Here amidst all the slaughterhouse paraphernalia the Sawyers live and work The

Here amidst all the slaughterhouse paraphernalia the

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terranean chambers of the Sawyer operation. Here, amidst all the slaughterhouse paraphernalia, the Sawyers live and work. The walls drip with blood. Like the decrepit mansion of Part One, the residential parts of the establishment are quaintly decorated with human and animal remains. After a long ordeal at the hands of the Sawyers, Stretch manages to scramble up through a culvert and beyond that up onto a nearby pinnacle, where she finds a chainsaw and wards off her final assailant. The Texas Ranger evidently perishes in a grenade explosion underground, leaving Stretch the sole survivor. The spiritual debt of all the post- 1974 slasher films to Psycho is clear, and it is a rare example that does not pay a visual tribute, however brief, to the ancestor- if not in a shower stabbing, then in a purling drain or the shadow of a knife- wielding hand. No less clear, however, is the fact that the post-1974 examples have, in the usual way of folklore, contemporized not only Hitchcock's terms but also, over time, their own. We have, in short, a cinematic formula with a twenty- six-year history, of which the first phase, from 1960 to 1974, is dominated by a film clearly rooted in the sensibility of the 1950s, while the second phase, brack- eted by the two Texas Chain Saw films from 1974 and 1986, responds to the values of the late sixties and early seventies. That the formula in its most recent guise may be in decline is suggested by the campy, self-parodying quality of Texas Chain Saw II, as well as the emergence, in legitimate theater, of the slasher satire Buckets of Blood. Between 1974 and 1986, however, the formula evolved and flourished in ways of some interest to observers of popular culture, above all those con- cerned with the representation of women in film. To apprehend in specific terms the nature of that mutation, let us, with Psycho as the benchmark, survey the genre by component category: killer, locale, weapons, victims, and shock effects. Killer. The psychiatrist at the end of Psycho explains what we had already guessed from the action: that Norman Bates had introjected his mother, in life a "clinging, demanding woman," so completely that she constituted his other, con- trolling self. Not Norman but "the mother half of his mind" killed Marion-had to kill Marion-when he (the Norman half) found himself aroused by her. The notion of a killer propelled by psychosexual fury, more particularly a male in gender distress, has proved a durable one, and the progeny of Norman Bates stalk the genre up to the present day. Just as Norman wears his mother's clothes during his acts of violence and is thought, by the screen characters and also, for a while, by the film's spectators, to be his mother, so the murderer in the Psycho- imitation Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma, 1980), a transvestite psychiatrist, seems until his unveiling to be a woman; like Norman, he must kill women who arouse 194 REPRESENTATIONS This content downloaded from 128.114.34.22 on Thu, 12 May 2016 20:34:35 UTC All use subject to
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him sexually. Likewise, in muted form, Hitchhiker/Chop Top and Leatherface in
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  • Spring '14
  • Horror film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Slasher film

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