Moving past the trauma

Feminist criticism and transformations of the slasher genre

Authored by: Anthony Hayt

The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Gender

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138924956
eBook ISBN: 9781315684062
Adobe ISBN: 9781317408055


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Since 9/11, a common trend in horror film criticism has been to focus on the genre as a way of understanding and processing the trauma of the terrorist attacks that forever changed the cultural landscape of America, and of the world. This approach is warranted, as several shifts in horror production and consumption have been noticeable since 9/11. We have seen a simultaneous increase in the number of horror films with successful box office returns; the proliferation of new subgenres, such as “‘torture porn,’ ‘post-millennial horror road movie,’ ‘military horror movie,’ and ‘post-torture porn retro-slasher’” (Wetmore 2012: 18); and the rebirth of various tropes that had lain nearly dormant for decades, including zombies and vampires (both of which have been co-opted away from horror and turned into teen melodrama in various ways). There has also been a staggering number of remakes of horror films, including seminal titles like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974/2003) (the original film’s spelling is “chain saw,” while the remake is spelled “chainsaw”), Halloween (1978/2007), and Dawn of the Dead (1978/2004) and other lesser-known films, including I Spit on Your Grave (1978/2010) and House of Wax (1953/2005), among dozens of others. 1 It is clear, then, that producers are creating new genre templates and successfully reinterpreting past texts to act as the allegories of a post-9/11 world. The criticism that explores these changes in terms of cultural trauma is, therefore, necessary and wholly justified.

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