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Chapter One - “Through a glass darkly”: The Gothic Trace

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 February 2022

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Summary

During the 2019 Halloween season in the United States, Geico Insurance ran a television commercial that was a pastiche of recent horror movies. Four young people are fleeing from something horrible as they leave a forested area. They see a house that looks appropriately formidably haunted or maybe it is the house that Hitchcock built for Psycho (1960). They wisely dismiss each other's proposals for hiding in its attic or the basement. The “dumb” blonde cries, “Why can't we just get in the running car?”—a sensible suggestion, but “the guy” says, “Are you crazy?” Then he offers his own insane idea of their taking refuge behind several dozens of chainsaws suspended at the entrance of a shed, which the brunette affirms as “Smart.”

They scurry to the shed. To most conscious viewers, the dangling chainsaws are like a neon sign shouting, “Danger, Will Robinson.” Sure enough, as the group cowers behind the saws, the camera cuts to a man inside the shed, and he is wearing the iconic goalkeeper's mask, the one worn by Jason in the Friday the 13th movies (beginning in 1987). He shoves up the mask with a look on his face as if to say, “Can anyone be so dumb?” The voice-over concludes: “If you’re in a horror movie, you make poor decisions; it's what you do.”

When the four realize that they are not alone, they dash out of the shed with one of the girls yelling, “Head for the cemetery.” Convenient, for they will soon be dead bodies.

All five characters are played by actors and actresses that should be identifiable to viewers from their previous performances in murder stories on television and in movies. Besides the information that draws on that hypermedia, there are other intertextual references in the commercial. For example, when one character suggests that they hide in the basement of the house, we might think of The House by the Cemetery (1981) or Poltergeist (1982) or other haunted houses built into former cemetery sites thereby disturbing the dead. Besides the basement, the attic is another scary place, especially in Victorian mansions, such as told in The Grudge (2004) and The Attic (2007). And then, of course, the place not to be if you’re already scared to death is the cemetery.

Type
Chapter
Information
Neo-Gothic Narratives
Illusory Allusions from the Past
, pp. 13 - 22
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2020

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