segunda-feira, 5 de março de 2012

Of Terror and Horror - Part 2

Jean Cocteau's
The Beauty and the Beast 
The Beauty against the Beast
We can say that most of the horror movies are readings of the tale of Beauty and the Beast (without the romatic emphasis).There are countless movies in which women face evil creatures (from Alien to The Silence of the Lambs). The sexual connotations are inherent several degrees of subtlety and somehow represents the purity that some monstrosity (of a male kind) wants to destroy. Since horror movies tend to be moral tales, the purity of women in these stories inevitably overcome the evil.

That's what happens in the Nosferatu, the German Expressionism classic: a young girl attracts the scary vampire to her own room and offers her neck. Drunk with blood, the monster does not notice the sun rising and dies. In her ultimate sacrifice, the martyr gave his love to kill evil. So, the opposite of fear is not courage: this is a typical element of the Epic. Here, the opposite of fear is love. The Beast can be redeemed (or released) by Bela. Therefore, under certain perspective, the horror tales are storioes of famale triumph: only women qualities that can thwart evil.

If we want to go deep in the differences between the Epic and the Terror as representatives of a "war of the sexes", we can dabete how blood fulfills an important role, however diverse, in both narratives.The Epic is also bloody, but as a celebration of men: heroes taking the lives of heroes in battle. In the terrifying narrative, blood is something more vital, to be preserved or to be sought at all costs, indicating more life than death - taking a closer relationship with menstruation, for example.

Sea monster reported
in Brazil's shore
in 1564
The Man vs. Evil
This kind of story is a reinforcement to the feminine construction of the "Beauty against the Beast", and not it's counterpart. It's a subversion of the myth of the hero who descends to a lair of an evil creature and destroys it, symbolizing the victory of light over darkness. It is an important issue for mythologies, from David and Goliath to Batman and the Joker. But when reread by horror, such stories receive other treatment. To hunt down the beast is a nightmare, not an act of heroism (in Jaws, is the lair is the sea). And it is tragic or, even worse, useless heroism and often evil will prevail (as in The Omen).

Another way to classify this subject is "Man against the Demons": a journey against various evil forces, usually a descent into hell (as Dante does in the Comedy), where the actions are beyond the protagonist's control . Its most common contemporary counterpart is the zombie movie. No matter how the hero is resolute and prepared, it will never prevent the undead invasion.

The reason for the hero's failure  is explained in The Beauty against the Beast theme: courage is not enough; to fight evil, only love has real strength.

Original Frankenstein's
cover (1831)
The Monster in Us All
Characters like Frankenstein's creature are essentially tragic. They are typical anti-heroes from tragedies, with the difference that the treatment given to their march is darker and has more garish colors.The legends of Oedipus approach of horror tales: murder of the father, mother's abuse, self-mutilation. 

It is customary to use the term "monster" to describe something gruesome, abhorrent and representative of evil. It would be a synonym for "beast". However, the latin origins of the word can mean both "show" and "warning". That is, the monster is someone or something who reveals and gives a warning. Its difference from the tragic hero is his deformed look - which reminds us of our own twisted psychological constructs. The Monster externalizes what we hide in ourselves - and, by definition, he is in a state of helplessness before the world.

Unlike the previous examples, the Monster Within is a male kind of scary stories, in which the monster is nothing more than a representation of a man who does not find its place in society and seeks only love. King Kong, despite its power and strength, "surrenders" to love only to be torn from his habitat and taken to a place infinitely more hostile than his jungle full of dinosaurs.


In short: for repulsive that they seems, the Terror / Horror stories are a counterpoint to a idealized world that we see in the epic tales. They are not stories to be told in public, in daylight, but in the dark of night, at home, to teach moral and ethical behavior. It would be the horror story a female resistance to a man's world? It is an interesting hypothesis. 

Written by Kassandra's director Ulisses da Motta Costa

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