List of must-see films for the Killer section of my taxonomy of horror sub-genres.
Silence of the Lambs (1991). Dir. Jonathan Demme. US.
This film does a lot in terms of making visible the problematic dynamics of gender in hyper-masculine workspaces (which, by the way, goes a long way in setting up similar dynamics in more recent media like The Fall), however, its approach to gender and sexuality is…problematic. While I don’t personally subscribe to the notion that Ted Levine’s character Buffalo Bill is meant to represent the transgender community as a whole (the character is based, loosely, on Ed Gein, who is an incredibly complicated figure in terms of gender and sexuality), that doesn’t change the fact that the film forefronts gender transgression as particularly dangerous. While I think there is a way to read this film through a feminist horror analysis lens that, perhaps, redeems some of its shortcomings, it’s important to remember the general upheaval and anxiety around body politics in the early 1990s in the US that undoubtedly influence this film.
Funny Games (1997). Dir. Michael Haneke, Germany, France.
Note the date listed for this film. Haneke’s 2007 US remake of his own film is adequate if you have a hard time with subtitles, but if at all possible, at least see the original film first. This film’s unabashed self-reflexivity and open acknowledgment of its own overt gore opens it up to some very rich and enriching conversations regarding the structure of the horror genre, how power in looking can be wielded in multiple directions and by multiple subjects, and the distinction between inter- and intra-species violence within the genre.
American Psycho (2000). Dir. Mary Harron. US.
Based on Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name, this film is particularly interesting for its historical placement. The novel was published in 1991 and the film was made in 2000, but is set, rather convincingly, in the late 1980s. This brings about a dialogue between 1980s and 90s economic and cultural trends and violence (specifically in terms of neoliberalism and implicit/explicit violence). Additionally, while it isn’t necessarily a film about relationship violence or mental illness on its surface, it’s definitely in conversation with later films (and film theory) that deal with these issues as their primary concern.
In Fear (2013). Dir. Jeremy Lovering. UK.
Anyone who’s followed my work for a while now knows that, in addition to horror, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time looking at Irish media, specifically cinema. This was one of the first Irish horror films (if we can call it properly Irish) that I saw when I begin looking for films that fall into these categories. For more on my analysis of the film see this post.
Hush (2016). Dir. Mike Flanagan. US.
Hush, in addition to being one of the best films I’ve seen in the past year, is one of very, very few that openly acknowledges physical disability in the horror genre (Texas Chainsaw Massacre technically does this, but Franklin Hardesty doesn’t make it through the film so it’s not a great example). This film is significant because it doesn’t just glance at disability, but rather incorporates Maddie’s (Kate Siegel) deafness not only into the narrative but into the film’s aesthetics and structure. My biggest critique of the film has to do with representation, in that neither Kate Siegel nor writer/director Mike Flanagan is deaf, so this film could have been a great casting opportunity that seems to have been lost. That said, it at least starts a discussion that seems to be very much ignored in the horror genre, both in filmmaking and theory, with regard to psychical disability.
Image Credit: Blumhouse Productions, Intrepid Pictures © 2016
Author: Geneveive Newman