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It could be any love story. An estranged couple meet up after some years apart […] weary, jaded, exhausted. It emerges that they are vampires, tired of life; not surprising given that they have been around for centuries. This is the simple premise of Only Lovers Left Alive (dir. Jim Jarmusch, 2013), and in much the same vein as the characters in the Anne Rice novel The Vampire Lestat (1985), the vampires have been transposed to the modern era; the narcissistic era of consumption, a post-industrial world free of the hypocritical morality of the Victorian era. Yet there, science and technology had triumphed; now it had waned and all that was left was love and ennui and boredom. According to Lucie Armitt, ‘the traditional monsters of folklore such as the vampire or the werewolf undergo a series of “taming” transformations’ during the course of the twentieth century (153). Catherine Spooner makes a convincing link between traditional and twenty-first century Gothic. The relatively romantic vampires of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series (2005– 08) and Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles (1976– 2003) are, according to Spooner, ‘attractive heroes’ (180) who merge into contemporary celebrity culture. Similarly, as Fred Botting has found, ‘where the vampire existed in the shadows of modernity as a destructive, exotic, threatening excess, it now signifie[d] a creature at the heart of the lifestyles and identities of consumer culture’ (Gothic , 188). The vampires in both texts are portrayed as rock stars, as well as being simply customers, where blood is sold as an illicit street drug. However, in the Rice novel, her vampires are ‘models for new and positive associations’ (Jones, Horror , 89). In Jarmusch's film everything is burnt out, even the characters. Detroit is portrayed as a mausoleum for the pitiable hubristic society which created it. Abel Ferrara's The Addiction (1994), featuring Christopher Walken and Annabella Sciorra, is an existential meditation, filmed in stark monochrome, on the nature of human sin and redemption, where human tragedies (Vietnam, the Holocaust) cause nightmares for the chief protagonist. Although the film has obvious religious undertones, the vampire is scientific, through the use of syringes to extract blood; denoting lack of contact in a world of AIDS and drug addiction.
The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. (Classic , 24)
H. P. Lovecraft
Often located in the middle of the eighteenth century as a ‘transgression’ to the ‘light’ of Enlightenment ideas of reason and science, the Gothic has been dogged by what Fred Botting refers to as a ‘negative aesthetic’ (Gothic , 10). It seemed to represent a counterpoint to the seemingly predestined move to order underpinning the era, a lingering infection of Dark Age fever in this brave new world of man triumphing over nature and the divine. The chief setting of the pioneering literature, for instance, in Middle Ages Catholic Europe, offered a similar interstitial counterpoint; light versus dark, order versus disorder, nature versus supernature, reason versus superstition. The ‘atmosphere’ of the stories, which have influenced the horror film genre beyond any doubt, seemed to throw up a competing subterranean world, supposedly kicked into the past by the confident rationalism of the new age, which heralded an inevitable and secularized transubstantiation (God, then man as God) and which seemed to threaten that rational certainty. These Gothic texts, which have had such an overpowering as well as perpetual influence on horror cinema, in fact revealed ‘disturbances of sanity and security’, according to Botting (2).
Catherine Spooner offers a useful definition of the Gothic for our own purposes: ‘undead revenants, ancient curses, outmoded belief systems, hauntings, trauma— all are central to Gothic narrative’. But, she goes on: ‘perversely what comes back-what returns-is determined by the concerns of the present’ (184). The bulk of the completion of this work was written in 2020 during a national lockdown, implemented as a consequence of a global pandemic, Covid-19. This predicament forced the authors to reflect upon a number of those very uncertainties discussed above; the actual parameters of science in this, our own postmodern age, and the dire consequences of uncontrolled human activity, among other things.
At the end of July 2020, the horror-centric web-platform Shudder released the British film Host (dir. Rob Savage, 2020), a ghost narrative which takes place in a Zoom meeting/ seance session, and which involves the invocation of an unwanted presence that, after one participant flippantly fabricates a scenario for laughs, uses this ‘mask’ to infiltrate the locked down group of friends and wreak havoc across the bandwidth using the web conferencing app as a gateway. Savage assures that the film evolved from inception to release in twelve weeks, with him directing it over the platform in order to create a film which has rightly been seen as a huge achievement and which maintains a sense of encroaching threat and insidious invasion. Host follows in a long line of horror films which use the limitations of a given scenario, both within and without the mode of production, in order to creatively deliver horror narratives and shunt the genre along. This includes the austerity of film production in Weimar Germany leading to inventive approaches to lighting and staging, which was part and parcel of German Expressionism, the visceral use of the hand-held camera in low-budget American horror in the 1970s and, of course, the emergence of the found-footage horror genre as docuversimilitudal form of horror in The Blair Witch Project , among many others. The film also adds to the nascent subgenre of web horror, which utilizes social media environments as a heterotopic-digispace of increasing familiarity and uncanny postcorporeal dislocation and disconnection.
What is perhaps even more interesting about Host is the ways in which the discourse of fear and uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak and the subsequent social and self-quarantine restrictions that come from it are so adaptable and so relevant in revealing the robust nature of the threat to the corporeal, and its mainline connection to psychological and social trauma in which the safety of one's own home is revealed as an evaporating fallacy. The film centres on a group of friends who are mainly women (joined briefly by a jester/ mascot male friend figure, who is quickly removed by a wealthy bohemian girlfriend and then burned to death by the malevolent demon on his return).
The Italian writer Italo Calvino delivered the following words in a lecture in 1967: ‘The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts. The dreams of progress and reason are haunted by nightmares’ (The New Yorker , 1). This lecture concerns among other things, structuralism and the permutations of the storytelling process, both bound to language whilst seeking to break free of language systems. In seeking to express the ‘mutation’ of storytelling, paradoxically harnessed to genre, yet seeking new forms of being through regeneration, Calvino turns to the metaphor of the ghostly in two ways; one figurative, and the other more historically and materially identifiable. With regards to the former, Calvino states, ‘[t] he line of force in modern literature consists in its awareness of giving a voice to what has remained unexpressed in the social or individual unconscious; this is the gauntlet it throws down time and again’ (1). This encapsulates the symbiosis and tension between past incarnations of expressions, stories and genres and the attempts to both break free from such arrangements whilst utilizing the tools of the arrangements themselves. These are attempts to create new genres that are bound by the genres from which they flee. The ghost imagery is useful here in that stories, like ghosts, are bound to conventions but fuelled by derivation and deviation. With regards to the latter and with more historically direct reference to ghosts, Calvino continues as follows:
Shakespeare warns us that the triumph of the Renaissance did not lay the ghosts of the medieval world who appear on the ramparts at Dunsinane or Elsinore. At the height of the Enlightenment, de Sade and the Gothic novel appear. At one stroke Edgar Allan Poe initiates the literature of estheticism (sic) and the literature of the masses, giving a name and a gait to the ghosts Puritan America trails in its wake. (2)
Here, Calvino makes a striking observation which is a prevalent component of this book; the regenerative nature of genre conventions in cinema that takes on both peculiar and particular forms with regards to Gothic and horror narratives, in that they exist within the blurred boundaries between life and death and this is nowhere more evident in ghost narratives.
According to Glennis Byron, in her account of the global Gothic, transnational Gothic and regional Gothic, all are often portrayed as evolving from Anglo-European influences as a kind of ‘colonial imposition’ which are re-appropriated and then develop local forms for mutual but separate origins (370). Indeed, the Gothic literary style has increasingly been identified with English national identity. Further, a form of Gothic tourism takes place. In his account of the ‘imperial Gothic’, Patrick Brantlinger establishes a number of key processes the protagonists undergo in their contact with the wilderness, namely the sense of the so-called Englishman, so typical in a range of stories by writers such as M. R. James and others, where the protagonists are portrayed as ‘losing their physical and mental and moral integrity’, in other words, ‘the terror of going native’ (64). Secondly, there is the fear of invasion and of contamination; a reverse colonialism (65). As Punter asks then, ‘has Gothic become, in the contemporary marketplace, a means of expression for local ghosts, or a means of imposition of western conceptions which have no idea of […] the enduring cultures and communal power of the ancestors?’ (New , 2– 3).
Darryl Jones is correct to point out that ‘the development of the Gothic and modern horror coincides with the formation of a British national identity’, if we accept that a sense of nationalism as being ‘articulated through narrative, myth and symbol’ (Horror , 8). Secondly, that sense of Britishness was defined by Protestantism. Jones defines the Gothic as being complex in this sense with its anti-Catholic chauvinism depicted in the way Catholicism is portrayed, with its barbaric superstition and blood ritual. Similarly, Robert Miles argues that ‘to be British was to be Protestant, with both identities driving strength from deep wells of residual anti-Catholicism. The Catholic became the convenient other of “British” identity’ (15). Ann Radcliffe's The Italian (1797) or the depiction of Spaniards in Matthew Lewis's The Monk (1796), or even Sheridan Le Fanu's Uncle Silas , published in 1864 and filmed in 1947 (dir. Charles Frank) and involving a close up which would cinematically ‘demonise’ the French governess, Madame de la Rougierre. Thus, to return to Jones, who contends, ‘the Gothic novel allowed a British audience conversely to identify as Protestant, rational, ordered, stable and modern’ (9).
Writing in Sight and Sound , Kim Newman recognizes the propensity for seeking a direct symbiosis between horror tales and emergent societal phenomena, stating, ‘it's tempting to comb through the theatrically released horror films early in the year, looking for premonitions or unexpected relevance with what came next in the real world’ (BFI). He notes that one of the first movies to have its distribution directly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic was A Quiet Place: Part II (dir. John Krasinski, 2020), a film which revolves around a fractured and terrified society attempting to find security after an invasive threat which feeds on sound. Newman recognizes that the genre is ‘supposed to deal with the darkest possibilities’, which echoes Halberstam's verdict that ‘monsters are meaning machines’ (21). So, it comes as no surprise that the Covid-19 catastrophe has a confluent familiarity with the fictional fantasies of armageddonal trauma which themselves derive from past upheavals that have been cemented in the cultural imagination.
No doubt there will be a multitude of Gothic and horror films which draw upon the Covid-19 pandemic as a cathartic response to the damage it has both caused and intensified; such is the nature of art and storytelling. However, the recent proliferation of pre-Covid zombie horror already illustrates a growing anxiety about societal collapse and systemic failure and creatively imagines the lived experience of catastrophic global uncertainty and destabilization.
Zombie cinema has evolved over time to become the go-to genre for the ‘imagination of disaster’, a phrase used by Susan Sontag to describe American science-fictional horror reflecting Cold War dread (Imagination ). Part of the proliferation of zombie horror in recent decades has included mining trepidation borne out of the AIDS pandemic, and more recently, the panic stemming from Avian Flu and SARS outbreaks. Rasmus R. Simonsen recognizes the impact that AIDS and its metaphors (to borrow another phrase from Sontag (AIDS)) had upon zombie narratives:
The contagion motif is necessarily omnipresent in all zombie films, but the almost ritualist flow of blood took on an entirely new and problematic dimension after the true impact of the AIDS had been discovered in the 1980s.
Within the other-worldly realms of rural rituals, sacrifice and superstitions, folk horror has been resplendent in recent years in various films, TV series, folk song and literature as well as across transnational and transatlantic borders. And yet, folk horror is often a flimsy and unsatisfactory moniker for such a broad range of cultural artefacts, including the unholy film trinity of Witchfinder General (1968), The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971) and The Wicker Man (1973). And yet there is also the Italian film Il Demonio (1963), the Russian film Viy (1967), the Japanese film Onibaba (1964), the Czechoslovakian film and Witchhammer (1970), and the Australian film Walkabout (1971): all attest to a transnational range of coverage for folk horror. It is also mirrored across the Atlantic in the backwoods horror of films such as Deliverance (1972), Crowhaven Farm (1970), The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978) and, of course, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). At the heart of these folk exploitation films, though, is an obsession with the rural landscape (and in sharp contrast on occasion, urban settings, as is the case with Rosemary's Baby (1968)), a conniving suspicion of the outsider and an isolated community more often than not engaged in a summoning for ritual sacrifice. This particular strand of folk horror stands in stark contrast to the so-called bucolic Gothic described by Stephen Prince, Mark Fisher and others, which infers a far more pastoral and idyllic sense of rural living, simply coated in a little threat. In folk horror, however, the very soil seems malevolent, haunted, possessed by time and ancestral curses. Of course, these shifting definitions within and outside horror subgenres allow for a certain freedom, but folk horror is certainly defined by pre-Christian paganism, with its focus on rituals and sacrifice. The influences of M. R. James, Arthur Machen, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Aikman and Alan Garner, among many others in foregrounding the ‘unknown’ in the natural world are obvious, which in turn is a slight departing from the Gothic focus on the ‘explained’ supernatural.
Horror has traditionally been a window on the unthinkable; our limits as a species. It has ultimately revealed to us what we do not wish to see, a reflection of ourselves as we really are. Often, the films covered here attest to the simple revelation that what horror presents to us is an unmasking of what makes us who we really are. Underneath the superficial coverage of our supposed rationalist civilization is still, at heart, the stark reality of what darkness lies beyond the campfire. As Eugene Thacker has thoughtfully posited:
The world is increasingly unthinkable-a world of planetary disasters, emerging pandemics, tectonic shifts, strange weather, oil-drenched seascapes, and the furtive, always-looming threat of extinction. In spite of our daily concerns, wants, and desires, it is increasingly difficult to comprehend the world in which we live and of which we are a part. To confront this idea is to confront an absolute limit to our ability to adequately understand the world at all-an idea that has been a central motif of the horror genre for some time. (1)
Cosmic horror ddefies easy categorization or indeed even boundaries. As Roger Luckhurst states, ‘the weird concerns liminal things, in between states, transgressions always on the verge of turning into something else’ (Lovecraft, Classic , xvi). At the heart of cosmic horror are the autoimmune metaphors: survival, transmutation, death and extinction (each will be dealt with here). Eugene Thacker also referred to the sense of threat coming from within; ‘a blurring where biology and theology are always intertwined in the concepts of contagion, corruption and pollution’ (105). This has been seen in previous examples, where the cannibalistic and vampiric acts can be seen to exist within the symbolism of the Eucharist. Indeed, Thacker goes on, ‘considering the extent to which genre horror deals with the themes of death, resurrection, and the divine and demonic, one could argue that genre horror is a secular, cultural expression of theological concerns’ (113). Thacker suggests that following the ancient mythological era, the theological concerns of the medieval pre-modern age, and the scientific focus of our own recent past, we now live in an existential era, ‘a questioning of the role of human individuals and human groups in the light of modern science, high technology, industrial and post-industrial capitalism, and world wars’ (3).
This book looks at contemporary Gothic cinema within a transnational approach. With a focus on the aesthetic and philosophical roots which lie at the heart of the Gothic, the study invokes its literary as well as filmic forebears by exploring how these styles informed strands of the modern filmic Gothic: the ghost narrative, folk horror, the vampire movie, cosmic horror and, finally, the zombie film. In recent years, the concept of transnationalism has 'trans'-cended its original boundaries, perhaps excessively in the minds of some. Originally defined in the wake of the rise of globalisation in the 1990s, as a way to study cinema beyond national boundaries, where the look and the story of a film reflected the input of more than one nation, or region, or culture. It was considered too confining to study national cinemas in an age of internationalization, witnessing the fusions of cultures, and post-colonialism, exile and diasporas. The concept allows us to appreciate the broader range of forces from a wider international perspective while at the same time also engaging with concepts of nationalism, identity and an acknowledgement of cinema itself.
This study compared the level of education and tests from multiple cognitive domains as proxies for cognitive reserve.
The participants were educationally, ethnically, and cognitively diverse older adults enrolled in a longitudinal aging study. We examined independent and interactive effects of education, baseline cognitive scores, and MRI measures of cortical gray matter change on longitudinal cognitive change.
Baseline episodic memory was related to cognitive decline independent of brain and demographic variables and moderated (weakened) the impact of gray matter change. Education moderated (strengthened) the gray matter change effect. Non-memory cognitive measures did not incrementally explain cognitive decline or moderate gray matter change effects.
Episodic memory showed strong construct validity as a measure of cognitive reserve. Education effects on cognitive decline were dependent upon the rate of atrophy, indicating education effectively measures cognitive reserve only when atrophy rate is low. Results indicate that episodic memory has clinical utility as a predictor of future cognitive decline and better represents the neural basis of cognitive reserve than other cognitive abilities or static proxies like education.
Laboratory generation of water nanoclusters from amorphous ice and strong terahertz (THz) radiation from water nanoclusters ejected from water vapour into a vacuum suggest the possibility of water nanoclusters ejected into interstellar space from abundant amorphous ice-coated cosmic dust produced by supernovae explosions. Water nanoclusters (section ‘Water nanoclusters’) offer a hypothetical scenario connecting major mysteries of our Universe: dark matter (section ‘Baryonic dark matter’), dark energy (section ‘Dark energy’), cosmology (section ‘Cosmology’), astrobiology (section ‘Astrobiology’) and the RNA world (section ‘The RNA world’) as the origin of life on Earth and habitable exoplanets. Despite their expected low density in space compared to hydrogen, their quantum-entangled diffuse Rydberg electronic states make cosmic water nanoclusters a candidate for baryonic dark matter that can also absorb, via the microscopic dynamical Casimir effect, the virtual photons of zero-point-energy vacuum fluctuations above the nanocluster cut-off vibrational frequencies, leaving only vacuum fluctuations below these frequencies to be gravitationally active, thus leading to a possible common origin of dark matter and dark energy. This picture includes novel explanations of the small cosmological constant, the coincidence of energy and matter densities, possible contributions of the red-shifted THz radiation from cosmic water nanoclusters at redshift z ≅ 10 to the cosmic microwave background (CMB) spectrum, the Hubble constant crisis, the role of water as a known coolant for rapid early star formation and ultimately, how life may have originated from RNA protocells on Earth and exoplanets and moons in the habitable zones of developed solar systems. Together, they lead to a cyclic universe cosmology – based on the proposed equivalence of cosmic water nanoclusters to a quintessence scalar field – instead of a multiverse based on cosmic inflation theory. Recent CMB birefringence measurements may support quintessence. Finally, from the quantum chemistry of water nanoclusters interacting with prebiotic organic molecules, amino acids and RNA protocells on early Earth and habitable exoplanets, this scenario is consistent with the anthropic principle that our Universe must have those properties which allow life, as we know it – based on water, to develop at the present stage of its history.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) studies are increasingly targeting earlier (pre)clinical populations, in which the expected degree of observable cognitive decline over a certain time interval is reduced as compared to the dementia stage. Consequently, endpoints to capture early cognitive changes require refinement. We aimed to determine the sensitivity to decline of widely applied neuropsychological tests at different clinical stages of AD as outlined in the National Institute on Aging – Alzheimer’s Association (NIA-AA) research framework.
Amyloid-positive individuals (as determined by positron emission tomography or cerebrospinal fluid) with longitudinal neuropsychological assessments available were included from four well-defined study cohorts and subsequently classified among the NIA-AA stages. For each stage, we investigated the sensitivity to decline of 17 individual neuropsychological tests using linear mixed models.
1103 participants (age = 70.54 ± 8.7, 47% female) were included: n = 120 Stage 1, n = 206 Stage 2, n = 467 Stage 3 and n = 309 Stage 4. Neuropsychological tests were differentially sensitive to decline across stages. For example, Category Fluency captured significant 1-year decline as early as Stage 1 (β = −.58, p < .001). Word List Delayed Recall (β = −.22, p < .05) and Trail Making Test (β = 6.2, p < .05) became sensitive to 1-year decline in Stage 2, whereas the Mini-Mental State Examination did not capture 1-year decline until Stage 3 (β = −1.13, p < .001) and 4 (β = −2.23, p < .001).
We demonstrated that commonly used neuropsychological tests differ in their ability to capture decline depending on clinical stage within the AD continuum (preclinical to dementia). This implies that stage-specific cognitive endpoints are needed to accurately assess disease progression and increase the chance of successful treatment evaluation in AD.
Code-switching has been found to incur a processing cost in auditory comprehension. However, listeners may have access to anticipatory phonetic cues to code-switches (Piccinini & Garellek, 2014; Fricke et al., 2016), thus mitigating switch cost. We investigated effects of withholding anticipatory phonetic cues on code-switched word recognition by splicing English-to-Mandarin code-switches into unilingual English sentences. In a concept monitoring experiment, Mandarin–English bilinguals took longer to recognize code-switches, suggesting a switch cost. In an eye tracking experiment, the average proportion of all participants' looks to pictures corresponding to sentence-medial code-switches decreased when cues were withheld. Acoustic analysis of stimuli revealed tone-specific pitch contours before English-to-Mandarin code-switches, consistent with previous work on tonal coarticulation. We conclude that withholding anticipatory phonetic cues can negatively affect code-switched recognition: therefore, bilingual listeners use phonetic cues in processing code-switches under normal conditions. We discuss the implications of tonal coarticulation for mechanisms underlying phonetic cues to code-switching.