Cult horror cinema

Authored by: Steffen Hantke

The Routledge Companion to Cult Cinema

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138950276
eBook ISBN: 9781315668819
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315668819-7

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Abstract

Although the concept of cult cinema did not exist during the early years of cinema, the genre of the horror film would emerge with a strong affinity to the practices, preferences, and affective aesthetics of cult cinema at large. As genre conventions would begin to solidify, horror’s interest in the transgressive aspects of culture – from the bodily manifestations of death and disease, to the spiritual burdens of sin and taboo – would lock it into an antagonistic or even subversive relationship to the ideological mainstream of the national culture that produced it. Thus, horror’s affective aesthetic would plant it firmly within the small group, together with melodrama and pornography, of what Linda Williams has so aptly named “body genres.” Their emphasis on the viewer’s visceral reaction distances horror from the contemplative, analytical audience response predicated upon that safe sense of voyeuristic detachment that makes up the standard viewer position of so much narrative cinema. Instead, horror retains an immersive, or even assaultive grasp upon its audience, a claim akin to that of an earlier “cinema of attractions” that had not yet fully established the rules of narrative cinema. An oddly raw and atavistic cinema amidst well-mannered genres, horror film has always been demonstratively raunchy, vulgar, tasteless, offensive, and scandalous. Together with pornography, it has been the genre most frequently targeted by the censor, its shoddiest products snipped and cut and edited for content as often as its acknowledged masterpieces – a status the genre claims as a badge of honor whenever given the chance.

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