Disclaimer: This is probably littered with typos. I’ve spent yet another full summer day with my darling children and my brain is mushy. Maybe I’ll have time to edit later…but probably never.
So Wes Craven died yesterday. Given that I have watched pretty much every horror movie made between let’s say 1970 to 2000, I have seen his work. I am a fan. He made me scream. I was reading an article about his passing in The Los Angeles Times (link here) only to discover that Wes Craven was yet another horror master who was made to feel shame for his art.
It’s a sad thing that. I’m not going to go over all the pro-genre arguments. Far more impassioned advocates have already done so. (Okay, well, maybe just a little at the end, but I’ll try not to preach). Instead I’d like to offer a short anecdote of a surprising experience I had watching the movie Bordello of Blood (NOT a Wes Craven movie). Make of it what you will.
You could argue that Bordello of Blood is among the worst of the worst of horror flicks. Maybe you’d be right. See, I only remember three things about the movie.
- The basic plot was hot vampires run a bordello and kill their customers.
- Angie Everhart is super hot. Seriously.
3. I experienced a feminist awakening of sorts while watching this movie.
Wait…what? You read me right. There I was watching the movie in my parents’ basement, drinking diet coke and eating mini pizzas – because that’s just how cool I was – when thoughts started to swirl around in my subconscious. I think they went a little something like this:
Angie Everhart is hot. Oh my God, I hate my body. She’s so pretty. I need more pizza. I hate..blah, blah, blah (what can I say? I was NA at one time too).
Next: There are a lot of naked women in this movie…a lot of naked women being killed in really violent ways. Like, really, really violent ways. Like naked women sliced completely in half violent.
Then: Why would anyone want to watch all these awkward young men kill these obviously gorgeous, sexually powerful women? I don’t get it. I mean they’re killing these hot vampires, but they obviously want to sleep with them, but these women are so out of their league…ooohhhh.
Suddenly I was filled with outrage…and understanding.
Now perhaps Bordello of Blood is not the best example of what it is that horror movies can do, but it is my example. You could argue my deeper understanding of hatred towards sexually powerful (and conveniently evil) women was an unintended consequence of the movie, but the campiness of it seems to suggest some ironic underpinnings. Was it exploitative? Absolutely. Did it touch on deep, uncomfortable issues? Absolutely. When horror is done well, it plunges its audience into the anxieties we’d all rather pretend we didn’t have. And when done really well, it triggers anxieties in both the individual and the collective zeitgeist – holding a mirror up to the ugly. Say what you will about Fifty Shades of Grey, that romance novel obviously tapped into something similarly uncomfortable and telling…that and, given the panic that ensued after its release, I am fairly certain that somewhere on a island with a skull carved into it, there is an alarm that goes off to alert world leaders and op-ed writers when a threshold number of women masturbating is crossed.
Of course, not every horror movie is a masterpiece, but neither is every book that calls itself literature. In fact, I have come across quite a few literary gems that seemed more self-indulgent diatribes of unhealthy cognitive strategies (wrapped up in a miserable bow) than works of art, but I digress.
I guess all I’m really trying to say is…
RIP Wes Craven.