Utopian Horrors

November 4, 2007 at 8:46 pm Leave a comment

This week Film Club witnessed the terrifying hyperbole of Mario Bava‘s Black Sunday, aka The Mask of Satan. You get a taste of the film’s sanguine rhetoric from the trailer, above. A good horror film should be pungent, and the witch/vampire Asa Vajda’s satanic dithyrambs admirably fit the criteria of many a ripe satire, avaunt la lettre. As generally with the vampire genre, the real danger is less bloodsucking than the unregulated female sexuality it portends. This sexuality needs find some sanction somewhere, and if it ain’t from above, then below will do. Vajda’s garrulity is an invitation to transgression. It’s silly in the film, but we like it.

We’re still getting off on the gothic. My friend Raccoon discusses the film’s atmosphere, here. Twisted trees, castles with hidden fire-crypt corridors, and the ubiquitous (and in Black Sunday superfluous) presence of a huge bat all bespeak the butter-soaked popcorn dreams of drive-in escape. If, as Adorno notes, the repulsive humoristic craze for the Loch Ness Monster and the King Kong film, are collective projections of the monstrous total State, in contrast, satanic and vampyric tropes–swathed though they may be in residual Romantic baggage–nevertheless sustain, if only for an occasional scene, the possibility of other possibilities.

That these opportunities are quickly contained by masculine bonding rape-inflected stakings, and mob-motivated bonfires returns us to the reality of the present conjuncture: the horrors of corporate un-life, or object-life. Death-in-life is the banal continuity of subservience to property-think. The monstrous comforts us with a return to the horrors we take for granted. Along the way, and this is the attraction of the genre, we occasionally perceive something dimly lurking beyond the grave of our capitalized, capitalist destinies.

I’m not saying that horror is revolutionary. Far from it. I’m suggesting that even at its most pleasurably predictable, the pleasure to be had is one of recognition. And that residual recognition is of something better (however sublimated or overt, however brief) than current “reality.” In this way horror is a subset of utopian yearning.

It may take the mask of satan to wake us from this nightmare.

Please also see my friend Unscrambled’s write-up, here.


Entry filed under: Film, movie, thurs afternoon. Tags: , , , , , .

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