Fred Kern The Horror Film ENG 267 University of Rochester

Fred Kern The Horror Film Eng 267 University Of Rochester-Free PDF

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It s Alright Ma You re Only Bleeding, In Alfred Hitchcock s Psycho 1960 the murderous and mother obsessed Norman Bates tells the. heroine Marion Crane A boy s best friend is his mother While this line has almost become as iconic. as the film itself the fact that it appeared in what many consider to be one of the first mainstream slasher. films makes it seem as prophetic as it is iconic Many slasher films revolve around the character of an. adult abandoned as a child whose obsession with his mother causes him to seek out female victims and. in the tradition of the slasher film stab them to death Although the origins of the murderous abandoned. child can be traced back to Psycho the character really came into its own during the early 1980s wave of. slashers films such as William Lustig s Maniac 1980 and Robert Hiltzik s Sleepaway Camp 1983. presented audiences with slashers who were abandoned by their parents and who serve as the viewer s. main point of identification allowing audiences to explore the slasher s compulsion to penetrate the. female form This is an incredible departure from films like Tobe Hooper s Texas Chainsaw Massacre. 1974 where audiences were meant to identify with groups of teenagers and were never given a glimpse. into the mind of the killer Because the audience is aware of the reverential relationship that the slasher. has with his absent mother the act of slashing suggests an attempt to reestablish a connection with the. womb and reenact his birth perpetuating the abject relation to the maternal as mentioned in Barbara. Creed s Horror and the Monstrous Feminine An Imaginary Abjection In her essay Creed argues that. the maternal function has become associated with the abject because of the dominant paternal or symbolic. order a dynamic that suggests the slasher s desire to reborn may in fact be symptomatic of a need to. move from the maternal order and into the symbolic. Before delving into the implications of the slasher penetrating feminine bodies a psychological. framework must be established in order to understand the the abandoned child In Otto Rank s The. Trauma of Birth Rank expands Freud s theory of the repression of birth and what purpose it serves in. human development Rank believes that the rebirth phantasy a common occurrence in which the. patient fixates upon the psychoanalyst and assigns them a parental role is evidence of the patient s. continued fixation on his or her mother writing It became clear to me that the strongest resistance to the. severance of the libido transference at the end of the analysis is expressed in the form of the earliest. infantile fixation on the mother Rank 4 From here Rank theorizes that patients who are affected by. the birth trauma are compelled to continually reenact their birth and align themselves with the. intrauterine This Rank writes is an attempt by the patient to free himself from the maternal by. recreating the act that imparted the anxiety of separation therefore mastering the birth trauma Rank. 5 Rank observes however an inherent danger in the rebirth phantasy writing Naturally the patient. constantly shows the tendency behind all his resistances to prolong indefinitely the analytic situation. which yields him such considerable satisfaction Rank 9 10 In other words the act of aligning oneself. with the intrauterine is so enjoyable that individuals prolong the rebirth phantasy indefinitely postponing. the stage where they separate from their mother and become autonomous. This theory complements John Bowlby s expansion of Anna Freud s findings on separation. anxiety and long term abandonment In Bowlby s Separation Anxiety and Anger an in depth. examination of separation anxiety and Freud s theories on the subject he describes Freud s concern that. finding a surrogate mother for a child that has been abandoned by his parents is a near impossibility This. assertion is based on a study conducted by Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham during World War II in. which they observed the behavior of children who were left in a residential nursery The nurses soon. acted as surrogate mothers for the children and Bowby describes the relationship writing Each nurse. could care for her own little group of children the children became strongly possessive of their nurse. and acutely jealous whenever she gave attention to another child Bowlby 3 During Freud s study it. became clear that children who were abandoned sought out surrogate mothers often resulting in either a. heightened possessiveness or open aggression if the child found his surrogate unsatisfactory The. children were also unusually prone to become hostile towards their surrogate or to reject her or else to. retreat into a state of emotional detachment Bowlby 4. While this is not always the case Bowlby points out that a significant number of abandoned. children exhibit these qualities and often develop into highly neurotic or troubled adults Bowlby 5 6. Indeed in one particular study conducted by Christoph Heinicke and Ilse Westheimer it was revealed. that separation anxiety is inordinately linked to the mother causing children to continually call out for her. or in some cases actively search for her One child that was particularly shaken is described as refusing. to even accept the possibility of separation from her parents unwilling to take off her coat and after. nodding off from sheer fatigue awoke screaming for Mummy Bowlby 8 After a period of time. however even the most affected child began scouting for a surrogate eventually connecting with her in. ways that he or she would with his or her real mother apparently seeking some sort of reassuring or. affectionate response from their surrogate Bowlby 9. It is from the intersection of these two theories that the character of the abandoned child as seen. in the slasher film takes shape According to N Blandin PJ Parquet and D Bailly of The Centre. d Information et de Traitement des D pendances both Sigmund Freud and Bowlby s theories on birth. trauma and separation anxiety are rooted in the supposition that the connection to the mother is instinctive. Blandin n pag This means that separation anxiety is not a learned behavior where one has to be. conditioned to feel connected to the maternal but genetically programmed and can be experienced. regardless of how much contact an individual has with one s mother This is not the only place where the. two theories seem to be in conversation with one another in both Rank and Bowlby the individual who. has not properly separated from his or her mother seeks out a surrogate whether it be an actual maternal. figure or a psychoanalyst In the cases described by Bowlby where the child attempts to reject his. surrogate we see shades of Rank s rebirth phantasy where the shift from hyper possessiveness to the. almost uncontrollable need to separate mimics the behavior of the patients who actively reenact the birth. process starting in the womb and eventually working towards their rebirth Because of the various ways. that the theories overlap it would not be so farfetched to suggest a fusion of the two where an individual. seeks out a surrogate maternal figure in order to fulfill both the rebirth phantasy as well as the need for. maternal authority as expressed by the abandoned children. A film that may be helpful in examining how this figure translates into horror cinema is Ridley. Scott s sci fi slasher Alien 1979 Set in the distant future a space crew aboard the appropriately named. spaceship Mother land on a foreign planet in order to investigate what they believe to be a distress. signal Upon landing the crew finds a spaceship that contains a room full of abandoned alien eggs One. of the crewmembers Kane examines one of the eggs and is attacked by the face hugger a crab like. alien that impregnates him with an alien child that later bursts from his chest Kane s child develops. into an adult almost instantaneously and terrorizes the rest of the crew using its body to penetrate each. member until Ripley the film s heroine expels the alien from the ship. Before venturing into the mechanics of how the alien and its desire to attack the crew operates in. terms of rebirth phantasy it is first necessary to examine the situation of its birth and how it could. potentially be related to separation anxiety Because the face hugger is the impregnator and the human. body houses the alien until it is born it seems that the distinction between human males and females is. almost infinitesimally unimportant when discussing the maternal body To the alien each body on the. ship would be a maternal body because of the way Kane serves as an incubator for the face hugger s seed. much like in human pregnancy when the woman acts as the vessel through which the child is carried and. eventually expelled So the fact that Kane is actually a male and not a female does not matter when. exploring the relationship between the abandoned child that is the alien and his relationship to what he. would consider the maternal body, From here we can see that after Kane who enacts the maternal function dies the alien baby is. left with no parents and is for all intents and purposes an abandoned child With this in mind the. alien s pursuit and subsequent murder of the crewmembers takes on an entirely new dimension Placing. the behavior of the alien within Bowlby s framework its desire to hunt the crew seems to parallel the. abandoned child s desire to seek out a surrogate mother to bond with Indeed like the children described. by Bowlby the alien seems fixated on the prospect of reuniting with the maternal function and largely. ignores the only non human creatures on the ship Ash the android and Jonesy the cat While this may. seem insignificant at first glance Ash and Jonesy are frequently in the same space as the other human. characters yet are never followed or captured by the alien who instead opts to hunt the human crew If. the alien truly were hunting the creatures aboard the ship solely because of predatory instinct it would not. seem that it would be so discriminate after all why only kill the largely harmless Brett when Jonesy. exists in the same space Similarly why is Ash the only crewmember besides the lone survivor Ripley. to not be killed by the alien but rather by his shipmates It seems as though the alien s blatant. disinterest in the non human bodies on the ship indicates that it is not necessarily an inborn violence or. predatory instinct that is driving him to penetrate the crew but rather a desire to rejoin with the maternal. body a feat that is only possible through interacting with the human crew. But if the alien s goal is to reunite with the maternal body why kill it instead of merely bonding. with it To answer this one only needs to examine the alien s method of killing the crewmembers. penetration Indeed the alien literally takes its body and attempts to shove it inside of his surrogate. mother allowing him to reenter the maternal body and by extension the womb The alien s desire to. reclaim its position inside of the maternal body is the ultimate form of bonding like the patients in. Rank s studies who fixate upon the psychoanalyst and attempt to mimic the intrauterine stage the alien s. desire to rejoin with the mother is so strong that it physically manifests by forcing itself inside of the. maternal body realigning itself with the intrauterine stage. Through this realization it becomes clear how the alien fulfills Rank s rebirth phantasy The. pattern of the alien s murders seems to play out as follows locate the victim penetrate the maternal body. and lastly sever that connection shortly thereafter As has been established the alien s pursuit of the. crew seems to align with the search for a surrogate while the penetration manifests the desire to reenter. the womb and the final act removing itself from the maternal body mimics the actual birth of the alien. Even if one ignores the implications of the alien physically removing itself from the maternal body the. visual parallels between the post penetration and post birth bodies certainly suggests a relationship. between the two Upon removing itself from the maternal body the alien leaves a large hole in its. victim s body leaving him or her completely bloodied This becomes particularly apparent during the. death of Parker the first onscreen victim besides Kane When the alien kills Parker the penetration is. not only visible but the cavity that the alien imparts in his chest is also shown as well though not without. the alien inside of it At this moment the parallels between the post birth physicality of Kane and that of. Parker become indistinguishable Both bodies are left terribly bloodied and hollow after their encounter. with the alien creating a parallel between the way the alien is born and the way that it kills the. crewmembers It is also interesting to note that during the murder of Lambert which is only. demonstrated through audio her screaming and panting is not dissimilar from the behavior of a woman. giving birth or even that of Kane who constantly screams until the alien is born Indeed it seems as. though by removing itself from the maternal body the alien is reenacting its own birth therefore fulfilling. the rebirth phantasy, But with this realization another question arises with the resolution of the rebirth phantasy why. does the alien continue to reenter different maternal bodies While at first this may seem incredibly. problematic the answer is actually embedded in the Ra. Kern 4 that separation anxiety is inordinately linked to the mother causing children to continually call out for her or in some cases actively search for her

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