Halloween is just around the corner and every magazine seems to have come out with a list of classic Halloween movies this month so I thought I would say a few words about half a dozen horror films that make it onto most of these lists. The following comments are just a sample of noteworthy inclusions from each movie. My upcoming film guide for women provides an in-depth look at each of them.
Let’s do this chronologically. First up: Psycho (1960). It was written and directed by men and is the story of a psychopath (Anthony Perkins) who brutally murders a woman (Janet Leigh) who spends the night at his motel. Not only does Janet Leigh appear in various states of undress but the lead male is a peeping tom. Perkins spies on her through a small hole in her motel room wall as she undresses, breaks into her room and stabs her repeatedly as she showers. There is an undercurrent of misogyny that runs through this Alfred Hitchcock directed film and the fact that it is a favourite with men should cause much more alarm than it does.
Number 2: The Exorcist (1973). It was written and directed by men and is the story of a famous American actress (Ellen Burstyn) whose 12-year-old daughter (Linda Blair) mysteriously becomes possessed, prompting her to seek the help of a Catholic psychiatrist/priest (Jason Miller). This movie has its fair share of red flags. The 12-year-old girl appears in a nightgown while tied to a bed, alone in a room with two fully dressed men. Does no one else see a problem with this? She also appears in a bath. In three different scenes men restrain her, and a man strikes her three times before choking her. Ellen Burstyn does not fare well either. For one thing, her daughter strikes her so hard she knocks her to the floor. What is particularly noteworthy is the pornographic language used by the little girl. Here are some choice examples: she says of herself to a man, “Keep away! The sow is mine! F*ck me! F*ck me! F*ck me!” She also says of herself, as she stabs her vagina with a crucifix, “You b*tch! Do it! […] Let Jesus f*ck you! Let Jesus f*ck you! Let Jesus f*ck you!” She also shouts at her mother, “Lick me! Lick me!” and, referring to herself, “Do you know what she did… your cunting daughter?” If you are wondering who wrote this truly disturbing script, it was William Peter Blatty. The fact that financing was secured for this film project is astounding.
Number 3: Carrie (1976). It was written and directed by men and is the story of a teenage girl with telekinetic powers (Sissy Spacek) who is so badly harassed by her classmates that she kills them. Teenage girls appear naked and in states of undress and one girl fellates a boy in a vehicle. We get teenage girls being slapped by a woman and a teenage boy. We get a girl smacking another girl in the head with a book and knocking her to the ground before continuing to hit her. She also drags her across a floor, locks her in a closet and stabs her in the back. We get a girl trying to run another girl over in her car. Spacek falls down a flight of stairs. Her house is engulfed in flames and sinks into the ground while she is trapped inside. Another girl dies in a car explosion. Spacek’s mother (Piper Laurie) is pinned to a wall by knives Spacek has bewitched to attack her. Laurie’s body is pierced by five other bewitched kitchen utensils. Four women and girls die, over and above all the attendees of a high school prom. We have Stephen King to thank for this story. This is just one of many stories of his that demonstrate that he is no friend to women and girls.
Number 4: Halloween (1978). It was written by a man and a woman and directed by a man. It is the story of a teenage girl (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her two girl friends who are stalked on Halloween night by an escaped killer, who killed his older sister 15 years earlier. Here again teenage girls appear in states of undress, including topless. As in Psycho, the lead male is a peeping tom. Here the psychopath watches teenagers making out. He also watches a girl standing at her window in just panties. A teenage girl is repeatedly stabbed by her little brother. Other teenage girls are stalked, assaulted, chased, stabbed, choked, strangled and murdered by a man. And this is the story that kicked off a franchise that includes 11 movies! Clearly, there is a never-ending appetite in the film industry for men hunting women and girls.
Number 5: The Shining (1980). It was written by a man and a woman and directed by a man. It is the story of an American writer (Jack Nicholson) who loses his mind while working as the caretaker of a secluded hotel in the Rocky Mountains during the off-season and tries to murder his wife (Shelley Duvall) and their son (Danny Lloyd). As with Psycho and Carrie we are shown a naked female in a bath/shower. Notice a trend yet? Here we are shown a young naked woman sitting in a bathtub. We also get two murdered little girls lying on a hallway floor, covered in blood—as are the walls—next to a bloody axe. Shelley Duvall is repeatedly bullied by her husband. When she locks herself in her suite to get away from him he breaks down the door with an axe. He does the same thing when she locks herself in her bathroom. As if this were not enough, he also refers to her as a bitch and says to her, “I said I’m not gonna hurt you. I’m just gonna bash your brains in! I’m gonna bash them right the fuck in!” The story revolves around a man’s attempts to murder his wife and another man who murdered his wife and daughters. It is based on yet another misogynist novel by Stephen King.
And finally, number 6: Friday the 13th (1980). It was written and directed by men and is the story of a group of young adults (Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Kevin Bacon, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Mark Nelson) who are murdered one by one at a summer camp. Here again teenage girls appear naked and in states of undress, including topless. It’s full of inclusions for the benefit of male viewers like the girl who suggests playing ‘Strip Monopoly’. Seriously? The lengths filmmakers will go to to undress women and girls. And here again we see females being chased and hunted. Someone slits a girl’s throat, another girl is struck in the face with an axe that gets lodged in her skull, yet another girl is pulled into a lake by a corpse and a woman is decapitated.
It is worth noting that in all these movies an attempt is made to murder the lead female. Also noteworthy is he fact that these movies all contain sexualized violence against females and they have been very popular with male audiences for decades. Food for thought. My upcoming film guide for women contains 500 feature film reviews. I look forward to sharing my findings about mainstream movies of the 20th and 21st centuries and what they have to offer female viewers.
Copyright © 2020 Alline Cormier
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