Worse things than death

Believe me when I say that I mean no perversion  or malice in saying that “Dead Girl” was probably the movie I’ve been waiting for this class to show. I guess this is highlighted by the fact that the previous movie was quite disappointing. I feel like this movie has given the class a taste of horror, disgust, anger, humor, and even some “what the hell are we watching?” moments. To give a quick overview, the film had amusing character development accompanied by an interesting story line that included a commendable plot twist at the end. But, despite all those reasons, one might still say that I am a twisted, rotten-to-the-core, disturbed human being for enjoying a movie such as Dead Girl. It would seem that people, in general, who like horror films, who deliberately invoke discomfort amongst themselves, are peculiar, to say the least. However, with Andrew Tudor’s “Why Horror? The peculiar pleasures of a popular genre,” I wish to explain why people, myself included, enjoy the horror genre.

In the reading, Tudor attempts to discredit theories suggesting that horror film-goers find pleasure in the themes presented by horror because of their supposed animalistic inner desires. This “beast inside” theory therefore implies that watching a horror film is somehow similar to a purge, in which seeing terror, disgust, etc. relieves or releases one’s alleged unnatural and primitive behavior. Whether or not the horror film suppresses or encourages these feelings is beside the point. However, as explained in the reading, this argument is problematic and does not sufficiently answer the question: “what is it about people who enjoy horror films?” Instead, Tudor argues that people derive their satisfaction from horror films not from their deep, dark, twisted desires, but rather from the recognition of familiarity between the film and current social and cultural experience. And that instead of asking “why horror,” the real question should be: “why do these particular people enjoy this particular type of horror film at this particular time and place?”

So, in an attempt to use the reading’s framework, I first wish to identify what part of the movie may be linked to a familiar social and cultural context. For example, earlier American horror movies, popular “alien invaders” theme are actually drawn from underlying notion of xenophobia at that time. But these themes go beyond the social anxieties of the times. In the film Dead Girl for example, I believe that the underlying theme that audiences, like myself, found familiar was feminism. Today, the concept of feminism is probably no stranger to anyone. It is a popular subject of discussion in our mainstream and social media, as well as normal, everyday conversations. But, with movie entitled “dead girl,” it could be pretty hard to see why the movie is feminist.  Well, for the first part of the movie, it might seem like it isn’t. Basically, it features the objectification of women, specifically their passivity. This is quite obvious in the dead girl’s inability to speak her mind, express her emotions, and control her situation. She is tied up, raped multiple times and has been subjected to dehumanization and degradation. Despite her wild behavior, she is portrayed as weak, vulnerable and passive. She is literally and figuratively penetrated by the male figure, much like “Jane Doe” was penetrated by the tools of science. This argument is highlighted by the patriarchal society we live in, in which females who are victimized appeal more and leave a greater impact to the audience. Moreover, the objectification of women is apparent. For example, dead girl is treated as a mere means of sexual alleviation and not as a autonomous, although arguable, living being with emotions and feelings. This is not only observed in the case of dead girl, but also in Joann, who is Rickie’s object of interest. I use the word ‘object’ precisely cause he disregards Joann’s decision, which is to reject his affection. Furthermore, there are several scenes in the film where Rickie is found staring, quite creepily, at Joanne. There was even a scene where he dreams of Joanne being intimate with him.  Ultimately, Rickie’s true feelings and desires for Joanne were revealed through his decision at the end of the film. Towards the end of the movie however, we realize ‘dead girl’s’ true power, where she is able to fight back escape her prison. Furthermore, hints of a rational thinking mind were seen where she spared Rickie. Another scene that highlights the movie’s feminist theme is the gas station scene where both JT and Wheeler fail to kidnap a woman they lure into their trap.

Overall, the movie’s appeal, based on Tudor’s reading, was based on its current socio-cultural theme: feminism. Aside from that, the movie had invested enough time for character and plot development. It also featured a lot of disturbing scenes that would make you not want to watch the film again, but appreciate it nonetheless. I would definitely recommend the film to my peers, however, I would probably need to defend myself when I do.

 

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