Mob Scenes: Lovecraft Country

Given its pointed combination of fantastic horror and American history, and its critical engagement with H.P. Lovecraft’s bigotry, it’s no shock that Lovecraft Country features a racially-charged mob scene. What is surprising, though, is that the same incident–the Tulsa riot of 1921, one of the ugliest events in the history of the Republic–is handled so differently in Matt Ruff’s source novel and the HBO series it inspired.

In “The Narrow House” section of Ruff’s novel, Montrose Turner is sent on a mission to retrieve a group of magic tomes from a named Henry Narrow (an alias assumed by Hiram Winthrop’s fugitive son). Arriving in Aken, Illinois, Montrose learns that Narrow is already dead, but interacts with Narrow’s ghost inside an apparition of the man’s house. As the price of his posthumous assistance, Narrow requests that Montrose tell him a story, and Montrose proceeds to relate his experiences in the Tulsa riot. Montrose explains how the riot started: the arrest of a black man named Dick Rowland after he was (falsely) accused of attacking a young white woman named Sarah Page; a white mob’s attempt to lynch Rowland at the jailhouse; the intercession of armed black men on Rowland’s behalf; the shootout that followed, and the eruption of violence as the white mob endeavored to torch a wealthy black neighborhood. Montrose’s father Ulysses was one of the neighborhood’s defenders against the white mob, and is fatally wounded while trying to protect Montrose. Montrose’s tale concords with the one then shared by the ghost Henry, who was himself shot and killed (along with his colored wife and child), and had his house burned down by a racist mob that refused to welcome a mixed family into the Aken community.

In the “Rewind 1921” episode of the HBO series, Montrose, his son Atticus, and Atticus’s girlfriend Leti all time travel back to Tulsa to retrieve the precious Book of Names (which they’ve learned was secretly possessed by the Turner family, but perished in the fires set by white arsonists). In a tense sequence that stretches almost the entire episode, the Tulsa riot explodes around them as the protagonists attempt to locate the book. The violence is especially hard-hitting when witnessed onscreen–the brutal murder, for instance, of a young Montrose’s friend, who is shot in the head at point blank range. Panoramic shots of the raging inferno after the neighborhood is set ablaze reveal the absolute war zone into which Tulsa has been transformed.

In Ruff’s novel, Montrose’s father acts and dies heroically, whereas in “Rewind 1921” he is shown to be an abusive, homophobic alcoholic. The main difference between book and series, though, is in the handling of the Tulsa riot. As impactful as the imagery of mob violence is in the episode, it lacks the backstory furnished in “The Narrow House,” and is employed more as a dramatic backdrop–another dire obstacle thrown in the time travelers’ way. Ruff’s book section (which uses the testimony–quoted in The Chicago Defender–of an African-American survivor of the riot as an epigraph) deals less sensationally but more informatively with the historical events. Both book and series do a fine job of demonstrating how that fateful day in 1921 has scarred Montrose and shaped his character, but the book proves more effective in its more naturalistic (even as Montrose converses with a ghost) invocation of the ignominious moment in American history that played out so chaotically and devastatingly in Oklahoma.

 

 

History Lessons: “Nine Nightmares” (Episode 2.6)

Some quotable quotes from the season 2 finale of Eli Roth’s History of Horror, an episode that focuses on “nine uncategorizable films that push the boundaries of horror”:

 

Eli Roth: Great horror films entertain us and provoke us. They put society under a microscope, making us question not just what we fear, but why we fear it.

 

Jordan Peele: Sort of existing with a privilege, and a privilege that many of us enjoy, is violent act. And that’s the central theme of Us. This idea that when we look in the mirror, both individually and collectively, we might realize it’s not as simple as ‘I’m the good guy.’

 

Mary Harron: When we were filming American Psycho, I realized that the fear a woman has going on a date, or going to a guy’s apartment, and something bad happening, or him suddenly transforming from one kind of person to another, is a very strong female fear. Movies are a way of exploring those fears.

 

Joe Dante: [The Wicker Man is] about faith and how faith doesn’t really pan out for you. I wouldn’t say it’s on the side of the paganists, but it certainly comes close, because devout as the hero is, it doesn’t save him.

 

Michael Dougherty: The [E.G.] Marshall story [in Creepshow] does represent a lot of the sociopolitical things that were going on at the time. You know, him being a blatant racist character who is trying to live in this protective white bubble, literally, in his compound, and he’s terrified of other things getting into that world.

 

Chris Hardwick: Horror is the genre that gave us the bad good. Like there could be a really great horror movie and that’s fun to watch, but a really bad horror movie can be fun to watch, too.

 

Alexandra Billings: The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous; it’s breathtaking. So it’s unfortunate that it sits on a foundation of transphobia in a really big way, in a really blatant way. Because Dressed to Kill came out at a time when trans people were still thought of as illegal, making us murderers made perfect sense. It wasn’t a big stretch to think that we would go from jail to killing someone.

 

Eli Roth: It’s supposed to be shocking. you’re not supposed to watch and then move on to something else. You know, if you can get through Cannibal Holocaust, you see some of the most incredible, incredible filmmaking ever.

 

History Lessons: “Chilling Children” (Episode 2.5)

The kids are far from all right in the latest episode of Eli Roth’s History of HorrorHere is some of the fine guidance offered, on dealing with “Chilling Children”:

 

Kier-La Janisse: Everybody sympathizes with Carrie. The character of Carrie White continues to resonate, generation after generation, because she is sort of like this heroine character for anybody who has been marginalized, or bullied, or has had an oppressive parent.

 

Mick Garris: What could be more frightening than your child gone wrong [such as in We Need to Talk About Kevin]? I mean, how organic is that, how horrendous would that be? Because you’re there for at least eighteen years, man. However your kid comes out, you have a responsibility.

 

Eli Roth: The Bad Seed arrived in the mid-1950’s, one of the most conservative periods in American history. The generation that grew up during the Great Depression believed in strict discipline and frowned on selfishness, and Rhoda embodied their worst fears about their children.

 

Dana Gould: It’s the innate fear that parents have, that your child is here to replace you. They’re here because you’re leaving, and they’re going to take over. And the anxiety [as reflected in Village of the Damned] is that they’re not going to wait.

 

Don Mancini: What all these movies have in common is that they were about kids supernaturally punishing their enemies. And I think that is something that is extremely attractive to young people who feel that they have no control over their lives.

 

Milly Shapiro: You don’t want to punch a child; you don’t want to kick a child. They’re scary, but you’re like, ‘I can’t do anything, it’s an actual child.’ And so it’s a very unnerving thing to watch a scary child, or a child with a knife or anything like that.

 

Jason Middleton: It’s Alive dramatizes the idea, you know, of a monster kind of born, and it’s because of environmental factors, so it works in that whole eco-horror theme. But it’s also just very much about the idea that for men, childbirth is something over which they’re going to exercise little control, and, you know, what’s going to happen with this birth.

 

The Legend of SNL

My essay “Eerie Rider: The Headless Horseman’s Forays into Pop Culture” (in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Ultimate Annotated Edition) attempts to provide a definitive account of the Irving character’s post-Legend appearances, but acknowledges that there will still be further instances following the essay’s publication. And pop culture didn’t take long to validate this point.

Showing once again that there’s no better proof of popularity than being spoofed, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was targeted during last weekend’s Halloween edition of Saturday Night Live. The five-minute skit–in which a wandering Ichabod Crane encounters the Headless Horseman (carrying his animate head)–is riotous with impropriety, as Crane and lascivious company end up tormenting the poor Horseman. Definitely not suitable for younger viewers, but a video of the skit can be found here.

For an analysis of countless other examples (both spoofs and serious uses), be sure to check out my “Eerie Rider” essay.

 

Treehouse of Trivia: Bonus Edition

In lieu of a full review of last night’s “Treehouse of Horror XXXI” (which I thought was terrific, and did its Halloween number proud), here’s a brief quiz pertaining to the episode. Answers appear in the Comments section below.

 

1. When Marge tells Homer he should vote if he cares about the three things he loves most, what does Homer immediately imagine?

 

2. In “Toy Gory,” Radioactive Man explodes after Bart puts him in the microwave–a reference to Gremlins. This isn’t the first time such gag has appeared on a Treehouse of Horror episode, though. Can you cite the other?

 

3. According to Kent Brockman’s news report in “Into the Homer-verse,” the group of Homers terrorizing Springfield do all of the following, except:

A. Over-bowl the bowling alleys
B. Empty family-style buffets of everything except salad
C. Start a doo-wop group
D. Attend a football game with their shirts off
E. Leave the library untouched

 

4. The episode lives up to its Treehouse of Horror title when ________________.

 

5. Complete the quote: “Bart Simpson, I’m gonna do what clowns do best: ____!

 

6. “Into the Homer-verse” gives a nod to what classic Star Trek episode?

 

7. In “Be Nine, Rewind,” temporal loops can be broken by all of the following, except:

A. Saving the whales in Star Trek IV
B. Bombing at the box office like Happy Death Day 2U did
C. Saying “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana” in the knock-knock joke
D. Being nice in Groundhog Day

 

8. True or False? Bart gets tennis elbow from his toys in “Toy Gory.”

 

9.In “Into the Homer-verse,” Kearney dresses up as Pinhead for Halloween. Can you cite the other time the Cenobite has appeared on Treehouse of Horror?

 

10. How many clips are shown in the closing credits of TofH XXXI?

 

History Lessons: “Witches” (Episode 2.4)

The topic of last night’s episode of Eli Roth’s History of Horror was perfectly suited to Halloween. Here is some of the wisdom conveyed about cinematic witchery:

 

Joshua Leonard: Without Heather’s monologue [in The Blair Witch Project], and without the weird framing of that shot, I don’t think the film works. I think that very iconic moment made the film and added so many stakes and so much relatability to the film. And Mike [Williams] and I had no idea that she filmed that until we saw it for the first time in the theater.

 

Eli Roth: The merciless Wicked Witch of the West is one of the most recognizable creations in cinema. Green-faced, hooked-nosed, pointed chin: she represents one of the oldest villains of folklore–the evil crone. And like many horror archetypes, she’s the product of cultural anxiety.

 

Rachel True: It’s an analogy for female sexuality. If you notice [in The Craft], as our powers get stronger, our skirts get shorter. Society’s always been scared of women and their sexuality, and teenagers, that’s their burgeoning sexuality when it hits. So the witchcraft is kind of an analogy for the fear we have of women coming into their power.

 

Ari Aster: One of the first images that came to me when I was developing Hereditary was that of the dollhouse. This artist who, you know, was making these very true to life replicas of the spaces in her life. That just felt like an appropriate metaphor for this film about a family that ultimately has no agency. Ultimately, they are like dolls in a dollhouse.

 

Scott Derrickson: Here’s this good person [Tomlinson in The Witch], who is being consumed by an evil that she cannot escape. She only wants to be good and only wants to do what is right. And the idea of being usurped by evil is a one of the scariest ideas you can think of, from a theological or religious point of view. But at the same time, the movie is very critical, in saying that this what religion and religious hysteria and religious repression also inevitably does to young adult minds.

 

Rob Zombie: I like the ending [of The Lords of Salem] a lot, because I’ve always been a big fan of Ken Russell movies, and I like crazy shit. Because I thought, if you have someone [the character Heidi] who their entire soul is being stripped away because they are being dragged to hell by witches and forced to give birth to Satan, well, what’s that gonna look like?

 

Ernest Dickerson: What Dario Argento was really doing [in Suspiria] was, he was making an adult fairy tale. It is amazing to see that his inspiration for it was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. He wanted the color scheme of a Disney film. And he got it. It’s another externalization of the fears and the anxieties the main character’s going through.

 

Jennifer Moorman: It’s not common in other genres to see women as powerful and dangerous. And to watch them take back the power, and use it to break free, is really exciting.

 

Treehouse of Trivia Answers

Here are the correct answers from yesterday’s Treehouse of Trivia: Ultimate Simpsons Quiz. How did you rate?

Score
0-5: D’oh!
6-10: Ay, Caramba!
11-15 Argh
16-20 Diddily-Do
21-25: Whoo-hoo!
26-31+: Exxxcellent

 

1. C. Bart (an interrupting Marge asks Bart to warn viewers in the TofH IV opening, but he never actually does so)

 

2. E, D, F, C, A, B

 

3. “King Homer” (TofH III), “Dial M for Murder, or Press ‘#’ to Return to Main Menu” (TofH XX), “Homerzilla” (TofH XXVI)

 

4. “No TV and no beer make Homer go crazy” (from “The Shinning” [TofH V])

 

5. False (parodied in “I Know What You Diddily-Iddily Did” [TofH X])

 

6. G. The Fly (in “Fly vs. Fly” [TofH VIII]), Bart is Fly-headed, but it’s a mutation, not a Halloween costume)

 

7. D. Herman Munster (Homer appears as a parody of Herman Munster in the opening of TofH XI, but it is not a Halloween costume)

 

8. In “Dial Z for Zombies” (TofH III), Bart and Lisa plan to resurrect Snowball I (cf. Pet Sematary)

In “Bart Simpson’s Dracula” (Tof H IV), vampire kids float outside bedroom window (cf. Salem’s Lot)

In “Attack of the 50 Ft. Eyesores” (TofH VI), a giant lumberjack terrorizes Springfield (cf. It)

In “I Know What You Diddliy-Iddily Did” (TofH X), Homer tells Lisa to go hide in the Pet Cemetery

In “Hex and the City” (T of H XII), a gypsy places a curse on Homer (cf. Thinner)

“The Ned Zone” (TofH XV) is a segment-long parody of The Dead Zone

In “Heck House” (TofH XVII), a pig is dropped onto Homer’s head (cf. the pig’s blood prank in Carrie)

 

9. Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford (in “The Terror of Tiny Toon” [TofH IX])

 

10. D. Skinner and Chalmers

 

11.”But let that ill-gotten donut be forever on your head” (from “The Devil and Homer Simpson” [TofH IV])

 

12. Family Guy‘s Peter Griffin

 

13. E. Snake

 

14. True (clips from the first 666 episodes appear in a grid at the end of TofH XXX)

 

15. In “Night of The Dolphin” (TofH XI), Willie is impaled through chest by a dolphin leaping through town hall window (cf. the Headless Horseman’s staking of Baltus through church window in Sleepy Hollow)

In “Bartificial Intelligence” (TofH XVI), the Robot David trims the hedges in the shapes of the Simpsons’ heads (cf. Edward Scissorhands)

“There’s No Business Like Moe Business” (TofH XX) is a segment-long parody of Sweeney Todd

 

16. G. Lisa’s Pieces (Lisa is actually a nutritious apple)

 

17. Fran Drescher

 

18. In “Attack of the 50 Ft. Eyesores” (TofH VI), the Lard Lad Donuts statue comes to life (and attacks Homer for stealing the donut from it)

In the opening of TofH XXIII, the giant Mayan hurls the donut from the statue like a frisbee

In the opening of TofH XXIV (directed by Guillermo del Toro), the statue is shown on the rampage

In “Telepaths of Glory” (TofH XXVI), Maggie teleports the statue’s donut onto a radio tower

In the “Planet of the Couches” gag (opening of TofH XXVII), the statue is shown half-buried on the beach

In “Dry Hard” (TofH XXVII), the statue is shown in a state of post-apocalyptic ruin (but with a video camera installed in the donut hole)

 

19. D. Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”

 

20. The half-kneeling death pose of Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) in Battlestar Galactica

 

21. Treehouse of Horror (The Simpsons Halloween Special appeared in episodes 1-13)

 

22. A. The Shape of Water (which hadn’t been released yet, but would eventually be parodied in “When Hairy Met Slimy” [TofH XXX])

 

23. In “Hell Toupee” (TofH IX), the renegade hairpiece attacks Bart like the facehugger from Alien

In the opening of TofH XIV, Kang and Kodos’s boss expels Bart from his stomach after dinner

In “Starship Poopers” (TofH XX), half-alien Maggie attacks Jerry Springer like the facehugger

In the opening of TofH XXI, Bart has the alien inside stomach when he walks past an x-ray machine

In the opening of TofH XXII, Bart and Maggie dress up as an astronaut and chestburster, respectively, for Halloween

 

24. False (God says it is Selma, but a taunting Homer corrects him: “It’s Patty, chump!”)

 

25. C. “Dial N for Nerder” (which will actually an episode title in season 19 [episode 14])

 

26. TofH III: Simpsons as skeletons

TofH IV: Simpsons as zombies

TofH V: Simpsons as Frankenstein’s Monsters

TofH VI: Simpsons hung

TofH VII: Simpsons felled by the Grim Reaper

TofH VIII: Simpsons electrocuted by skull caps

TofH IX: Freddy and Jason sit waiting on couch, but Simpsons are already dead

TofH X: Simpsons as past characters from TofH

 

27. Cthulhu

 

28. B. Slithers (Smithers is a snake-like character named Slithers in the Harry Potter spoof “Wiz Kids” [TofH XII])

 

29. “Eat my shorts” (Bart interjects this before Lisa can read the actual word “Nevermore” from the poem)

 

30. Sgt. Sausage

 

31. True (although the theme music from Halloween does figure prominently in the episode “Halloween of Horror,” which aired a week before TofH XXVI)

 

 

TREEHOUSE OF TRIVIA: ULTIMATE SIMPSONS QUIZ

Happy Halloween, Simpsons whizzes! Here it is: The Treehouse of Trivia Quiz. Thirty-one questions, pertaining to the first thirty Treehouse of Horror episodes (alas, TofH XXXI doesn’t air until tomorrow night). Good luck as you test your expertise. I will post the answers to the questions tomorrow, November 1st.

 

1. Which one of the following characters has never delivered a p.s.a-style warning to viewers about the disturbing nature of the Treehouse content that follows?

A. Marge
B. Homer
C. Bart
D. Lisa
E. Professor Frink

 

2. Match the Treehouse segment with the Twilight Zone episode that it borrows from:

___ “Hungry Are the Damned”
___ “The Genesis Tub”
___ “Clown Without Pity”
___ “I’ve Grown a Costume on Your Face”
___ “Bart’s Nightmare”
___ “Terror at 5 1/2 Feet”

A. “It’s a Good Life”
B. “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”
C. “The Masks”
D. “The Little People”
E. “To Serve Man”
F. “Living Doll”

 

3.To date, there have been three black-and-white segments of Treehouse. Name one of them.

 

4. Fill in the blank:   “___________________ make Homer go crazy.”

 

5. True or False? I Know What You Did Last Summer has never been parodied by a Treehouse segment.

 

6. Which one of the follow Halloween costumes has Bart never worn during a Treehouse episode?

A. Hobo
B. Charlie Brown
C. Eddie Munster
D. Frankenstein’s Monster
E. Dragon
F. Headsman
G. The Fly

 

7. Which one of the following Halloween costumes has Homer never worn during a Treehouse episode?

A. Ghost
B. Julius Caesar
C. I Dream of Jeannie
D. Herman Munster
E. Dr. Manhattan
F. Headless Man
G. Zorro

 

8. Besides with “The Shinning” segment (TofH V), Stephen King has been invoked on numerous occasions during Treehouse episodes. Cite at least one example. [Earn a bonus point if you can give at least three.]

 

9. In the closing of the “Homer3” segment (TofH VI), Homer appears in a live-action world, but the humans he walks among remain mute. Who are the only two celebrities ever to deliver lines as their flesh-and-blood selves on a Treehouse episode?

 

10. The film The Thing with Two Heads has been referenced repeatedly during Treehouse episodes. But which one of the following character pairs has never appeared with their heads grafted together on a single body?

A. Homer and Mr. Burns
B. Dr. Nick and Dr. Hibbard
C. Bart and Lisa
D. Skinner and Chalmers
E. Lisa and Krusty

 

11.Complete the line. Devil Ned: “But let that ill-gotten donut be _____________.”

 

12. In the “Send in the Clones” segment (TofH XIII), which character from another animated series appears amidst the herd of Homers?

 

13. Which one of the following characters has never appeared in a Treehouse episode as a droog from Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange?

A. Homer
B. Bart
C. Moe
D. Maggie
E. Snake
F. Lenny

 

14. True or False? Clips from the first 666 episodes of The Simpsons have been used during the Treehouse of Horror series.

 

15. Identify one reference to Tim Burton’s work in a Treehouse episode. [Earn a bonus point if you can cite more than one example.]

 

16. Which one of the following is not a candy that appears in “The Sweets Hereafter” opening of TofH XXVIII?

A. Barterfinger
B. Nelson’s Crunch
C. Marge Bar
D. Peppermint Selma
E. Oh Homer!
F. Kirkish Taffy
G. Lisa’s Pieces
H. Bazooka Moe
I. Senior Mints

 

17. In the segment “You Gotta Know When to Golem” (TofH XVII), who is the voice of the female golem?

 

18.The Lard Lad Donuts statue has been incorporated repeatedly into Treehouse episodes. Give one example.

 

19. Which one of the following songs has never played during a Treehouse episode?

A. Pat Benatar’s “Hell is for Children”
B. Elvis Costello’s “Accidents Will Happen”
C. Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”
D. Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”
E. Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer”
F. The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”
G. The Eagles’ “New Kid in Town”

 

20. In the segment “Desperately Xeeking Xena” (TofH X), the Collector (i.e. Comic Book Guy in the role of an archvillain) falls into a vat of molten Lucite. What pose does he deliberately assume before hardening?

 

21. Which has appeared more times onscreen as the episode title, Treehouse of Horror or The Simpsons Halloween Special?

 

22. Which one of the following Guillermo del Toro films was not referenced during the (del Toro-directed) opening of TofH XXIV? 

A. The Shape of Water
B. Pacific Rim
C. Cronos
D. Hellboy
E. Pan’s Labyrinth
F. Mimic
G. The Devil’s Backbone

 

23. Cite one example of a Treehouse reference to the facehugger or chestbuster from Alien. [Earn a bonus point if you can give an example of each.]

 

24. True or False? In “Reaper Madness” (TofH XIV), Homer tries to trick God by killing Selma and attaching Marge’s hair to her head.

 

25. Which one of the following has never been a Treehouse segment title?

A. “Dial D for Diddily”
B. “Dial M for Murder, or Press ‘#’ to Return to Main Menu”
C. “Dial N for Nerder”
D. “Dial Z for Zombies”

 

26. Cite one couch gag featured at the start of a Treehouse episode.

 

27. Who does Homer defeat in the Fogburyport Oyster-Eating Contest (TofH XXIX)?

 

28. Which one of the following is not a Rigellian alien?

A. Kang
B. Slithers
C. Kamala
D. Serak the Preparer
E. Kodos

 

29. Complete the dialogue (from the inaugural Treehouse of Horror): “‘Tell me, tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutionian shore.’ Quoth the raven, ‘ _______.'”

 

30. In the segment “BFF RIP!” (ToH XXVII), Lisa has an imaginary friend named Rachel. Who does Homer reveal as his childhood imaginary friend?

 

31. True or False? The theme music from John Carpenter’s Halloween has never been used during a Treehouse episode.

 

Come Climb Up into the Treehouse of Trivia

The baseball playoffs have pushed this year’s Treehouse of Horror episode until November 1st, but that doesn’t mean that The Simpsons has been bumped from the Halloween season. In honor of the upcoming Treehouse of Horror XXXI, I will be posting a Treehouse of Trivia quiz here to this blog on Saturday, October 31st. The quiz will contain 31 questions, and cover material from the first 30 Halloween specials. I hope to challenge even the most devoted of Treehouse fans. Here are the types of question you can expect:

*True or False? Kang, Kodos, and the Leprechaun have made cameo appearances on every single Treehouse of Horror episode to date.

*Complete the quote (from the ToH III segment “Clown Without Pity”): When Homer runs naked through the kitchen (after being chased from the bathtub by the evil Krusty doll), Patty announces to her sisters, “There goes the last __________________.”

*For the Halloween specials, the Gracie Films logo at the end of Simpsons episodes is changed to feature ominous organ music and a shrill scream. Name at least one other change made to the logo presentation over the course of the Treehouse series.

*Which of the following is NOT one of the alterations to the future caused by Homer’s time traveling in the ToH V segment “Time and Punishment”?
A) Ned Flanders becomes unquestioned lord and master of the world
B) Bart and Lisa appear giant-sized and try to crush Homer
C) Marge is married to Artie Ziff instead of Homer
D) No one knows what donuts are
E) The Simpsons have reptilian tongues

 

Stumped by these? A perfect reason to do some Treehouse of Horror bingeing on Disney+ this week. Have fun boning up, and good luck with the Treehouse of Trivia quiz this Halloween!

History Lessons: “Body Horror” (Episode 2.3)

Some juicy nuggets from last night’s body-horror-themed episode of the docuseries Eli Roth’s History of Horror

 

Joe Hill: So in Hellraiser, who’s the monster, what is the menace? I think the menace is really obsession, you know, much more than the demons. You go with the demons when you can’t rise above your obsessions, your own fixation with the puzzle box. When you’ve turned away from your wife and into that unhealthy fixation.

 

Mick Garris: [David Cronenberg] had lost his mother to cancer and was experienced with seeing the decline of the human body from within, a revolt from within. And so much of his work is about a body in revolt, and changing, and turning septic and almost evil.

 

Dana Gould: Body horror is a meditation on the transitory nature of the human form. We all get old, we all decay. That’s true horror to people.

 

Katherine Isabelle: Walking around in a female body is terrifying. You’re a target, you’re an object, and I think that part of the reason why we have all these walls, is obviously to protect us.

 

Eli Roth: And that’s what the disease becomes in Cabin Fever. You’re with your best friends, but you’ve got to isolate them, or you’ve got to kill them, because whatever is inside them could get inside you. And suddenly you’re not seen as a human anymore. And I think there’s something very real about that. You know, when lepers have leprosy, what do we do, we isolate them. When SARS happened, when this disease you don’t understand–tent them off. People want to get out–too bad: epidemic, population control, can’t let them get out. There’s something really, really scary about that.

 

Eliza Skinner [on Society]: Obviously, it’s like all a metaphor about propriety and fitting in, and also capitalism, and having the upper class act as though they’ve got access to much finer things, when really, they have access to much more upsetting and debased things.

 

Eli Roth [closing commentary]: Sometimes disgusting, often disturbing, but always powerful, body horror films make us question our prejudices about physical difference, our attitudes about sex and gender, our fear of disease and contamination, and how much our appearance determines who we are. They confront us with the beauty and horror of being human.