Bits and Pieces: Brutality in Millennial Horror Films and French Art Cinema Open Access

Smith, Matthew Boyd (2013)

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This thesis examines a new strain of brutality in American and French horror films in the 2000s. It also takes into account the films of the "new extremism," a nebulous term and loosely-conceived cycle of films which has at one point or another included not just the acknowledged art cinema which now makes up its corpus, but also new French horror films. Utilizing aesthetic strategies which cross the boundaries of expectation in both the art cinema and the horror genre, these films repulse and brutalize their audiences into exhaustion.

I posit that millennial horror films in the United States and France as well as the films of the new extremism serve as allegorical representations of cultural anxieties of an international image culture inundated with images of torture and terrorism, and as texts which are designed to repulse us by playing on those anxieties.

The first chapter examines the interplay between art and horror in reception, using as case studies Georges Franju's Eyes Without a Face (1959), Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960), and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). This trio of films anchors the discussion of art and horror that makes up the bulk of chapters two and three. The second chapter focuses on the new extremism and its ties to horror, and the third on the development of a new brutality in American and French horror films. The aim of the third chapter's concluding discussion is to broaden the project of the thesis to account for similar strains of brutality and explicit gore in a variety of media in the 2000s, not just in films which could be classified within the generic parameters of the horror film.

Overall, the thesis provides a unique conceptualization of the distinctions between millennial horror films and the films the new extremism as irrelevant. By working within the same generic histories and trafficking in similar images in order to repulse their audiences, these films work through anxieties which could only have arisen around the turn of the millennium, with the rise of a truly global image culture on the internet.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter One: Art Films, Horror Cinema and the Shared Legacy of Repulsiveness 27

Chapter Two: The Legacy of Horror in the New Extremism 49

Chapter Three: Gore, Abjection and Political Allegory in Millennial Horror Films 76

Conclusion 115

Bibliography 120

Filmography 125

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