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5 - Gothic Cinema from the 1970s to Now

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2020

Richard J. Hand
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
McRoy Jay
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
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Summary

Gothic cinema in the contemporary period is easily distinguished from its previous incarnations by its investment in increasingly explicit cinematic spectacles, the gradual relocation of events from medieval to Victorian, Edwardian or modern settings, the crystallisation of the supernatural monster as key villain, and the victory, more often than not, of evil over good. As a distinct aesthetic mode, one identifiable by a specific dark or baroque style, or else by given thematic leanings, Gothic cinema has also developed to embrace societal and technological changes: the late 1990s and 2000s saw the beginnings of what could be referred to as a digital Gothic, a cluster of films that explored the nightmarish side of new communication technologies. Although, for some, there is still a line between the Gothic (the subtle, the hinted at, the half-glimpsed, the uncanny, the atmospheric) and horror (the graphic, the explicit, the sadistic, the nihilistic), I would argue that the contemporary period has seen the steady commingling of both. As the Gothic fragments ever further and individual critical and artistic concepts (the sublime, the grotesque) and motifs (the double, hauntings) are themselves conceived as markers of Gothic indexicality, it becomes more and more difficult to extricate the two. While the Gothic is unlikely to overtake horror as a label to refer to frightening cinema because it is not a recognised genre, it is becoming increasingly popular following the widely publicised ‘Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film’ season (2013–14) organised by the British Film Institute. If nothing else, its associations with the literary (via adaptation) and the socially repressed, alongside its high intertextuality and referentiality, will ensure that, at least at the academic level, the Gothic remains an area of debate and discussion in Film Studies.

From 1970 to the Turn of the Century

The early 1970s saw Hammer Horror's last attempts at rejuvenating its brand. Violence and sex had become more explicit in the late 1960s in films of the New Hollywood cinema like Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967), The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1968) and The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969), and Herschell Gordon Lewis had created a more graphic horror subgenre, what would come to be known as ‘gore’, with his Blood Feast (1963) and Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964).

Type
Chapter
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Gothic Film
An Edinburgh Companion
, pp. 77 - 86
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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