Of Trolls, Horror, Movies, and Calling Dibs

I’m writing this mostly to let people know that I’m still alive and thinking, but also to pull something my digital acquaintance Kerry Mockler has pulled over on her blog: calling “dibs” on ideas for papers.

Over break, I’ve been watching a lot of movies. Like, a lot. Probably more than is good for me. Two that have stuck out at me more than others are House, directed by Nobuhiko Ōbayashi and The Night of the Hunter, the only film ever directed by Charles Laughton. Both of these are horror films (by most classifications), both involve children (and childhoods) in critical ways, and both of them are–to say the least–outliers of the genre. I had been turning over the films in my head and trying to make some interesting connections between the two, when I found that Evan Calder Williams has already done so in a remarkable essay in Film Quarterly. In “Sunset with Chainsaw,” he suggests these two films resist typical readings of horror, but instead offers a new method of reading horror politically through focusing on visual environments as opposed to horrible content. Williams’s reading is provocative, and it’s spurred me to think through how it might be developed. Again, since I’m particularly interested in understanding childhoods, I’m wondering how focusing on horror through the lens of the child might affect this reading. There’s also some interesting feminist stuff floating around those films (particularly House), which I’d like to explore. Finally, I’d love to see if some of the stuff garnered from reading childhood horror in these films might apply in horror in children’s fiction. Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn was–for some reason–one of my favorite books when I was around eleven or twelve, and I’d both love to write a paper on it and revisit it trying to understand childhood horror.

Relatedly, I also watched Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles recently, and–maybe because I’ve been thinking about horror so much (in addition to watching these films, I’m working on a horror film collection development project for my job)–I’m wondering if there’s a way of reading the film as horror? The orgasm as a monstrosity? What might the implications of that be? (Has anyone already done this? Beyond calling it “horror,” I can’t find anything to suggest they have.)(Also, I may hold off on this one until I see what Annemarie Jagose says in her new book.)

I also don’t normally blog about books I’ve been reading a whole lot on here, but I recently finished Troll: A Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo, and that also make my mind start racing. I guess it seemed relevant because the book (serendipitously) dealt with a lot of things I’d been reading about lately: monstrosity, queerness, affective geographies, some tangential relationships to childhood studies. The book also could bear with some fantastic readings in terms of posthumanism, critical animal studies, and ecocriticism (particularly with regards to the project of pet-making and the allegory of taming our own “wildness”), but I’m less grounded in those approaches.1 I guess it’s also interesting because I’ve been thinking a little about Moomins recently–I’m starting a class in Scandinavian childhood studies and children’s literature next week. The connections between Finnish trolls is remarkable–although the trolls don’t resemble each other all that much, I think there’s some particularly interesting things I’d love to explore between the two. (I believe it is possible I may have already found a term paper for this class?)

All of this to say, “hello!” and “Please don’t write about any of these things before I get a chance to.”

1. As a side note, Troll also contains one chapter that is literally the best description I’ve ever read of the experience of being a queer person in a smallish city, like the one I live in now.

“…Our city’s unique, but with a slightly different nuance for each of us. In a little town like this, we don’t have our own streets, shops, or galleries, but we do have our individual hidden topography, our own street corners. A man’s smoking a cigarette on a bridge, and we see him quite differently from everyone else: we take in a hand movement, a furtive glance, which, for others, is just visual bric-a-brac…”

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