ground. For Stretch, trying desperately to find a way out, it is a ghastly place:dark, full of blind alleys, walls wet with blood. Likewise the second basement ofthe haunted mansion in Hell Night: strewn with decaying bodies and skeletons,lighted with masses of candles. Other tunnels are less familial: the one in BodyDouble that prompts Jake's claustrophobic faint, and the horror-house tunnel inHe Knows You're Alone in which the killer lurks. The morgue episode in the latterfilm, certain of the hospital scenes in Halloween II, and the bottom-cellar scenesfrom various films may be counted as Terrible Tunnels: dark, labyrinthine, exit-less, usually underground and palpably damp, and laced with heating ducts andplumbing pipes. In Hell Night, as in Texas Chain Saw II, Terrible House (the aban-doned mansion) and Terrible Tunnel (the second basement) elide.Gender in the Slasher Film 197This content downloaded from 22.214.171.124 on Thu, 12 May 2016 20:34:35 UTCAll use subject to
The house or tunnel may at first seem a safe haven, but the same walls thatpromise to keep the killer out quickly become, once the killer penetrates them,the walls that hold the victim in. A phenomenally popular moment in post-1974 slashers is the scene in which the victim locks herself in (a house, room,closet, car) and waits with pounding heart as the killer slashes, hacks, or drills hisway in. The action is inevitably seen from the victim's point of view; we stare atthe door (wall, car roof) and watch the surface break with first the tip and thenthe shaft of the weapon. In Hitchcock's The Birds, it is the birds' beaks we seepenetrating the door. The penetration scene is commonly the film's pivotalmoment; if the victim has up to now simply fled, she has at this point no choicebut to fight back.Weapons. In the hands of the killer, at least, guns have no place in slasher films.Victims sometimes avail themselves of firearms, but like telephones, fire alarms,elevators, doorbells, and car engines, guns fail in the squeeze. In some basic sense,the emotional terrain of the slasher film is pretechnological. The preferredweapons of the killer are knives, hammers, axes, icepicks, hypodermic needles,red hot pokers, pitchforks, and the like. Such implements serve well a plot pred-icated on stealth, the unawareness of later victims that the bodies of their friendsare accumulating just yards away. But the use of noisy chainsaws and power drillsand the nonuse of such relatively silent means as bow and arrow, spear, catapult,and even swords,28 would seem to suggest that closeness and tactility are also atissue. The sense is clearer if we include marginal examples likeJaws and The Birds,as well as related werewolf and vampire genres. Knives and needles, like teeth,beaks, fangs, and claws, are personal, extensions of the body that bring attackerand attacked into primitive, animalistic embrace. In I Spit On Your Grave, theheroine forces her rapist at gunpoint to drop his pants, evidently meaning to
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- Spring '14
- Horror film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Slasher film