Starring the Landscape: On the Road Again – Horror In Limnal Spaces

Walking Down The Road GIF - TheBeguiled TheBeguiledGIFs Alone - Discover &  Share GIFs

In this post, I want to talk about a secondary component of horror movies that are set in desert and rural landscapes, and that is the type of horror set in Limnal Spaces, such as highways, and rest stops. Not necessarily the road trip movie, which is often about nostalgia, but just people who are in the middle of traveling from point A to point B, through the more remote areas of America, and how a traveler’s status as not being in any particular place or time, invokes a certain kind of horror. The road is both somewhere and nowhere, and a lonely road at night is the ultimate limnal space, in which strange things can occur.

First, let’s define the Limnal Space. You can find numerous websites and Reddit pages discussing what these places/nonplaces are, and their emotional affects on people. Essentially, a Limnal Space is a threshold, it is any place that is between, from, or on the way to, a destination. Limnal spaces are not places where someone actually lives, because they are transitional spaces, places that, when they are empty, evoke feelings of unease, isolation, sadness, or loneliness, like empty schools during a break, hotel hallways at night, a house you’ve just moved out of, empty malls, empty gas stations at night, or highway rest stops. Limnal spaces can also be doorways to somewhere else. They are not a final destination in themselves, so highways, and even the vehicles that navigate them, are good examples.

TRAVELLER'S REST 」A building stand that can teleport and lock anyone within  a 2 meter radius into an infinite hallway that exists out of time and  reality. : fanStands

In fact, the horror of limnal spaces came to popular attention in tandem with the invention of the car, although the idea of such places have existed for centuries, in folktales and literature, (fairy rings, bridges), and the road trip movie helped popularize this idea for mainstream audiences. Limnal spaces are places where the veil between worlds is thin, and strange, and paranormal, things can happen. Cars can come to life, human monsters, and ghosts, can reach out, and people can unknowingly crossover into other worlds. One example of this is the Hitchhiker movie.

There was a time in American history when hitchhiking was fairly common place. Not everyone owned cars yet, especially in rural areas, and all kinds of people (teenagers, members of the military) would often hitch rides with strangers, and this was considered no big issue. But like most things during the sixties, it began to be viewed with suspicion, and once again, we can blame the popular awareness of serial killers, and other psychopathic murderers, for that. Not that the person picking up a hitcher might be one, that came later, but the person being picked up, might not be as innocent as they seemed.

GIF old hollywood hitchhiking clark gable - animated GIF on GIFER

The murderous hitchhiker is a very popular theme in horror. In 1953, Ida Lupino directed The Hitchhiker, a movie about two men who pick up a serial murderer, who is running from the police, while on their way to a fishing trip in Mexico. This was not inspired by the Charles Starkweather killings, but by the spree murders of one Billy Cook, who killed six people on a 22 day rampage across Missouri, in 1951.

Murderous hitchhikers are a staple of the road trip horror movie, from The Hitcher in 1986, to its remake in 2007, in which a young man picks up a hitchhiker, who is a violent psychotic, Road Games in 1981, and Switchback in 1997, which starred Dennis Quaid and Danny Glover, as detectives hunting a child killer across Texas. However the films, Kalifornia, and Natural Born Killers, were both based on the Carol Fugate and Charles Starkweather killing spree, of 1958.

Lonely Road GIF | Gfycat

Sometimes this trope gets turned on its head by psychopathic drivers chasing their victims across the highways, instead. The idea wasn’t made popular by the antics of Bonnie and Clyde, but by the 1971 film, Duel, directed by, an as yet unknown, Stephen Spielberg, and starring Dennis Weaver, as David Mann, an anxious businessman who gets chased by a mysterious truck driver, after Mann overtakes him on the highway. The trope of the killer truck driver also gets overturned in the Lance Henriksen film, The Nature of the Beast, (1995), where a businessman picks up a hitchhiker, during news reports of a killing spree, but who is the killer, and who is the victim?

Hollywood would go back to this well, a few more times, featuring morally ambiguous, middle class citizens being terrorized on America’s roads by outraged drivers, in movies like Road Rage from 1999, 1986’s Maximum Overdrive, which was adapted from a short story by Stephen King, about sentient trucks, and the Joy Ride franchise, which began in 2001, in which a group of teenagers get chased by a mysterious and angry truck driver, after they play a prank on him.

Gamemode] Your Face When - Online Edition - Page 147 - GTA Online -  GTAForums

Hitchhikers and psychotic drivers are not the only beings traveling the highways. Limnal spaces can also be emotional. The anxious feeling that one might become lost, is lost, or simply never be able to return home is in keeping with the idea of limnal spaces as places where the veil between worlds is thin. All manner of beings can slip through from “somewhere else”, as some hitchhikers may not be what they seem.

There’s the classic urban legend of the Vanishing Hitchhiker, a tale which goes back centuries, long before the invention of film, like when a driver finds that the lonely young woman they picked up on the road, has vanished from their vehicle. They investigate, only to find that their passenger died many years ago. The 1985 movie, starring Ellen Degeneres, featured a vanishing hitchhiker, and the CW TV series, Supernatural, featured a more malicious version, combining it with the Hispanic folktale of La Llarona, as a woman in white, who kills the travelers who try to take her back home.

Of Loneliness, Motherhood, Hauntings, and Cults | Literary Hub

There are other, more horrific beings traveling America’s roads, like the terrifying vampiric family, lead by Lance Henriksen, in the 1987 movie, Near Dark. A young cowboy picks up, a pretty girl at a bar, and finds, to his detriment, that neither she, nor her “family”, are entirely human, and in The Forsaken, from 2001, another family of vampires prey on any travelers they come across, in the Arizona desert.

Sometimes the dangers of the road seem mundane, but really aren’t. Cars break down, people get lost, run out of gas, and if the weather is bad, the traveler must also contend with the paranormal. In the 2007 movie, Windchill, two travelers have to deal with multiple issues, like a raging snowstorm, the possibility of freezing to death, accidents, ghosts, phantom gas stations, and even a phantom cop. Stranger things can happen in the half empty places of the world. In the 2008 movie Splinter, two couples are menaced by an alien parasite, at an out of the way gas station. What starts as a typical hitchhiker film, turns into a more complicated carjacking, which then becomes a fight for survival, against a strange bodysnatching alien.

Bodysnatching aliens aren’t the only things haunting America’s highways. Sometimes there are bodysnatching demons, as in the 2001 Jeepers Creepers, where two teenagers, on their way home for Spring Break, are menaced by an otherworldly, bat winged, serial killer.

Jeepers Creepers - GIFs - Imgur

One of the ultimate limnal spaces one encounters on the road, is the rest stop, especially at night. Rest stops are not anywhere. They are perfect temporal limnal spaces because they are places where people stop, but no one dwells. In Rest Stop (2006), a young woman encounters a number of strange people, and events, that occurred years before she stopped there, along with her boyfriend, for a bathroom break. In the 2008 sequel, the family of the couple from the first film go in search of them, encounter the same phantoms, and must fight for their survival.

In keeping with the road as a doorway to other dimensions, sometimes a person can end up in places they never planned to go, like Hell, as in the appropriately named 1991 movie, Highway to Hell. When a young man’s fiance gets taken to Hell, he sets out on the titular highway to rescue her, echoing the tale of Eurydice and Orpheus, who goes into Hell to save his wife. When not being taken to Hell, people can also encounter beings coming from the other direction, as Lou Diamond Philips does in the 2001 road movie, Route 666.

Demons, ghosts, and other otherworldly creatures can travel the same roads, and use them as portals, so a person should probably watch out for haunted, and phantom vehicles, in stories that are the opposite of the vanishing hitchhiker. The 1974 Killdozer features a haunted construction vehicle that goes on a killing spree, as does the title vehicle in the 1977 movie, The Car, and in the 1986 Maximum Overdrive, all vehicles become sentient after a meteor passes by the Earth, and, once again, from the mind of Stephen King, there is Christine, (1983), in which a young man is possessed by a haunted, self driving car, that was simply
“born bad”.

Driving America’s highways can certainly be a gamble, but not for the reason most people think. Highways and roads are not just gateways to adventure, but sometimes portals to unimaginable horror.

The Backrooms

This post would not be complete without a discussion of The Backrooms. If you research the topic of Limnal Spaces, you will encounter this story. which began on a Creepypasta Reddit about an endless series of office rooms, in which people have gotten lost.

Lost in the Backrooms by Jam

Starring The Landscape: The Horror of Po’ White Trash – Classism in Horror (Pt. 1)

Evil Dead Horror GIF

In 1974, Tobe Hooper released The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which seemed to release some sort of valve, because city people have been  visiting the rural South so they can die horribly at the hands, chainsaws, and shotguns of its residents for decades.  I cannot entirely blame it all on Hooper, because in 1972, Deliverance was released, a movie about a hunting trip that goes terrifically wrong, after four men meet the  banjo playing locals, and country people have been terrorizing city people ever since.

The country is the place city dwellers go to to be tortured, raped, and consumed by  poor people, and occasionally chased by bears. But it wasn’t always like this. Before the fall of the studio system, along with the Hayes Code, and the popularity of graphic horror in the sixties, the country was seen as a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, where the mood was one of bucolic serenity, and oneness with nature,  “the locals” were  often depicted as ignorant, but well meaning comedy relief, as in Maybery RFD, or The Beverly Hillbillies. Occasionally, some city person would be trapped in the country, (Green Acres), and would be itching to get away from it,  not because the residents were unfriendly, but because living in the country was boring.

Quiz: How Well Do You Remember

The children of the suburbs grew up, and young Americans of the 70’s, looked  over the American landscape, and viewed all of it as inherently dangerous. But it was the growing Environmentalist movement that made them view rural America, and its inhabitants, with deep suspicion. Not only were there a bunch of movies about environmental vengeance released during this period, mostly in the form of man-eating wildlife, but the locals were also out to punish city people for their hubris.

White trash is a “racist and classist slur[1] used in American English to refer to poor white people, especially in the rural southern United States. The label signifies a social class inside the white population and especially a degraded standard of living.[2] It is used as a way to separate the “noble and hardworking” “good poor” from the lazy, “undisciplined, ungrateful and disgusting” “bad poor”. 

Poor whites, Georgetown, D.C. | Library of Congress

Generally poor whites, (all these movies consist of white people preying on other white people), were depicted in early film,  as friendly, not very bright, but trustworthy, honest, direct, generous, and hard working,  salt of the earth people, who were close to the land. The seventies and eighties also saw a rise of serial killers, like John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, and Richard Ramirez. People simply could not be trusted, like they used to be. Consequently, there was a rise in the  popularity of movies about city people encountering various horrors when visiting the fringes  of the American countryside.

 The majority of Horror movies set in the country feature human beings who view other human beings as prey, from hunting, killing, and eating them, to simply terrorizing them in their country homes, on camping trips, or in their RVs. The woods, and rural America, are often used as a stand in for loneliness, isolation, wildness, or self- sufficiency, rugged individualism, and lawlessness. People can do anything to anyone in the woods, and hide any sin without consequences, because the bodies will never be found.

Deliverance GIFs | Tenor

Yet, there is also another, more insidious, component to movies set in the countryside, and that is Classism. This didn’t begin with the movie Deliverance,  but that movie certainly contributed to a theme found in dozens of such movies released since the 70s. In Deliverance, four men from the city go on a fishing/camping trip, and after having a rude  encounter with some of the locals, get  tortured, raped, and murdered. In 1975’s Race with the Devil, a family on a camping trip, are terrorized by vengeful Satanists, after witnessing one of their rituals,  and in The Hills Have Eyes in 1977, another family on a camping trip, is hunted and eaten by a bunch of cannibalistic, inbred mutants.

These are all  movies which depict the people who live in rural environments as, at best, degraded versions of city dwellers, and at worse,  not quite fully human. They are shown as thin, toothless, and malicious, as well as irrational, violent, and animal-like, with no control over their sexual desires. They are dirt-covered, misshapen, ugly, or inbred mutations of the prettier, cleaner, better dressed, and  more cosmopolitan looking  city people. After the movie, Deliverance, rural inhabitants were also shown as uneducated, with missing teeth, bad English, and  malicious intent. They were insular,  xenophobic, envious, or contemptuous, of their  smarter, middle class, college educated, visitors, often resentful of their wealth, relative to their own, and their mannerisms. Poor rural folks would lie to them for fun, warn them of non-existent horrors, or give false directions to lead them astray.

Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: White Trash Bed and Breakfast - NBC.com

But sometimes, city visitors deserved their harsh treatment, as their torture by the locals is often in retaliation for some misdeed, disrespect, or contempt. Country folk are proud, and city people are often shown being mocking and arrogant, sometimes killing the locals out of negligence or for fun,  as in the 1988 movie, Pumpkinhead. When a group of college students accidentally take the life of his only child, farmer Ed, along with the local witch, summon  the aid of the titular vengeance demon. All of the tropes of rural life are there. The townsfolk are dirt covered, threadbare, suspicious and superstitious, with the requisite southern accents, while the college students are clean,  pretty, well dressed, and wealthy enough to travel, and own recreational vehicles. Notice their use of standard English, with Midwestern accents, compared to the vocabulary and accents of the locals.

I wrote before about the use of accents in movies, and how they were meant to note the class status of certain characters. The 1994 movie, Kalifornia, starring Brad Pitt, and Juliette Lewis, (Early and Adele), as two middle class actors doing their  impersonation Hollywood’s interpretation of “Poor White Trash”. Early and Adele are strongly contrasted against the other couple in the film, played by Michelle Forbes and David Duchovny, as a couple of clean cut, cosmopolitan, Yuppies on a road trip. When Forbes character first sees the two, she sniffs in disdain at Adele’s manner of dress, and is appalled by their lack of manners, and public displays of affection. Adele is sweet, but dim, as she expresses doubt about the other couple’s friendliness towards people like her, as she seems aware of their class differences. At least part of the reason their trip turns sour is because of Early’s lust, and envy of the other couple.

early grayce | Tumblr

These class differences were excellently parodied/subverted, in the 2011 movie, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, where a bunch of college students jump to erroneous conclusions about two hapless friends, who are visiting the country to fix up their ramshackle second home(that looks like it once belonged to a serial killer). Things get off to a bad start after Dale approaches one of the girls, and comes off as a tiny bit creepy. Tucker and Dale are both horrified, and panicked, as these attractive, well dressed , college students kill themselves in increasingly gory accidents, in their attempts to stop the two friend’s assumed killing spree. Why? Because the college students have watched too much media where the local country bumpkins happen to be serial murderers, preying on their social betters.

Children Of The Corn Sacrifice GIF by Shudder - Find & Share on GIPHY

Outside of the occasional ghost, or  myth, there are  few paranormal creature features set in rural areas. Movies like Jeepers Creepers, The Ritual, and The Blair Witch, which feature supernatural beings, are not as frequently made.In Hollywood, the supernatural takes the form of a fear of occultism, expressed in the idea that the people who live in the country are the followers of mysterious unknown gods, violent cults, and pagan rituals. The countryside is a place where dark forces must be appeased by the blood of either its inhabitants, or the unfortunate outsider, who strays near.

In Stephen King’s 1984 movie Children of the Corn, a group of children have sacrificed all of the adults in their communities, and any outsiders who wander by, to  the nameless god, (He Who Walks Behind The Rows), who lives in  the local cornfield. The 2006 American version of the 1976 British film, The Wicker Man, stars Nicholas Cage as an outsider who gets sacrificed to the local pagan god by a community of murderous women who worship bees, and in the latest iteration of this theme, Ari Aster’s 2019 Midsommar, a cult of pretty, blond, Europeans, murder four college students, while love-bombing one of the group’s members into joining them. In these movies, city folk are godless heathens who must be sacrificed,  or lusty hedonists, who must be sacrificed for their sins.  People from the city are rational, and are  never shown to be members of cults willing to sacrifice one another in barbaric pagan rituals, as depicted in the 1975 film, Race with the Devil.

Midsommar GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

This discussion would not be complete without discussing  the  insidious, yet prominent depiction, of poor white trash, as the consumers of human flesh. Remember, the film industry, especially the horror genre as a whole, is almost entirely controlled by straight white, middle class men, so we’re learning not so much about what scares most Americans, as what scares a small population of privileged, white, city dwelling  men. At the same time, we are learning about how they view white people that they think of as less than. Cannibalism is taboo in most of the world, but only in America has an entire economic class of people been demonized as eaters of “the other white meat”. In film after film, from 1963’s Blood Feast, to 1977’s Hills Have Eyes, and its 2006 remake, 1980’s Motel Hell, and  2003’s Wrong Turn franchise, poor folk have indeed been “eating the rich”. Well, folks who are richer than them, anyway.

Wrong Turn 7 Theory: The Foundation Will Introduce A New Cannibal Family

The association being made here is that country folk are little better than the wild animals, or that they are so poor, that they will eat anything out of sheer desperation. They will just as soon kill and eat people, as any of the wildlife, and are sometimes indistinguishable from it, as they are often depicted as either the mutated results of nuclear radiation, or as the mutated products of inbreeding. They are  shown as sexually untamed, and indiscriminate, willing to mate with whoever, or even whatever, is readily available, including members of their own families, livestock, and yes, visitors from the city.

At the same  time, such films are also a middle finger to  well dressed, exploitative, and arrogant, city dwellers, who think they’re better than the rural inhabitants. Poor whites eating them is a form of punishment, or sometimes contempt, to show that people from the city can look down their nose at the locals all they want, but even they are little better than meat.

When poor (or formerly poor) white folks do get portrayed in the media and pop culture, they’re often reduced to a series of offensive stereotypes: that they’re angry, lazy, dirty, overweight, sunburned, stupid, racist, alcoholic, abusive, jobless, tacky, diseased, violent, backwards, Bible-thumping and uneducated. Those stereotypes get reinforced over and over again on TV and in movies…
Rob Zombie’s Poverty Horror
While we’re here we should probably discuss the  filmography of Rob Zombie, who has made a career out of showing rural white people as various shades of Boonies, Crackers, Hillbillies, Okies, Rednecks, Swamp Yankees, Yokels, and/or White Trash freaks and monsters, (the women often wearing ripped and skimpy clothing), in nearly all of his films. His characters, however, are not unsympathetic. Unlike films by other directors, Zombie empathizes with his characters. They are poor, and downtrodden, but  their victims are worse, and deserve their fates. His directorial style is highly influenced by the grade B  Horror films he loves.
In fact, he has coined his film style Hillbilly Horror, a type of horror that is specifically created to showcase the freakishness of the rural inhabitants, with which he identifies, with their  emphasis on gore, weird costumes, and various social pathologies, like angry fathers, drunken mothers, screaming dysfunctional families, sexual exhibitionism, and lots of murder. These are the kinds characters created  by someone familiar with their  lifestyles, and sympathetic to their feelings about it.
In House of 1000 Corpses, and its sequel, The Devil’s Rejects,  a couple gets kidnapped by a rural family who subjects them to the medical experiments of the local mad doctor.  In Lords of Salem a radio DJ experiences strange visions , and horrors after playing the final album from a Satan worshiping Rock band. But it is in his 2007 remake  of John Carpenter’s  Halloween where many of Zombie’s  tropes coalesce.
halloween 2007 | Tumblr
In Zombie’s remake, Michael Myers is given a victim’s  backstory of child abuse, and neglect. His mother is absentmindedly affectionate, his father is a screaming, angry,  disabled asshole, and his sister is openly sexually promiscuous. Michael is shown to be a product of a deeply dysfunctional poor white family, where the mother is often absent, and the father makes sexual overtures to his own daughter, and emotionally abuses his son. We didn’t need to know these things about Michael Myers, but it puts his psychopathic tendencies in a new light, especially against the backdrop of the many years of such movies that depict rural pathology.
Note that Michael doesn’t kill other poor people. He only  kills the comfortable, small town, middle-class members of Haddonfield. Contrast Michael’s upbringing with that of Laurie Strode, his most prominent victim, who comes from a middle class, mainstream lifestyle as the daughter of the local sheriff. The homes Michael invades are warm, comfortable, wel ldecorated places where he afflicts the comfortable.
Horror movies in country settings are a repository of all the types of evil that city people disdain. As if by laying these sins onto the backs of others, they can absolve themselves of their complicity in the creation of such environments. By telling themselves that such people either hate them, or aren’t human anyway, they believe they  are unworthy of compassion. Its yet another way for middle class  Americans  to abdicate their responsibilities in caring for their fellow man.

Women-Directed Films You Can Stream Right Now — Geeks Of Color

Happy Women’s History Month! In honour of the month dedicated to acknowledging and celebrating achievements from women, let’s take a moment to recognize films directed by women. This list consists of films released recently on respective streaming platforms. Each film was either exclusively released on said streaming platforms or found their homes on streaming after…

Women-Directed Films You Can Stream Right Now — Geeks Of Color

Great Forgotten Animations

All of these movies are favorites. I just want to share these, to let people know not to forgot that these exist, and that all are well worth watching. Some of these I may have spoken of in previous posts, but I certainly don’t mind mentioning them again, if you don’t mind reading about them again. Have any of you seen these, and if so, what did you think?

Triplets of Bellville

Triplets of Belleville is one of the more unusual styles of animation. Directed by the French animator Sylvain Chomet, in 2003, it has almost no dialogue, even though there’s lots of singing. The lead character, although unnamed in the movie, is Madame Souza, who has to rescue her grandson, Champion, a bicyclist who has been kidnapped, and taken to the city of Belleville, (a stand in for New York City), by the Mafia. Accompanied by Champion’s faithful old hound, she meets the titular triplets, who can lay down some awesome vocal beats, and who make their living by blowing up fish in the nearby lake. Together the four of them, and Champion’s faithful doggo, set out to take down the local Mafia, and rescue Champion and his companions.

This film is a joy to watch. The animation style is definitely unique and deeply funny, in that grotesque French style, that only they are capable of, with lots of weirdly distorted faces, massive globular bodies, and giant teeth. And then there’s the dog. Champion’s dog is just an old gentleman, who doesn’t do anything particularly heroic, but has lots of vivid dreams about being menaced by trains.

It’s always interesting to see how other cultures approach the art of animation, which can be very distinct in style and mood to American animation. Triplets is available on Prime video for rent.

The Illusionist

This is the second film by the director of Triplets of Belleville, Sylvain Chomet. There is another, very odd, film before that one called The Old lady and the Pigeons, which is simply “bizarre:” on a whole other level, but this movie is very accessible, even though, it too, has no dialogue. In it, a failed magician, having been pushed out of the entertainment industry by Rock music, packs up his act (and his pet rabbit) and movies to Scotland, where he meets a little girl, who believes he has genuine magical powers. The little girl follows him to his next gig, where they become increasingly impoverished, as he takes care of her. Eventually however, she meets a young man who fancies her, after which the magician leaves her, to get on with her life, without him.

I absolutely loved this movie. It is the very definition of bittersweet. There’s less grotesqueness here than in Triplets, but the characters are no less charming. I do have to admit, the first time I watched it, I was expecting something a bit more wild and zany, like Triplets. I was disappointed that it wasn’t, and barely paid attention, but after subsequent viewings, this movie really grew on me. It’s a soft film, without much bombast, which gets right to the point, and is definitely easier to understand than The Old Lady and the Pigeons.The Illusionist is also available on Amazon Prime.

Aeon Flux – Liquid Television

Waaay back in the 90’s, there was a network that used to air music videos. At some point, it kind of stopped doing that, and started playing reality TV shows, and then late at night, it would air things like this, on a show called Liquid Television. This is a pretty weird episode, but its not even the weirdest one I first saw. When I first saw these I had no f*cking idea what to think of these tall, extremely thin, characters, wearing barely any clothes, shooting guns at each other. I just knew this were different from anything else on TV at the time, and that it was funny, in an odd, twisted, silly kind of way.

In the the first one I saw, Aeon was tongue kissing this same guy (it turns out that his name was Trevor Goodchild), on a train, in extreme detail, and then having her neck broken by her own rope, as she tried to jump off. The signature tropes of the Aeon Flux cartoons, was that everyone (and I do mean everyone), just casually walked around in bondage gear, and Aeon died in every episode. I would stay up til 11 or 12 at night to watch these, knowing I had to get my ass up n the morning, to get ready for work.

Later, there was a movie about this character, starring Charlize Theron, but it flopped. (I do not recommend it, because it bears almost no resemblance to the cartoon, beyond the wearing of the pseudo-fetish gear.) The story was bad, the acting was worse, and it was basically directed by someone who had no understanding of what made the cartoon so iconic. It was also not funny.

Aeon Flux can be watched on Amazon Prime, MTV (on the app for free) and the CBS subscription.

Neo-Tokyo

Neo Tokyo is an animated anthology film, released in 1987, just one year before Akira. But I didn’t see it then. I saw it a few years later on MTV’s Liquid Television, along with Aeon Flux. Actually, what I saw was the middle story by Yoshiaka Kawajiri, called The Running Man. (Kawajiri is the director of Vampire Hunter D.) The Running Man was “haunting”, and the memory of it stayed with me for years. It’s the story of a champion race car driver, who has been winning his races by using Carrie-like superpowers, which eventually run out of control, and kill him. This particular segment is iconic, but the other little known segments includes one by Katsuhiro Otomo, (the director of Akira), called Construction Cancellation, about a lone man trying to deliver ta pink slip to an automated construction center, that refuses to cancel itself.

Sections of this anthology are available for viewing on the Dailymotion, and Vimeo apps for free.

Atom Ant – Cartoon Network Groovies

I remember Cartoon Network’s little music jams that played in between ads. There’s no plot here, but this is one of my favorites. I remember watching Atom Ant, when I was a little kid, and I just liked this little electro-remix.Atom Ant was part of the 1965 Hanna Barbera cartoon series, called Atom Ant and Secret Squirrel, so I watched it in syndication, on idle Saturday mornings. This was directed by Jonas Odell, with music by Michael Kohler. There were several other Groovies that played at the time, with one of my top favorites being The Powerpuff Girls theme song. Atom Ant is available to watch …here, and on Youtube.

Metropolis

Metropolis is one of my quiet favorites, as it rarely makes it to people’s lists of favorite anime movies. This is a worthy successor to a movie like Steamboy. Yes, there’s robots, and yes, there is an apocalypse but that’s where the similarity to robot dystopias ends. This movie, about a little girl robot, named Tima, whose destiny is to destroy the city of Metropolis, is full of genuine feeling, as tries to find a way to avert an evil future through her love for a human boy named Kenichi. The animation is clear, and well done, with beautiful scenery, and great characterization, and the ending might well have you in happy tears. Metropolis is available for streaming now on Crackle, and Apple TV

Family Dog

While I fondly remember the brief television series called Family Dog, my greatest nostalgia is for the original episode that was featured in the second season of Steven Spielberg’s 1987 television series Amazing Stories. In the pilot episode, the nameless, little, Bull Terrier, (who was subsequently named Jonah), had to put up with two obnoxious kids, shameless house burglars, guard dog training, and becoming famous, all in the space of thirty minutes. The series itself eventually failed, because although the dog was the hero of the episode, and sweetly charming, his family was thoroughly unlikable. The very first episode is available for streaming on Dailymotion, and Vimeo.

Rock and Rule

This is yet another cartoon I watched, somewhere around fourteen, late one night, when I was supposed to be asleep. This is not exactly for kids, what with it being full of Rock music by people like Iggy Pop, but I’m sure pretty plenty of kids have seen this movie. I do have the distinct memory of being mildly confused by the idea that there were no humans in this universe, only elevated animals, that acted like human beings, who had lived through the seventies, apparently. I remember trying to figure out exactly what types of animals some of them were, how did they know English, or how to play guitars. Most movie cartoons have musical numbers, but this was hte first one I’d encountered that had more modern music.

At the time, I didn’t know much of anything about Rock music either, as this was something not listened to in our house, (you had two choices of music in our house, Country music, and R&B), but I liked the music just fine, because of Debbie Harry. My mom considered Debbie Harry to be Disco, which was acceptable in the house, so I knew a few of her songs, (Rapture, Heart of Glass) and recognized her voice.There was also some Earth Wind and Fire, which I recognized, but I knew jackshit about Lou Reed, and Iggy, even though Mok’s theme was one of the coolest songs in the movie, and Angel’s Song is still on rotation on my phone’s Playlist!

The plot is fairly simple, but the movie is puffed out with a lot of comedic scenery, that I thought was annoying, when I was a teenager. Mok wants to open a portal to allow some type of demon entry to Earth, or gain superpowers or something ,and he is looking for just the right voice to do it, because apparently his own is insufficient. he chooses Angle, who is stuck in a nowhere Rock Band with her on again off again boyfriend Omar. When Omar discovers that Mok is just blowing smoke up her ass, so he can use her in an arcane ritual, he has to try to rescue her and defeat Mok.

You can enjoy this weird little movie on YouTube for free, or pay twenty dollars to watch it on Amazon Prime.

Or you can use the streaming app of your choice. I’m not gonna tell you what to do…you are the boss of you.

Fandom Racism 101: Basic Body Politics — Stitch’s Media Mix

I love a tol and a smol and if you’re in fandom… chances are that you do too. There’s something supremely thrilling about size differences in a pairing. I know people who’ve gotten into their ship of choice specifically because of the huge height difference between the pairings. Hell, I got into Devilish Joy specifically […]

Fandom Racism 101: Basic Body Politics — Stitch’s Media Mix

Here’s Stitch’s nuanced take, on how desire and eroticism work, in fandom, as seen through a racial lens.

Fan Service #3 – On Racebending and Seeing Yourself in Fandom — Stitch’s Media Mix

Fandom is all about community. We come to fandom because of things we love and connect with other people who love the things that we love for the same reasons we do. There’s a post going viral on Tumblr that says “a fandom can just be you and the ten people you haven’t blocked yet”, […]

Fan Service #3 – On Racebending and Seeing Yourself in Fandom — Stitch’s Media Mix

The Most Terrifying and Sneakiest SCPs

I love covering these SCPs. It satisfies my love for horror stories and movies all year round, and I’m really glad I found it. Why didn’t anybody tell me about the SCP Foundation before two years ago?

Here’s my list of SCPs which are especially creepy, sneaky, and horrifying. These are SCPs that creep up on you, or masquerade as something else, in order to lure you closer before eating you, or maybe just scaring you to death.

SCP 906: Scouring Hive

SCP-906 | Scouring Hive - SCP | Secure. Contain. Protect.

I found this SCP pretty horrifying, because its just a collection of bugs, that can group together, until they form a humanoid shape, which can mimic the sound of a human voice. If you’ve ever seen the movie Mimic, this is sort of like that, only these bugs are smaller. They produce a clear acid like substance that can burn through everything except titanium, and completely dissolves its prey. When it’s hungry, it swarms its victims, covering them in the acidic liquid, until the person is reduced to a slurry that it can then more easily consume. It can only be destroyed by fire. Not only that, but it seems to enjoy targeting human beings, and has been known to laugh at its victims, after luring them in.

My brain isn’t even trying to picture what this SCP might look like. (Probably disgusting.)

SCP 303: The Doorman

SCP-303 - The Doorman : Object Class - Euclid : Mind affecting SCP - YouTube

The Doorman is a cognito-hazard that, while it doesn’t do any actual physical harm, is nonetheless terrifying, because that’s the point. It’s a humanoid shaped creature, with a large head that has no eyes, is mostly made up of teeth, and lurks near doors and windows, where it can stare in at its victims. The person’s terror can become so great, they simply freeze, unable to move forward, or go through any doors, after having witnessed it. The Doorman only shows itself to one victim at a time, hiding when any other potential witnesses come near.

Oddly, the creature isn’t doing this on purpose, as the fear it produces, is just a side effect of its presence, and it doesn’t make physical contact with the people it observes, but I imagine that’s of little comfort to people on the receiving end of that eyeless stare.

SCP 525: Spider Eyes

SCP 525 - Eye Spiders by MusicMurder on DeviantArt

Oooh, this one is particularly disgusting, as it involves both eyeballs, and arachnids. Its also pretty weird since, in its original state, its just a bunch of disjointed legs, until more than six of them get put near each other, then they hook themselves together, and go looking for a host to inhabit. After finding a suitable life form, the legs go directly to a person’s eyeballs, removes one of them, attaches itself to the eyeball just removed, then implants itself back in the eye socket. And then it just lives there, in the person’s eye socket, until the eyeball withers away.

That’s it. It doesn’t take over the body, or make little spiders, or anything, and when its done with that host, it simply goes looking for a new one.

SCP 1471: Mal0 App

MalO ver1.1.1 | SCP-1471 Lore - YouTube

Okay, this one is pretty weird, and a little hard to describe, but essentially it’s a stalker/hunter SCP, like a cross between It Follows, and The Ring, except it finds its victims through an app, of the same name. A person receives and invitation to download the app, and once they do, no shortcut will appear on their phone, but they will begin to receive images of the their new stalker, a large humanoid figure with the skull of some kind of dog, usually in background shots of places they like to frequent. They will be sent these images every few hours, starting with places they visited in the past, to places they just visited, and finally in the same place with them, and getting closer with each photo. The victim will also start to see the figure in their peripheral vision, or in reflective surfaces nearby.

Like The Doorman, it is non-hostile, but still terrifying to look at, and be stalked by, so I’m opting out of this one, too.

SCP 198: The Coffee Mug

SCP-198 | Cup of Joe - SCP | Secure. Contain. Protect.

This pretty little cup is definitely one of the more disgusting ways to die. First of all, it changes its shape to trick people into picking it up, is difficult to contain, and is currently under heavy guard at the SCP Foundation, just in case it disappears at some point. When a person picks it up, it immediately bonds itself to their hands, in what is said to be an incredibly painful process, and cannot be removed, until the person is dead. So picking it up is essentially a death sentence unless someone is there to cut off the limb holding the cup.

After it bonds to its victim’s hand, it begins to automatically fill with different body fluids from the victim, both dehydrating the person really, really, fast, and causing a tremendous thirst. The liquid could be anything from blood to mucus, to urine, to bile, but the only way to slow down the process of dehydration, and eventual death, is to drink what’s in the cup, after which it will immediately fill up with more liquid. Not that that’s going to save them, because throughout the entire process, the victim is still dehydrating. They will mummify much faster if they stop drinking, so pouring it out is not an option, if the victim wants to live a little bit longer, but eventually, they can’t drink anymore, because they are either too full, or too repulsed to keep going.

And that’s enough of that. My brain had no problem imagining this one.

SCP 1128: The Aquatic Horror

Steam-værksted::SCP 1128 Swep

SCP 1128, is both a physio- and cognitohazard. Its a meme where, if someone describes this underwater creature to someone in detail, than that person will also be infected by the idea. There aren’t any symptoms, at first, but eventually the person starts to become hydrophobic, and begin trying to avoid being immersed in water. After a few days of this fear/obsession, they can be pulled bodily into any amount of water, no matter its depth, and if fully immersed, they may or may not survive the event. Those that survive the experience, come back very disturbed, and frantic, and will describe being transported to a large body of water, where they are relentlessly chased by a massive predator.

And then there are the ones that don’t make it back…

SCP 1382: Save Our Souls

SCP-1382 - Save Our Souls - YouTube

This for me is one of the saddest and most horrifying SCP’s. Just the entire idea of being trapped in a horrific situation that you can never get out of sounds pretty bleak. This is one of the aquatic SCPs, anchored to a buoy, with an alarm on it. When the alarm goes off, any water-going vessel, that’s close to it, will sink, and its inhabitants will become part of the SCP.

The SCP itself (called 1382-1) is the remains of a downed airplane in Lake Michigan, that contains the skeletal remains of the passengers and crew. When the alarm on the buoy sounds an SOS, in Morse code, the remains will resurrect, and go through the motions of their last 13 seconds aboard the drowned aircraft. Any ship or boat near the buoy, when it sounds the SOS, will disappear, and its crew and passengers will become trapped with the remains on the drowned plane.

This sounds absolutely awful as the resurrected remains keep reliving their deaths over and over.

SCP: Mold Ester Moon

I’m not entirely sure that this is an SCP, because I couldn’t find a number for it. Like The Doorman and Mal0, its essentially harmless, but is nevertheless still pretty damn creepy. There are a lot of rumors about what it will do to a person if it encounters them, but I couldn’t confirm any of these on the SCP website. The Mold Ester is basically a moon shaped orb that just like It Follows, stalks its prey, slowly and relentlessly, until it finally catches up, and does something to them, but what, goes unsaid. According to rumor there is no escaping from it. Once it has targeted its prey, through line of sight, it will follow them without rest, passing through any solid objects, and ignoring all other people, until its prey is caught.

SCP 178: 3D Glasses

SCP-178 - "3-D" Specs : Object Class: Euclid : Intangible SCP - YouTube

At first, these seem like a typical pair of cardboard 3-D glasses. But when a person puts them on, they can see into a kind of spirit world, that can affect this one. Putting on the glasses allows a person to see the vicious, ugly, alien beings that are invisible in everyday life. It is possible to survive having seen them, if a person pretends they haven’t or simply doesn’t react to their presence. Any reaction to seeing them, especially if a person tries to interact, will result in the creatures brutally slashing the person to death, once the glasses come off. What’s more, the creatures often know the person is there, and will try to provoke a reaction by standing as close as possible to the viewer. Also, if one perosn sees them, and any other people are in the vicinity, they’ll be killed too, even though they didn’t see anything.

SCP 017: Shadow Person

scp017InCaptivity.jpg

This SCP appears to be the smoke-like shadow of a child, but given the opportunity, will devour whole, any human being that stands close enough to it for their own shadow to touch it.To that end, it must be surrounded by bright lights at all times, and any staff that manage its containment must wear reflective gear within the containment unit.

SCP 072: The Foot of the Bed

The Foot of the Bed" [SCP-072] - YouTube

There’s a reason to be afraid of the monster under the bed. This SCP resembles such a monster in that it attacks and consumes its victims when they go to bed. If a person leaves any limbs hanging off the edge of the bed, within reach of it, it will waken them, by first, tapping on their exposed limb, then paralyzing them, before slowly stripping all the skin and flesh from the dangling appendage, and squirreling that away somewhere. This can last for several hours, as the victim remains unable to move, scream, or call for help, but can feel everything. SCP is also contagious. If one bed in the house becomes infected with this SCP, it will spread to other beds in the room, and eventually the entire house. It manifests only as a hand, and only at certain light levels.

Honorable Mention: Weirdest SCP

SCP 2137: Forensic Ghost of Tupac Shakur

This is a fascinating SCP that, while not dangerous or horrifying, I had to talk about it, because its just sooo weird. Its a CD, of various songs by Tupac Shakur, that when played, solve current crimes. Its based on Tupac Shakur’s Me Against the World CD, which the SCP Foundation uses to tip off the police, to capture murderers, or sometimes capture themselves.

When the Foundation decided it no longer would use the CD, because of the increased interaction with the police that came with doing so, the CD uploaded itself to the internet, where Tupac began a war against the SCP Foundation, by releasing classified SCP files, which threatened to create Keter Class world events. After coercing the Foundation into using it again, the Tupac CD is now considered a Thaumiel class object. Objects that are actually helpful to the Foundation in capturing murderers, or containing other SCPs. Such objects are incredibly rare, so they are well protected.

It also turns out that the CD is NOT actually possessed by the ghost of Tupac, but is in fact some sort of vengeance/justice higher being, that came to Earth, masquerading as Tupac. Once a murder has been solved, the CD seems to know this, and the track changes to provide information lon a new unsolved case. It is theorized that the entity that was Tupac Shakur will join with SCP 999, in its war against The Scarlet King, (a Euclid Class entity which we will discuss later.)

If you have the time, you have to listen to the entire file. The music is both spot on, and hilarious, as the musician who made this file sounds exactly like Tupac, and that 90s style of Rap that we all grew up listening to. This SCP is awesome (I was a huge Tupac fan), and has very quickly become one of my top favorite SCPs, right up there with SCP 1730 – What Happened to Site 13, and SCP 1936 – Daleport!

I have a couple more treats coming up for you guys. We’ll talk more about the makeup SCP Foundation, including the different Mobile Task Forces, and the other major organizations that are a part of that world, as the SCP isn’t the only one. I’ll have a list of my favorite British Urban Fantasy novels, and some movie recommendations for Black History Month, that are more lighthearted than the usual fare we get. (Its not that struggle movies shouldn’t be made, or that I don’t support them, but I’m getting older now, and I’m kinda tired of those. It’s time for Black films and TV series that are a little more fun.)

Geeking Out About Mortal Kombat

So, what had happened was, the trailer for the new Mortal Kombat movie dropped last week, and I think its safe to say that Mortal Kombat fans, were all jitterbugging in their bunny slippers, with happiness. I know I was. Luckily, I do have HBO Max, so I can watch this without going to a theater, (I can’t go yet.) The movie is set to release on April 16th.

Now, I am not much of a gamer, but I have played a few of them. One of my favorite types of games are the martial arts combat games, like Tekken, which was my personal favorite, and Streetfighter, which was a lot less fun, and I did play Mortal Kombat, a few times during the 90s, back when I owned a Playstation. I was never as much into MK, as I was Tekken. I still play Tekken on my IPad, to this day. But I did like a lot of the characters from MK. Yeah, Sub Zero, Scorpion, and Raiden were favorites, but I most often just played the game as Liu Kang. No, I never played as Sonya, and by the time some of the characters from later games showed up, I’d stopped playing most games.

I’m not going too talk much about the last movie, except to say that I watched it, and it was kind of fun, but I’m not going to stan for it, or anything. I saw it once, and mostly don’t remember a whole lot about it. I have no plans to watch it again, in the future, unless its to compare it to this version.

That said, I do really like the trailer, and I’m looking forward to it. I like the special effects, and the characters look pretty cool, but I am mostly into for the actors. Some of these actors I’ve been watching for years, with my top favorite being the guy playing Scorpion, Hiroyuki Sanada, who I last saw in Westworld, portraying one of my favorite Japanese historical figures, Miyamoto Musashi, and in The last Samurai, with Tom Cruise.

Of course, Lewis Tan is a big favorite of mine, (as having been the best thing in the Netflix series Iron Fist), as an original character named Cole Young. There’s also Tadanobu Asano, as Raiden, and Ludy Lin, as my personal fave, Liu Kang. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to this, and hope it doesn’t disappoint.

What Fandom Racism Looks Like: All The Pieces of Heroes of Color — Stitch’s Media Mix

“[…] this problem of cannibalizing a hero of color to enhance a white character isn’t new.” – tumblr user thehollowprince in response to a tumblr message received July 16, 2020 (Archive link.) I’ve never seen folks in fandom cut up aspects of a white hero to then give those characteristics to another white character. No […]

What Fandom Racism Looks Like: All The Pieces of Heroes of Color — Stitch’s Media Mix

Note: Because I posted this excerpt from another persons blog, addressing an issue that’s of importance to many PoC, I have seen an unprecedented amount of traffic driven here through links from Tumblr (and other blogs!)

Some of the comments on this post were reiterations of fights that were had on Tumblr. As a result I have closed comments on this specific post! This isn’t Tumblr.

Let me state for the record, clearly, and distinctly , that I do not tolerate any fandom bullshit or nonsense on this blog! I am not the one, I have no patience for white women (the primary commenters) whining about fandom, and I will close comments, and block anybody foolish enough to think they should try me.

Do I make myself clear?

Take that shit somewhere else! I will not give people a platform to be racist, make excuses for racism, or disseminate their badly thought out responses to a post that is important to PoC.

I support and agree with the person who’s post I reblogged. That will not change.

White fandom: I do not care about your thoughts on this issue, which is why I closed the comments. I’m not deeply engaged in fandom for a reason, and y’all are it!

For my regular followers: people like this are exactly the reason why I’m not involved in fandom the same way they are, why I support Stitch, and why I reblog her posts. I believe she is doing important work. We do not do the same kind of work, though. My interest is in critically looking at the source material that inspires fans, while her work is critically questioning the various fandoms surrounding the source material.

And for anyone else who stumbles across this post, the comments below are an example of what not to do in fandom.

As of today, I have deleted the comments. This just is not the place for this, and I simply don’t want to subject my followers to this.

Halloween (1978): The Horror of Framing, and Identification

A Frame is a single image of film or video. “Framing” consists of the composition of the subjects (people ,objects) within that image. Based on where the camera and the subjects have been placed,  we know where we are, as the audience, and that can make all the difference in a person views a film.

I have friends who dislike Horror movies. I know! Sacrilege, right? But I get it. I don’t pressure them to watch them, because I understand that such movies aren’t for everyone, but I often wonder what it is about such movies that they dislike, especially when they are unable to articulate this for me. I know for some of them, its the feelings of tension and anxiety that such films produce. But I also think at least part of that anxiety has to do with the nature of the visual media itself. The camera is often a stand-in for the audience. We see what the camera sees, and visual media is carefully composed to manipulate our emotions about what we see. Some people will find it very off putting, not just watching a scene, and being helpless to stop it, but based on how the images are framed, feel as if they are actually participating in the violence. 

I was watching the original 1978  Halloween, and comparing it to the new sequel that came out last year. I was thinking about why the new sequel is so effective, at being scary, whereas none of the other sequels and remakes, outside of  were scary for me, at all.

At least part of the reason the new sequel works is it successfully replicates the framing of the first film in ways that the others do not. This framing has the effect of making the audience a participant in the action. If you remember the opening scene from the original film, we see the suburban setting as if we, the audience, were operating the camera, as Michael stabs his sister to death. Afterwards, the camera switches the viewpoint to that of his parents, we pull back when his parents pull off his mask, as he stands on the front lawn. This is an example of the audience as not just onlookers, which is the viewpoint from which most films are told, but as participants in the actions onscreen. We are not meant to simply watch, but see through Michael’s eyes, as we participate in the killing. That we see the murder from Michael’s point of view can make some members of the audience feel complicit in the act.

After this opening, the camera neatly switches between Laurie Strode’s, and Michael’s, point of view. It is Laurie’s decisions that control the plot, but she and her friends are the ones being acted upon by Michael. The movie is framed in a classic Protagonist/Antagonist plot, of two (relatively) evenly matched adversaries, who play cat and mouse throughout the movie. Part of the movie’s tension is who is going to survive, and the camera shows this by switching between both their points of view. Switching between these two different points of view is a way to keep the audience off balance.

First, let’s have a discussion of camera techniques and film vocabulary, since I am operating under the assumption that a lot of my readers have never really given a whole lot of thought to the idea that what a camera is doing, doesn’t just tell the audience how to feel, or think, but often focuses the movie’s primary themes, and character dynamics.

It is the  composition of the characters, within the Frame, which tells the audience who is of primary importance in the story, and how the audience should feel about what is happening to them.The Director, and Cinematographer are the ones who decide where the camera is going to stand, what it’s going to be doing, and what that image looks like through the viewfinder (the colors, lighting, and depth of field). One of the things that makes horror movies so unsettling is that camera viewpoints can switch at any moment. The camera can be anyone at any time. One of the side effects is that the viewer is not given time to become complacent, or to feel comfortable.

Sometimes we see the world through Michael’s eyes, experiencing the emotionlessness of this character. The way the images are framed, give us a sense of Michael’s height and power, as the camera is often placed slightly above, or at head height during his scenes. When in Michael’s point of view, the camera is always a distant, and unemotional, observer, that moves slowly, and steadily, giving him a sense of relentless implacability. He is framed as a powerful machine, a thing  which cannot be stopped. This is the same camera effect that was used in James Cameron’s The Terminator, to convey that same sense of relentlessness, whenever we see the world through the Terminator’s eyes.

In other scenes, we see the events through Laurie Strode’s eyes, experiencing her terror, vulnerability, and bravery. The camera, from Laurie’s point of view, is handheld, and so it trembles in an uncertain manner, peering slowly around corners, and hedges, through doorways, and closets. In many of her scenes, the camera is below the eye-line, as it angles up towards a sound or image. She is framed as small, timid, and helpless in comparison to Michael.

In the newest Halloween, this is masterfully done by James Carpenter, the director of the original film. In  Michael’s scenes, the camera moves slowly and steadily, contrasted against busy, or frenetic settings, at head height. Laurie, whose mindset is now very different after the trauma of the first movie, doesn’t get a lot of viewpoint scenes, but when she does she is shown, unlike in the first film, as to be equally matched with him, as the camera is at head height for her, too, until the end of the film, when Michael, now in a vulnerable position, is placed below head height, looking upward, towards Laurie and her daughter. The two of them, having turned the tables on him, look down on him from their position of  power.

No discussion of framing would be complete without mention of the film in which it was made especially famous, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho, where we watch the death of the primary character, Marion Crane, from the point of view of her killer, in the infamous “shower scene”. Hitchcock is rightfully lauded for this particular camera technique, as it had never been done in that way before, and it rightfully shocked audiences. I think at least part of that shock is that Hitchcock makes the audience feel complicit in Marion Crane’s murder, as we see it from the point of view of her killer, Norman Bates. But that’s not what makes Psycho groundbreaking. It is the switch from Marion’s point of view, earlier in the film, to a sudden shift to the killer’s, that sets it apart. Marion goes from being the Subject, to being an Object, from the person who commits the acts that determine the plot, at the beginning of the film, and the person with whom we identify, to the person who is now being acted upon. At the beginning of the film, Marion is the Subject, from whose viewpoint we see the world, but while she is killed, she becomes the Object, and WE become her killer. For some people, the sudden shift from one protagonist to another, was simply too much.

What Hitchcock did in this scene is switch Framing. Based on the framing, the audience is meant to think, or feel, a certain way about, or towards, a character, and we, as the audience, had become comfortable with the idea of Marion Crane as the primary character. You’re meant to be as uncomfortable during the shower scene, as with Michael’s murder of his sister, as your eyes are forced to see your victim, and you cannot look away.

In Hitchcock’s scene the camera is initially placed inside the shower with Marion, as she looks outward and sees a shadow. We do not see Marion, in those instances, (she is “out of frame”), because we are seeing things from her point of view. Then the camera is turned, and placed outside the shower, facing Marion. We don’t see her killer now, because we are now in the killers viewpoint. This makes this scene much more intimate than if it was “framed” another way. For example, if the camera had been placed to see both subjects, at the same time, “Framing” both of them within the image, in such an enclosed space, it would have to be placed further away from them, which would have had the effect of placing us, the audience, at an emotional remove, and the scene would feel less immediate.

By placing the camera as the point of view of either character, and switching back and forth between them, we become a part of the scene in an unexpected way. We become each character, rather than an omnipotent third party, who are just watching a murder, as would have happened if the camera were placed at a distance. The moment becomes not just more intimate, but more visceral, than if the camera, or characters, had been placed elsewhere.

Most movies are framed in such a way as to make the audience a third but invisible onlooker, which is sometimes called the “god perspective”, or the “omnipresent watcher”. If the camera is close to the scene, such as when two people are having a conversation, and both of them are seen within the frame, (a medium shot) we feel like a third invisible observer, in the scene with them. If the camera is even further away (a wide shot) than we may feel like we are not part of that scene at all. We might feel like we are spying on the two subjects from afar. If the camera is placed within the scene, switching from the view of one character to another, (the medium closeup, the over the shoulder shot), than we become each character. Where the characters are placed in the scene is an  indication of the level of intimacy between them, and  between them and us.

For example, an extreme closeup of a woman, with the camera panning, (when the camera moves up and down, or from side to side), along her body, places us in the scene with her, as we look at her body. (This is what feminists are referring to when talking about “The Male Gaze”.) Sometimes the scene is meant to be sexually evocative, as the character is may act aware that we are there, and appears to be responding to our presence in the scene with her. But if the camera is across the room, while focusing on her body and legs, then we are no longer in the scene with her, but spying on her from a distance. The character doesn’t know we are there, and acts as if she is alone, which makes us voyeurs, in what appears to be a private moment, such as the scene when Marion Crane first gets into the shower. She is unaware of the camera, and she has not given consent to look at  her, and so, she is as unaware of our presence, as she is of the killer’s.

Contrast that scene, with the opening scene, from the 1976 version of Carrie. The camera is in the shower with Carrie, in extreme closeup. Closer than the Marion Crane scene in Psycho. This is framed as a deeply intimate moment, that we are intruding on, but not participating in. Carrie is supposed to be alone, as she does not react to the camera, and is unaware of its presence. But the scene isn’t without emotion, as shots of her legs, torso, and body, are interspersed with extreme closeups of her face, with its tranquil expression. She is separated from the other girls in the room, and we are intruding on Carrie’s private moment. She is one of the last girls still in the shower, because it is the only place she can find respite from her  bullying classmates. She is enjoying this quiet solitude, before she must re-enter a painful world. Here, we are voyeurs of a different sort, as we are meant to identify with Carrie in this scene. If we were not meant to identify with her, she would be objectified, by not having extreme close ups of her face, a perspective that emphasizes her emotions, and  humanizes her.

Framing can mean the difference between objectification, and identification for an audience.  In Carrie, we are meant to identify with her. It is her classmates, who appear at  a distance, framed as a raucous  mob of water nymphs, scantily clad, and in slow motion,  who are being objectified. In a sense, that is how Carries sees them, as happy, frolicking, young women, whose faces all blend together, and that’s something that will be shown explicitly, minutes later, during the tampon throwing scene, and during the Prom scene, when Carrie thinks they are all laughing at her. She does not differentiate them. They are all the same face to her, and the audience. Focusing the camera on Carrie’s solemn facial expression, during her shower scene, is in contrast to her classmates. We are shown her feelings, and her personhood. We are meant to be sympathetic to her, not her classmates, and for some people it may be difficult to watch a film where one is made to identify with the victim of bullying.

Let’s use another example of framing, in a different film. The 2011, It Follows. Halloween and It Follows, have the same basic plot, where young women are relentlessly stalked by silent creatures that want to kill them. Both movies frame the characters in such a way that we kow they are the protagonists, both films revolve around killing that involves sexual activity, and both involve the survival, at the end of the movie, of a Final Girl.

In It Follows, Jay is being pursued by a monster that can take the form of someone she knows, after she is infected by a virus that allows her to see it. In Halloween, we go where Michael goes, and see what he sees. We are the monster. In It Follows, we mostly don’t see the world from the monster’s viewpoint, except at the opening of the film. For the rest of the movie, we are almost always looking towards the monster, and seeing the world through either Jay’s eyes, or as third impersonal observer. We don’t spend the movie walking in the monster’s footsteps, so we are not meant to identify with It, and hence, the monster is the less important character. Unlike Halloween, in It Follows, Jay is constantly being watched by the other characters in the film, and also the audience, as we observe Jay during some of her most private moments, or we see the monster (always at a distance) from Jay’s viewpoint. Jay is the movie’s focus, and everything revolves around her. This is not like Halloween, where you have two separate, matching, adversaries. The monster has no identity of its own, and is given no point of view. Any identity we see, is given to it by Jay, and everything we see of it, is from Jay’s mind. 

Michael (who is often the audience stand-in) often watches Laurie and her friends from a distance. The camera’s distance from Michael’s victims creates a feeling of emotional detachment in the audience, while closeups indicate intimacy. We don’t get closeups of their faces, because Michael isn’t interested in them as people, only as objects, upon which he acts. We are not meant to identify with Laurie’s friends. However, as a third observer, we do get lots of closeups of Laurie’s face. We are meant to feel what she feels because, the closer a camera is to a character’s face, the more intimate the moment, and some audience members might have trouble with that level of both intimacy, and tension.

Such movies, which are framed from the point of view of the killers, as if the viewers were either ineffectual observers, or participants in the scenes, means the audience is meant to feel the tension and anxiety of the victim, or the excitement, or detachment, of the killer. I’ve never felt the latter, but there are those who watch such movies who find the physical power of such characters, thrilling. I’ve also heard people who don’t like horror movies, accuse those who do, of getting just such a thrill, and that was how I came to the conclusion that some of them were being affected by how  horror movies use framing.That they are uncomfortable with feeling so close.

Perhaps, especially for those who perceive themselves as “good” people, who would never harm anyone, horror movies might be especially stressful, in this regard. Seeing horror scenes from the killer’s relentless point of view is distressing, just as much as being a stand in for the helpless and vulnerable victim, or being an invisible voyeur to violent acts.

NOTE: This post has been heavily edited, to make more sense, than when I first wrote it.