus British (psychological). And for the most part, this book puts forth the more psychological theorists. It's a minor fact, but it sort of explains why I do not absorb the psychological aspects too well. I was very close to minoring in sociology during various points in college as well. This book is mostly good as a starting point, but not much else.




Games of Terror: Halloween, Friday the 13th, and the Films of the Stalker Cycle - Vera Dika
This was released roughly a year before Carol Clover's Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Clover's book is more in-depth. Dika has some fleeting good ideas and it's not too bogged down with psychological theories; but it's a basic book that monotonously outlines the monotony of slasher/stalker films by discussing the plots of about a dozen films; in particular the Jamie Lee Curtis ouevre. Dika's jumping off point is Psycho, but from there she goes straight to Halloween, while only giving passing and brief references to Peeping Tom and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. My problem with this book and Clover's book is that it skips over Black Christmas. I do not know the history of Black Christmas past what Wikipedia tells us, and it wasn't a film I remember seeing around often in video stores when I was a kid and teenager. Was Black Christmas that obscure? Did Dika ignore it because it was Canadian or because it had an experienced cast in John Saxon, Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea; a post-Sisters, pre-Superman Margot Kidder, and a pre-SCTV Andrea Martin? Peeping Tom, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Black Christmas do not completely fit in the checklist of plot occurrences that Dika outlines for the films she discusses in this book, but neither does Psycho. By and large, The Burning seems to be more obscure than Black Christmas, yet that film receives a section in this book.

Other issues I had with this book: the frequent misspellings and typos. She misspells Steven Spielberg's name quite often. It was also hard to tell whether or not Dika was approaching these films from a feminist POV (and then a feminist POV as to whether or not slasher films can be feminist). And the way she used a Freudian binary system to declare characters as valued or devalued did not sit well with me. It's not a terrible book, but it has some issues that made me twitch.


Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film - Carol J. Clover
I have read this book twice now and in regards to the first book I reviewed in this post, I am perhaps still finding trouble absorbing most of the psychological criticism in this book. The only thing I feel as if I better absorbed this time around was the chapter on possession films and the chapter on the sort of meta horror films that concern viewing horror films (Peeping Tom, Demons). I did check out a lot of the films mentioned since having first read this book in 2006, like the oft-mentioned Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and I Spit on Your Grave. In fact, I checked out so many of these films that I could parse out some of Clover's mistakes (wrong dates, the implication that Motel Hell was inspired by Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 when Motel Hell was released six years before that sequel - also TCM2 is a terrible movie and I don't understand why anyone would want to write at length about it). I can't get too mad at Clover about them though, because for one thing, she's an expert in something like Nordic history. Film is not her primary academic interest, although the dates thing bugs me a bit because most VHS boxes back in the day did have dates on them, and it's not that hard to figure out dates from the roman numerals on copyrights at the end of films. And again, nary a word on Black Christmas, although at least Clover does cover Peeping Tom extensively. Also, for better or for worse, I can't shake off the fact that it is acknowledged by Clover herself in the Afterword that the writer of Slumber Party Massacre 3 changed the story significantly after reading the first chapter of her book, which was released in an academic journal in 1987; making for that film's ugly and brutal third act three years later.


Proof of my marginalia in Men, Women, and Chainsaws.




Deep Focus #1: A Novel Approach to Cinema: They Live - Jonathan Lethem

They Live is the first book in a new series of books published by Soft Skull press that allows fiction writers to discuss their favorite films. I haven't read any other books in the series yet, so I don't know if all the other writers take the same approach as Lethem. Lethem writes about John Carpenter's They Live on a almost shot-by-shot or scene-by-scene basis, each with a timecode reference. Some scenes receive only a paragraph of discussion, others receive up to four pages. It took me awhile to get used to this approach as I was sort of expecting something akin to the short books the British Film Institute publishes on films (although it is mostly film critics and academics who write those) that are long essays or treatises on a certain film. But after getting used to Lethem's approach, I found that he does have some interesting things to say about They Live, especially in connection to the art of Jenny Holzer and Shepard Fairey.