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July 1996, Week 4


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Tony Williams <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 25 Jul 1996 20:42:37 CST
text/plain (33 lines)
 Dear Harvey,
   Of course the tendency began with PSYCHO. But Hitchcock can not be blamed
for that nor for the dreadful Friday the 13th Psycho influenced series.
However, PSYCHO is a much more complex film. See "Identification and
Slaughter" in a back issue of cineACTION and a current article in FILM
COMMENT. Also, Le Pogue does a good economic reading in THE HITCHCOCK
READER which influenced my chapter on Hitchcock in my HEARTHS OF DARKNESS:
  But the visual pyrotechnic special effects did begin with a vengeance in the
80s so your ALIENS reference is relevant here. However, I also take issue
with the current tendency to return to readings of horror as a fetish effect
first suggested by Steve Neale in GENRE. Laura Mulvey has recently argued that
the fetish conceals not just sexuality but other features relevant to culture
and history. This takes the concept well beyond its limited Freudian
application and into other areas. Is not the fetish nature of the special
effects syndrome an attempt to drown and disavow the radical social meanings
inherent since the 70s within certain textual formations. The Friday the 13th
and NIGHTMARE films are still "family horror" works despite their inferiority
and special effects bloodbaths. Similarly, radical aspects exist in ALIENS
which Renny Christopher read as a Viet Nam allegory both in my co-edited
VIETNAM WAR FILMS (McFarland, 1994) and in an article in LITERATURE/INTERPRET-
ATION/THEORY. But how many members of the audience would read it that way
and avoid succumbing the the visual pleasures of special effects? We are
now in the realmof reader-reception. But different films do have manifold
texts and not all (especially PSYCHO) are dominated by special effects.
  Thanks for your comments on this matter.
      Tony Williams
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