Screams on Screen

f13-screemfilmsHorror films generally share common elements (some measure of blood and fear of death and/or dismemberment), but through the decades, explains Associate Professor of English Beth Younger, these creepy flicks reveal changing attitudes about gender roles in our society. They remain popular, however, for a more visceral reason: “It’s fun to be scared.”

Screen a Halloween celebration of cinema with Younger’s suggested lineup (and her analysis):

Halloween  A movie ostensibly about a crazed killer who preys on sexually active young women, it’s more a narrative about how absent parents and hapless adults are ineffective tools against a man with a mission. The major lesson of John Carpenter’s 1978 low-budget film: Girls don’t need anyone to save them; they can save themselves.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre  Sure, Leatherface is terrifying (he has a chainsaw!), but the scariest aspect of Tobe Hooper’s 1974 slasher film is the prospect of living in a house without women. TCSM is truly a nightmare for its heroine: Sally literally leaps through windows to avoid the family dinner. Twice.

28 Days Later  Danny Boyle’s 2002 introduction of fast zombies to the genre was controversial, especially because the zombies are not real zombies. A contagion narrative that turns into a romance.

Teeth  Best film ever about the utter failure of abstinence-only sex education. Best line: “It’s true, it’s true—Vagina Dentata!”

Night of the Living Dead  George A. Romero’s 1968 classic about zombies who want to eat you. But really, are the zombies that scary in contrast to the two men fighting over control of the farmhouse?  It’s a power struggle over differing versions of masculinity.

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