• Between text and performance symposium on improvisation and originalism
    with Jeffrey M. Perl, Philip Gossett, Robert Levin, Jeffrey Kallberg, Martin Puchner, Tiffany Stern, Mark Franko, and Roger Moseley
    Common Knowledge 17 (2): 221-230. 2011.
    This essay introduces a Common Knowledge symposium on the relationship between texts (for instance, musical scores or dramatic scripts) and performance in the arts by drawing out its implications for the interpretation of publicly consequential texts (such as constitutions, legal statutes, and canon law). Arguing that judges and clerics could learn much from studying the work of Philip Gossett and other practitioners of textual criticism in the arts, the essay suggests that a wider array of choi…Read more
  • Despite the closure of virtually all original grindhouse cinemas, ‘grindhouse’ lives on as a conceptual term. This article contends that the prevailing conceptualization of ‘grindhouse’ is problematized by a widening gap between the original grindhouse context (‘past’) and the DVD/home-viewing context (present). Despite fans’ and filmmakers’ desire to preserve this part of exploitation cinema history, the world of the grindhouse is now little more than a blurry set of tall-tales and faded phenom…Read more
  • On the ten year anniversary of 2Girls1Cup, this article examines the complex balance of shock, pleasure and disgust elicited by this viral video.
  • Sex and Horror
    In Feona Attwood, Clarissa Smith & Brian McNair (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Media, Sex and Sexuality, Routledge. pp. 290-299. 2018.
  • Since 1990, The Simpsons’ annual “Treehouse of Horror” episodes have constituted a production sub-context within the series, having their own conventions and historical trajectory. These specials incorporate horror plots and devices, as well as general references to science fiction, into the series’ base in situation comedy. The Halloween specials disrupt the series usual family-oriented sitcom structure, dissolving the ideological balances that stabilise that society. By depicting the Family an…Read more
  • James Brown’s ‘I’m Real’ (1988) contains numerous lyrics regaled from James Brown’s earlier hits (including ‘Make it Funky’ (1971)) and also James Brown vocal samples from ‘Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine’ (1970) and ‘Get on the Good Foot’ (1972). But why sample James Brown’s voice when the man himself was in the studio recording a vocal? What purpose could it serve, especially when he was already replicating moments from previous hits? This article investigates that chronologic duality…Read more
  • The Technologies of Isolation
    Japanese Studies 30 (2): 185-198. 2010.
    In this investigation of the Japanese film Kairo, I contemplate how the horrors present in the film relate to the issue of self, by examining a number of interlocking motifs. These include thematic foci on disease and technology which are more intimately and inwardly focused that the film's conclusion first appears to suggest. The true horror here, I argue, is ontological: centred on the self and its divorcing from the exterior world, especially founded in an increased use of and reliance on com…Read more
  • Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (1980) may have featured both animated corpses and hardcore sex scenes, but only recently have Re-Penetrator (2004) and Porn of the Dead (2006) managed to fully eroticise the living dead, allowing these creatures to engage in intercourse. In doing so, the usually a-subjective zombie is allotted a key facet of identity - sexuality. This development within the sub-genre needs accounting for outside of the contexts of porn studies, where it has only been briefly tou…Read more
  • Gender Monstrosity: Deadgirl and the Sexual Politics of Zombie-Rape
    Feminist Media Studies 13 (4): 525-539. 2012.
    Deadgirl (2008) is based around a group of male teens discovering and claiming ownership of a bound female zombie, using her as a sex slave. This narrative premise raises numerous tensions that are particularly amplified by using a zombie as the film's central victim. The Deadgirl is sexually passive yet monstrous, reifying the horrors associated with the female body in patriarchal discourses. She is objectified on the basis of her gender, and this has led many reviewers to dismiss the film as m…Read more
  • Given that numerous critics have complained about Saw’s apparently confused sense of ethics, it is surprising that little attention has been paid to how morality operates in narrative itself. Coming from a Nietzschean perspective - specifically questioning whether the lead torturer Jigsaw is a passive or a radical nihilist - I seek to rectify that oversight. This philosophical reading of the series explores Jigsaw’s moral stance, which is complicated by his hypocrisy: I contend that this underpi…Read more
  • ‘Torture porn’ films centre on themes of abduction, imprisonment and suffering. Within the subgenre, protagonists are typically placed under relentless surveillance by their captors. CCTV features in more than 45 contemporary torture-themed films (including Captivity, Hunger, and Torture Room). Security cameras signify a bridging point between the captors’ ability to observe and to control their prey. Founded on power-imbalance, torture porn’s prison-spaces are panoptical. Despite failing to enc…Read more
  • Mindful violence? The Rambo Series’ Shifting Aesthetic of Aggression
    New Review of Film and Television Studies 10 (4). 2012.
    Rambo (2008) marked the return of Sylvester Stallone's iconic action hero. What is most striking about the fourth film (as the response from reviewers testifies), is its graphic violence. My intention here is to critically engage with Rambo (2008) as rewriting the series' established aesthetic of violence. My overarching aim is to highlight how the popular press has sought to read the 2008 version of Rambo according to the discursive narratives surrounding Stallone's 1980s action films. The nega…Read more
  • Over the last century within the philosophy of mind, the intersubjective model of self has gained traction as a viable alternative to the oft-criticised Cartesian solipsistic paradigm. These two models are presented as incompatible inasmuch as Cartesians perceive other minds as “a problem” for the self, while intersubjectivists insist that sociality is foundational to selfhood. This essay uses the Paranormal Activity series (2007–2015) to explore this philosophical debate. It is argued that thes…Read more
  • Although overshadowed by its filmic adaptations (Hideo Nakata, 1998 and Gore Verbinski, 2002), Koji Suzuki’s novel Ring (1991) is at the heart of the international explosion of interest in Japanese horror. This article seeks to explore Suzuki’s overlooked text. Unlike the film versions, the novel is more explicitly focused on the line between self-preservation and self-sacrifice, critiquing the ease with which the former is privileged over the latter. In the novel then, the horror of Sadako’s cu…Read more
  • In proportion to the increased emphasis placed on abortion in partisan political debate since the early 2000s, there has been a noticeable upsurge in cultural representations of abortion. This article charts ways in which that increase manifests in contemporary survival-horror. This article contends that numerous contemporary survival-horror films foreground pregnancy. These representations of pregnancy reify the pressures that moralistic, partisan political campaigning places on individuals who…Read more
  • This article explores the various ethical and legal limitations faced by researchers studying extreme or ‘ shock’ pornographies, beginning with generic and disciplinary contexts, and focusing specifically upon the assumption that textual analysis unproblematically justifies certain pornographies, while legal contexts utilize a prohibitive gaze. Are our academic freedoms of speech endangered by legislations that restrict our access to non-mainstream images, forcing them further into taboo locales…Read more
  • Zombies and Sexuality: Essays on Desire and the Living Dead (edited book)
    with Shaka McGlotten
    McFarland. 2014.
    Since the early 2000s, zombies have increasingly swarmed the landscape of popular culture, with ever more diverse representations of the undead being imagined. A growing number of zombie narratives have introduced sexual themes, endowing the living dead with their own sexual identity. The unpleasant idea of the sexual zombie is itself provocative, triggering questions about the nature of desire, sex, sexuality, and the politics of our sexual behaviors. However, the notion of zombie sex has been …Read more
  • Both the slasher movie and its more recent counterpart the "torture porn" film centralize graphic depictions of violence. This article inspects the nature of these portrayals by examining a motif commonly found in the cinema of homicide, dubbed here the "pure moment of murder": that is, the moment in which two characters’ bodies adjoin onscreen in an instance of graphic violence. By exploring a number of these incidents (and their various modes of representation) in American horror films ranging…Read more
  • Tom Six’s The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009) and The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011) are based on a disturbing premise: people are abducted and stitched together mouth-to-anus. The consequent combinations of faeces and bloodshed, torture and degradation have been roundly vilified by the critical press. Additionally, the sequel was officially banned or heavily censored in numerous countries. This article argues that these reactive forms of suppression fail to engage with the fi…Read more
  • Sunohara Yuuri and Akita Masami’s series of six seppuku films (1990) are solely constituted by images of fictionalized death, revolving around the prolonged self-torture of a lone figure committing harakiri. I contend that the protagonist’s auto-immolation mirrors a formal death, each frame ‘killing’ the moment it represents. My analysis aims to explore how the solipsistic nature of selfhood is appositely symbolized by the isolation of the on-screen figures and the insistence with which the six …Read more
  • XXXombies: Economies of Desire and Disgust
    Thinkingdead: What the Zombie Apocalypse Means 197--214. 2013.
    Drawing on the well-established understanding of the zombie as metaphor for the deadening effects of consumer capitalism, this chapter seeks to account for three distinct changes that contextualise 21st century zombie fiction. The first is situational: the global economic crisis has amplified the anxieties that inspired Romero's critique of consumer capitalism in Dawn of the Dead (1978). The second is intellectual: as Chapman and Anderson (2011) note, there has been an “explosion of research on …Read more
  • 'Time is Wasting': Con/sequence and S/pace in the Saw Series
    Horror Studies 1 (2): 225-239. 2010.
    Horror film sequels have not received as much serious critical attention as they deserve – this is especially true of the Saw franchise, which has suffered a general dismissal under the derogatory banner ‘Torture Porn’. In this article I use detailed textual analysis of the Saw series to expound how film sequels employ and complicate expected temporal and spatial relations – in particular, I investigate how the Saw sequels tie space and time into their narrative, methodological and moral sensibi…Read more
  • This chapter explores the tentative line between erotic spectacle and horror; a judgement that is problematic given that is based on an axis of moral or ideological normality. The contexts of viewing impact on the status of ‘obscene’ images, both in terms of the communities that view them and their motivation for viewing; for sexual arousal, out of morbid curiosity or malevolence, or perhaps all three simultaneously. The reception of an obscene image is largely based upon the issue of viewer con…Read more
  • Torture Porn: Popular Horror after Saw
    Palgrave-Macmillan. 2013.
    Torture Porn is a term that has generated a great deal of controversy during the last decade, critics utilizing the term to dismiss contemporary popular horror cinema as obscene and morally depraved. Arguing primarily in defense of torture-themed horror films, this book seeks to offer a critical overview and examination of the Torture Porn phenomenon, discussing the generic contexts in which it is situated, scrutinizing press responses to the sub-genre, and offering narrative analyses of the sub…Read more
  • The undead have been evoked in philosophical hypotheses regarding consciousness, but such discussions often come across as abstract academic exercises, inapplicable to personal experience. Movie zombies illuminate these somewhat opaque philosophical debates via storytelling devices – narrative, characterization, dialogue and so forth – which approach experience and consciousness in an instinctively accessible manner. This chapter focuses on a particular strand of the subgenre: transition narrati…Read more
  • Despite its prevalence, the term ‘extreme’ has received little critical attention. ‘Extremity’ is routinely employed in ways that imply its meanings are self-evident. However, the adjective itself offers no such clarity. This article focuses on one particular use of the term – ‘extreme porn’ – in order to illustrate a broader set of concerns about the pitfalls of labelling. The label ‘extreme’ is typically employed as a substitute for engaging with the term’s supposed referents (here, pornograph…Read more
  • Zombie Sex
    with Shaka McGlotten
    In Steve Jones & Shaka McGlotten (eds.), Zombies and Sexuality: Essays on Desire and the Living Dead, Mcfarland. pp. 1-18. 2014.
    Since the early 2000s, zombies have become an increasingly significant presence in popular culture. Zombies are social monsters, epitomizing aspects of social horror. What is at once central and yet strangely absent from current debates about zombies is any detailed consideration of sex and sexuality. This oversight is startling, not least since sex is arguably the most intimate form of social engagement, and is a profound aspect of human social identity. What makes the omission even more remark…Read more
  • The Lexicon of Offense: The Meanings of Torture, Porn, and ‘Torture Porn”
    In Feona Attwood, Ian Hunter, Vincent Campbell & Sharon Lockyear (eds.), Controversial Images: Media Representations on the Edge, Palgrave-macmillan. pp. 186-200. 2012.
    Torture porn has been vilified on grounds that are at best unconvincing and at worst incoherent. The subgenre’s remonstrators too often ignore the content of the films themselves, and fail to make sufficiently detailed connections between the subgenre and the cultural sphere. Reactions to torture porn rarely consider what values the films apparently contravene, and why, if the films are offensive, they are simultaneously so popular. The central derisive mechanism in operation is the ill-conceive…Read more