The Compulsions of Real/Reel Serial Killers and Vampires: Toward a Gothic CriminologyBased on an article, co-authored with Cecil Greek, published with the Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 10: 1, Winter 2003. http://www.albany.edu/scj/jcjpc/index10.html - vol10is1 54 pp.; part of an anthology, Monsters Among and Within Us: Evil, Crime and the Gothic in Film and Media (under review with the University of Wisconsin Press): The Compulsions of Real/Reel Serial Killers and Vampires: Toward a Gothic Criminology Based on an article, co-authored with Cecil Greek, published with the Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 10: 1, Winter 2003. http://www.albany.edu/scj/jcjpc/index10.html - vol10is1 54 pp.; part of an anthology, Monsters Among and Within Us: Evil, Crime and the Gothic in Film and Media (under review with the University of Wisconsin Press)
Dr. Caroline Picart
Assistant Professor of English, Courtesy Asst. Professor of Law, Florida State University
Outlines of Larger Project:: Outlines of Larger Project: What prompts this book is an explosion of books and films that link violence, images of “monstrosity,” and gothic modes of narration and visualization in American popular culture, academia and even public policy. As Mark Edmundson (1997, p. xii) notes: “Gothic conventions have slipped over into ostensibly nonfictional realms. Slide3: Gothic is alive not just in Stephen King’s novels and Quentin Tarantino’s films, but in the media renderings of the O.J. Simpson case, in our political discourse, in modes of therapy, on TV news, on talk shows like Oprah, in our discussions of AIDS and of the environment. American culture at large has become suffused with Gothic assumptions, with Gothic characters and plots.” Nevertheless, there have been few critical anthologies that have aimed at an interdisciplinary approach focusing specifically on the complex continuum of fact and fiction, involving a dialogue that moves across the humanities (Film Criticism, Cultural Studies, Rhetoric) and the social sciences (Communication, Criminology, Sociology) in exploring this phenomenon.
Overview of the Book:: Overview of the Book: The first section, “Anatomies of the Monstrous and the Gothic: Transgressions of the Reel Body,” employs principally humanities-related lenses to peer at various ways in which the monstrous body is visualized. It focuses on fictionalizations of crime and the gothic, with a focus on gender, race, class, sexuality and nationality. Part I: Anatomies of the Monstrous and the Gothic: Transgressions of the Reel Body: Part I: Anatomies of the Monstrous and the Gothic: Transgressions of the Reel Body --“The Compulsions of Serial Killers as Vampires: Toward a Gothic Criminology,” Caroline J. (Kay) Picart and Cecil Greek . . . . . . . .26
--“Ethnicity, Race, and Monstrosity: The Rhetorics of Horror and Humor,” Noël Carroll . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . L . . .83
--“Hitchcock’s Anti-Gothic: The Rhetorical Structure of The Man Who Knew Too Much” Thomas Benson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .111
--“The Interpretation of Screams: Female Fear, Homosocial Desire, and Mad-Doctor Movies,” Rhona Berenstein . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146
--"'My, That's a Big One': Masculinity and Monstrosity in Dirty Harry," Davis Houck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .213
--“The Substance Abuse Film and the Gothic: Character, Narrative and Hallucination,” Jason G. McKahan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 250
Overview of the Book (2):: Overview of the Book (2): The second section of this anthology, “Disciplining Reel and Real Bodies,” juxtaposes fictional and documentary accounts of depictions of the gothic, the criminal, the monstrous. Part II: Disciplining Reel and Real Bodies: Part II: Disciplining Reel and Real Bodies --Excerpt from Roads to Dystopia: Sociological Essays on the Postmodern Condition, Stanford Lyman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277
--“The Vicious, the Virtuous, the Vapid and the Vile: Hollywood Versions of Intimate Violence,” Jennifer Dunn . . . . . . . . . . . . .387
--“Making a Killing in the Marketplace: Incorporation as a Monstrous Process,” Pat Gill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 418
--“Bodies under Scandal, Bodies under Law: Priests and Tainted sex-----The pleasures of Public Sex,” Edward J. Ingebretsen. . . . . . . .. 444
--“ ‘Paradise Lost’ and the West Memphis 3: Fans, Technology and Documentary Film,” Andrew Opel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .475
--“Rogue Cops : An out of control threat to American civil society?,” Cecil Greek . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 497
--“Gothic Criminology and Criminal Justice Policy,” Raymond Surrette . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 537
List of Contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . 578
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . (TBA) Aims of this session:: Aims of this session: to track the most gripping and recurrent visualizations of the “monstrous” in the media and film in order to lay bare the tensions that underlie the contemporary construction of the monstrous, which ranges in the twilight realm where divisions separating fact, fiction, and myth are porous , focusing specifically on two types of monsters: vampires and serial killers
To study the social construction of vampires and serial killers, in feature films that invoke the genre traditions of the documentary, melodrama, horror-psychological thriller, and romance
To propose the beginning of conversations exploring a “gothic criminology”
Questions:: Questions: What is a “gothic criminology”?
What is its significance? Gothic Criminology--1: Gothic Criminology--1 Drawing from Haggerty’s (1989: 16) notion of a “gothic sociology” that “expresses itself in depicting the architectonic paradox of the supposedly objective world—viz., the natural preternaturalism that has contributed to the world’s construction,” the gothic criminology this article gestures towards is an account that moves in between the realms of gothic fiction, which entertains its horrified and fascinated readers with unreal horrors attendant upon a Gothic Criminology--2: Gothic Criminology--2 realistically/cogently imagined fictional world, and factual cases framed in gothic terms, which are essential to plotting the social construction of modernity. Furthermore, a gothic criminology that examines the prevalent use of such preternatural imagery or occult fantasy can prompt a critical response to how crime is theoretically modeled and popularly constructed, and assist in the development of a praxiological response to “real” and “reel” worlds, which are intertwined in complex ways (2).
Gothic Criminology--3: Gothic Criminology--3 This is significant because traditionally, as Pirie (1977) points out, though there is a natural link between serial killers and vampires (as mass murderers), the two are usually set apart because of a conventional desire to separate a realistic account from an account of fantasy. Thus, he argues, “the true life psychopath is very rarely a source for vampire movies. There is a world of difference between the psychological horror of mass murder and the dreamy romantic atmosphere of the undead” (17). Yet contemporary characterizations of serial killers converge with those of vampires, making the gothic aesthetic not an obscure 18th century oddity, but a rhetorical feature of everyday life.
Question:: Question: What are the essential characteristics of a gothic vampire? A Gothic Vampire: (1): A Gothic Vampire: (1) The gothic vampire is an undead entity that is compelled to drink human blood (3).
. As Pirie points out, quoting Ernest Jone’s On the Nightmare, “ blood is frequently an unconscious equivalent for semen and emphasizes the amount of sexual reference that abounds in even the oldest of vampire lore” (12), (cited in Picart & Greek, 3-4)
A Gothic Vampire: (2): A Gothic Vampire: (2) The romantic image of the vampire as both satanic rake and alienated being seems derived from Lord Byron’s own self-portraiture. Indeed, Byron was fascinated by the vampire, and was described by a contemporary, Blessington, as ‘taking the part of a fallen or exiled A Gothic Vampire: (3): A Gothic Vampire: (3) being . . . existing under a curse, pre-doomed to a fate. . . that he seemed determined to fulfill’ (Pirie: 18). John Polidori, Byron’s physician-drug provider during that fateful summer tryst with the Shelleys in 1816 that spawned the twin gothic tales of Frankenstein and The Vampyre, is reputed to have stolen the idea from Byron (20) (cited in Picart and Greek, 4). A Gothic Vampire: (4): A Gothic Vampire: (4) Bram Stoker’s version immortalizes this same image, with its ambivalent tensions. Indeed, because of Stoker’s influence, as filtered through numerous stage adaptations of Dracula, and even more Universal series horror movies of the 1930s and 40s and Hammer films of the 60s, “the vampire seems perpetually about to caress and violate the beautiful, reclining body of a mesmerized, and in some fashion, willing, virginal young woman” (Waller, 1986: 21) (Picart & Greek, 4)
A Gothic Vampire: (5): A Gothic Vampire: (5) The landscape in which the vampire operates must in some way correspond with his character. As Pirie notes: “The vampire may be the active agent of terror, but the passive agent is the landscape he inhabits” (41). To render the vampire an “authentic” or believable figure, one needs gothic settings that render his wild work “natural”--whether they be wooded English hillsides, a lonely stretch of east European moorland, or even the urban jungle setting of New York, among others (5). Question:: Question: Why is a Gothic criminology needed? Gothic Criminology--1: Gothic Criminology--1 Gothic criminology seeks to return to the primordial origins of deviant human behavior, much as Lyman’s (1978) The Seven Deadly Sins attempts to return the discussion of evil as socially constructed to sociological discourse. The criminal justice system as well as citizens draw upon the combined work of true crime writers, FBI profilers, journalists and Hollywood screenwriters in its quest to flesh out the nature of serial killing. The focus on the twilight region of fact, fiction and myth is important because it gets at the ambivalent workings of the social construction of Gothic Criminology--2: Gothic Criminology--2 these contemporary monsters, employing an analysis of the filmic depictions of these monsters (using the categories of class, gender, sexuality and race). The “compulsion model” of serial killers is certainly implied in film and explicitly scientized as fact in the behavioral profile literature produced by the FBI and other law enforcement investigators. Both the serial killer as vampire and the “mind hunters” (i.e., FBI Behavioral Science Unit) who relentlessly track them operate in keeping with the gothic tradition (Simpson, 2000) (cited in Picart and Greek, 9). Questions:: Questions: Who is Robert Ressler?
What is the compulsion model?
Chat with Robert Ressler Robert Ressler--1: Robert Ressler--1 Robert Ressler (n.d., Court TV), considered by some as the original "Profiler," coined the phrase "serial killer,” based on twenty years of tracking down killers for the FBI. Because he grew up in Chicago, Ressler first became fascinated with the criminal mind during the "Lipstick Murders" in 1946. He eventually studied psychology as a way to understand what motivates this type of criminal behavior and the “demon” that pushes a killer over the edge, as well as to establish a pattern that could have some predictive power in determining the killer’s next violent act. While he worked with the FBI, Ressler perfected the art of the interview. There he worked closely with other agents, including Pierce Brooks, a former LAPD detective who helped found the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program in 1985 (Ressler & Shachtman, 1982) (Cited in Picart & Greek,10) Robert Ressler—2: Robert Ressler—2 Through numerous visits to prisons and scores of conversations with convicted killers, he was able to explore whether a killer is driven by an "irresistible compulsion or a compulsion that cannot be resisted." This “compulsion model” is important to delineate because it outlines how the imaging of the serial killer-vampire figure intersects with a theoretical model of what motivates serial killer behavior (10).
A serial killer, according to Ressler, is someone whose violent crimes must have claimed more than three victims, at different times, places and events (10).
Portraits of Serial Killers: Portraits of Serial Killers Helen Morrison: a serial killer, by the time he is an adolescent, is totally focused on sexual fantasies in an “experimental” sense. She cites a higher body count than Ressler; no less than ten homicides of a brutal, violent and ritualistic nature (i.e., a “cookie cutter” format) are required in order to establish that the killer is indeed a “serial” killer (Bahn et al, 1995) (Cited in Picart & Greek, 11).
Robert Hazelwood: distinguishes between a “serial” killer, a “spree” killer and a “mass” killer. A “serial” killer, like Gacy, commits murders with a certain “periodicity;” a “spree” killer, like Starkweather, may commit several murders separated by time and place, but all these murders are connected to one incident; a “mass” murderer, like Manson or Smith and Hickock (In Cold Portraits of Serial Killers--2: Portraits of Serial Killers--2 Hazelwood (continued):
Blood), kills four or more people at one location at one time. Hazelwood also makes the provocative suggestion that serial killers have existed as long as humans have existed, and that myths concerning “werewolves” probably emerged because of the degree of mutilation wreaked on their victims by serial killers (Bahn et. al., 1995) (Cited in Picart & Greek, 11).
Compulsion Theory: Compulsion Theory What is common to all of these characterizations of serial killing is the powerful effect of violent fantasies, which serve as a compulsive force that impels these individuals to kill in a periodic or cyclical and ritualistic way. Much of what is meant when we talk about "cycles" of sexual fantasy is based on the vaguer notion of "biological or natural clocks". This is what enables the more or less accurate prediction of when the perpetrator needs to strike again. Although a basic understanding of sexual urges and needs is called for, we are concerned here with abnormal sexual urges and needs, particularly those that call for repeated or serial behaviors. In this sense, therefore, we can make comparisons to other addiction processes, such as the Victimization cycle and the Cycle of Violence associated with Domestic Violence (Picart & Greek, 11-12). The Addiction Cycle: The Addiction Cycle With the addiction cycle, there's a distinctive "shame - pain" sequence, although with minor forms of dysfunction, the shame part may only be low self-esteem. The part that determines the addiction is when the person comes to associate continued use of the addictive agent with relief from pain (Lindesmith’s theory of addiction). And the pain can be anything, even something as mild as the stress or hassles of living. There are a number of addictive agents. Here's a partial list: alcohol, drugs, work, money, control, power, food, sex, pornography, approval, relationships, physical illness (hypochondria), exercise, cosmetics, academics, intellectualism, religiosity, perfectionism, cleaning, organizing, materialism, and collecting things (12-13) (Cited in Picart and Greek, 12-13).
The Battering Cycle: The Battering Cycle With the battering cycle, there's a relatively short battering incident in which the person is out of control, followed by a period of apology, gift giving, and a "honeymoon" phase in which the batterer is trying to be contrite with "hearts and flowers." Then, the batterer starts fault finding and becoming verbally abusive. Jealousy develops, and the domestic partner can usually sense the tension building. This leads to a state of fear, helplessness, and inability to control the environment which usually serves as ample ground for a precipitating or provocation incident (provocation if the partner "provokes" a scene to get it over with) which leads again to a battering incident (Cited in Picart and Greek, 13). The Serial Killer Cycle--1: The Serial Killer Cycle--1 Fantasy occurs well in advance of the crime, and for the serial killer, fantasy evolves into a compulsion. The subsequent behavior keeps true to the flavor of the original fantasy. For some, a symbol, such as a buck knife, represents the original fantasy, or more accurately, a link to the unrealized fantasy waiting in the mind for an opportunity. The crime itself is also the fantasy played out by the offender. The script is cast and well-rehearsed in the mind. The victim is only inserted into a role that the offender needs for the fantasy to come true. Sometimes the victim will be called by a name that is of special importance to the offender. The fantasy becomes the motive and establishes the offender's signature (13-14).
The Serial Killer Cycle--2: The Serial Killer Cycle--2 Control refers to the way in which the offender keeps the world he creates with the victim true to his fantasy. Domination is the primary characteristic which is enhanced by sadistic sex, torture, mutilation, and murder. Some offenders feel they do not have control until the victim is dead, so they kill immediately, and then turn to freely mastering the corpse. Others will take their time, engaging in repeated torture, escalation, and de-escalation of torment with the victim. Control is also expressed in the staging and ritual displays at the crime scene as well as in the location choice of the assault. Jack Katz (1990), in his discussion of monstrous, premeditated murder emphasizes the importance of time and place to the perpetrator’s attempt to control every aspect of the event (14). The Serial Killer Cycle--3: The Serial Killer Cycle--3 Katz goes on to note the godlike persona of the killer. The gothic killer takes life away as a vindictive god does, without warning or remorse. Like a primordial god, the killer, in his total control of the victim, is an object of dread. In this sense the contemporary serial killer has replaced the mythical monsters of previous ages. According to Philip Jenkins (1994: 16): “. . . popular stereotypes of these threatening outsiders have come to assimilate most of the characteristics that in earlier societies were attributed to a variety of chiefly imaginary external enemies, including vampires, werewolves, and cannibals. All represent the threat of a reversion to primitive savagery, manifested most blatantly in acts of cannibalism and mutilation” (15).
The Serial Killer Cycle--4: The Serial Killer Cycle--4 Monsters, as contemporary factual and fictional accounts tell us, are not “out there,” completely discernible through an obvious physical aberration, but reside within ourselves and the enclave of the “normal.” Disassociation refers to how the offender successfully blends back into society, the thick superficial veneer of personality that is entirely disassociated from their violent criminal behavior. Serial killers carry their abilities at self-protective behavior to an extreme, although not to the point of multiple personality. They are intelligent to avoid detection, but they often "overtry" to avoid leakage to their true nature. Many are married or in a relationship, but they are disassociated. For example, New Jersey’s “Ice Man” Richard Kuklinski left his wife and two daughters’ home only to kill; otherwise he was the perfect house husband (15). The Serial Killer Cycle--5: The Serial Killer Cycle--5 Reenactment is a behavioral aspect involving attempts to relive the fantasy. Reenactments are almost always sexual in nature, involving acts of masturbation, uses of pornography, or playing with souvenirs, trophies, or props. These things stimulate the offender, but they also reinforce the escalatory aspect of a serial killer's fantasy because the only thing they can control at this point is themselves. It is at this point also where the planning for future crimes occurs. Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (1): Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (1) Norris, 1989: 23-35:
Phase 1 (aura phase) twisted thoughts occur as the killer phantasizes about his next victim.
Phase 2 (trolling) begins as the killer goes out to look for the perfect victim.
During Phase 3 (seduction) the trap is laid, often using “lures.”
Phase 4 (capture) occurs when the victim is at her/his most vulnerable moment, as there is no escape from her/his captor.
Phase 5 (the kill) in which the perpetrator’s suppressed emotions are let loose.
Phase 6 (totem or trophy) the killer collects souvenirs or leaves props at the scene as reminders.
Phase 7 (depression) follows the crime. This appears to be a withdrawal period, as the euphoria from the kill disappears, leading to a restarting of the cycle (Cited in Picart and Greek, 16-17). Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (2): Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (2) Caputi (1987) sees both the rise in serial killing and the cultural fascination with the phenomenon in fiction and film as indicative of male sexual dominance. Defining “sexual murder” as sexually political murder or functional phallic terrorism, Caputi (1987:2) argues that serial killer films include the following typical elements (64):
1. The films refer to Jack the Ripper and the established tradition of sex crime.
2. The killer corresponds with or gothically doubles with the police or media.
3. The mother is blamed for her son’s criminality, as a result of psychological or physical abuse.
Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (3): Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (3) 4. The killer claims to love his victims, “helping” them by killing them.
5. The female victims are ultimately responsible for their own demise (either the killer mentions this or the plot construction naturalizes this).
6. The killer is waging a holy war against women, punishing them for their sexuality, aggression against men, feminism, etc.
Newitz (1999) similarly focuses on the gender identity anxieties of (hetero)sexual murder as “the serial killer kills off the ‘feminine vulnerability’ in himself when he kills women, and thus proves himself a man.” (Cited in Picart & Greek, 17-18).
Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (4): Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (4) In contrast, Jenkins (1994) criticizes Caputi for ignoring female serial killers (who more often work in health-related professions) and limiting her analysis to feminist perspectives. He views the rise of conservative Protestantism in the 1980s and 1990s as a major factor in the shift from images of serial killers as psychologically damaged human beings to monsters. While Jenkins (1994:81) also discusses the decline of interest in the psychological background of serial killers,
Grixti (1989: 153) sees the rise of depictions of real life monsters as indicative of the uncertainty in which we currently live and its resulting fears. “Feelings of fear …derive from the conviction of loss of control and the sense of helplessness which Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (5): Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (5) become dominant in situations when the cognitive system can neither assimilate the environment into its own structure, nor adapt itself to the structure of the environment.” When environmental controls are weak, magical solutions for controlling the monstrous are sought. As each era has its own fears, certain crime-related genres tend to dominate during these periods. Thus, gangster films emerge in the 1930s, film noir in the 1940s, science fiction in the 1950s, horror films in the 1970s, and serial killer films in the 1990s each dealt with their era’s most troubling tensions (Rubin, 1999: 42) (Cited in Picart and Greek, 18).
Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (6): Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (6) Mark Seltzer (1998) discusses the rise in interest in serial killing as an example of America’s “wound culture”--the “public fascination with torn and open bodies and torn and opened persons, a collective gathering around shock, trauma, and the wound.” As those who pass traffic accidents cannot seem to help but look at the carnage, the exploits of serial killers are depicted in documentaries, docudramas and fictional films, and large audiences avail themselves of these images. Similarly, Richard Tithecott (1997:9) describes the different ways in which we construct the serial killer in our own image. We are both “thrilled and horrified by what we see, that we exist in a kind of horror movie which we write and perform for ourselves daily” (Cited in Picart & Greek, 18)
Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (7): Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (7) Unnoted in previous literature except for Simpson’s (2000) is a striking similarity between the mythic characterization of a vampire and the description of a serial killer: both kill out of an overpowering compulsion, and in similarly periodic and patterned ways. It is this interesting convergence between criminological theory and popular cultural representations that forms a significant section of this analysis. In other words, what enables the gothicization of crime and in this particular case, serial killers, is a narrative mode that moves across fact (“verité”) and fiction (horror, melodrama). This movement across the narrative visual modes of the “authentic” documentary and the Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (8): Other Models of the Serial Killer Cycle: (8) “fictional” is particularly evident in purported “true stories” of serial killers like Henry Lee Lucas and Ed Gein. In each of these accounts, the attempts to sketch the portraits of “real men” and to “explain” their supernatural compulsions to kill become reduced to gothic tropes. These “real men,” gothicized into “reel archetypes” become either a monstrous cipher (Henry) or an offspring of Psycho’s Norman Bates, the conventional victim-monster (Ed Gein) (Cited in Picart and Greek, 19). Fact and Fiction in Profiling Serial Killers: Fact and Fiction in Profiling Serial Killers Profiling Henry (1):: Profiling Henry (1): The attempt at simulating a “real-life” quality is particularly apparent in three sequences of Henry. The first is the opening sequence, which requires a detailed description. This sequence uses a montage of scenes that seem to give the film a semi-documentary feel, which John McNaughton, the director, prefers to describe as a “cinema verite” style, thus giving it a more “arty” trademark. This opening sequence juxtaposes the two sides of Henry’s life: the violent and the mundane (Cited in Picart and Greek, 20). Profiling Henry (2):: Profiling Henry (2): The opening sequence is particularly striking because it immediately breaks a standard feature of slasher/horror films: there is no lack of mutilated bodies on display, but instead of showing how the violence is actually done, it is almost a snapshot of the aftermath of the violence that we view. It is the acoustic flashback that enacts the scenes of violence for us, and yet because it is in the past, this enactment is muffled, and jarringly dissonant with the sometimes peaceful and beautiful, and at other times, everyday surroundings within which these extraordinarily brutal crimes have occurred. What results is a rupture: the Profiling Henry (3):: Profiling Henry (3): film appears to set up the audience expectation that this is going to be a movie about “the real” and that it will eventually explain how and why these murders occurred. But like the faded sound track, inevitably, all the film leaves the audience with is a standard gothic trope: the image of monster as mysterious “lack” or absence: Henry’s portrait as a serial killer remains consistently out of focus (Cited in Picart & Greek, 22). Profiling Henry (4):: Profiling Henry (4): In the scene that is supposed to provide a clear reason for why Henry kills, Becky (Tracy Arnold), in a dialogue that resembles the later conversations between Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) and Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in Silence of the Lambs, tries to trade her vulnerabilities for intimate confessions from Henry. Becky offers her own confessions as an ill-fated go-go dancer who married a no-good husband who wound up in jail. She married hastily in order to escape from her abusive father, who would visit her bedroom at night, and hit her if she fought back. Using this as emotional capital, she asks why Henry killed his mother. The camera stays steadily in a close up on Henry Profiling Henry (5):: Profiling Henry (5): as he looks at her, though as if unseeingly, with dead eyes and barely concealed anger and disgust. He recounts that his father was a drunk, and that his mother, a whore, would make him wear a dress and watch her go about her business with her customers. Unlike the earlier sequences, there is no acoustic flashback; the camera stays unflinchingly steady and unabashed, relying on no external dramatic gimmicks, once again lending the scene a look of documentary “realism.” The problem is that visual clarity is betrayed by the fuzziness and incoherence of Henry’s “authentic” confession: he contradicts himself, and cannot seem to remember whether he shot, stabbed or bludgeoned his mother to death (Cited in Picart & Greek, 22-23). Profiling Henry (6):: Profiling Henry (6): The final scene of note is probably the scene that has generated the most controversy, which McNaughton labeled the “heart” of the movie: the “home invasion” scene. A Rolling Stone reviewer summarized this scene in the following way:
In the film’s most terrifying scene, the one that prompts the walkouts, Henry and Otis attack a suburban family and videotape the deed. “Take her blouse off,” Henry tells Otis, who is grabbing a struggling housewife. “Do it, Otis. You’re a star. Cinematographer Charlie Lieberman . . . turned a camcorder over to Rooker to shoot this scene as Henry would. The footage—grainy, unfocused, crazily angled—makes the carnage joltingly immediate (Travers, 1990) (Cited in Picart and Greek, 23).
Profiling Henry (7):: Profiling Henry (7): What the review does not mention is that this three minute scene, shot once again, cinéma-verité style, without editing, in a long shot, produces an intense documentary realism that not only makes the audience believe it is a “real” thing going on in “real” time. That is, we believe we are peering through the camera’s lens at something diegetically occurring at that time. Yet the camera pulls back to show the two killers, Henry and Otis (Tom Towles), sitting on a couch, thoroughly absorbed in watching the violence, reviewing their earlier exploits raptly. The implication is obvious: that we, exactly like the killers, have thus far been visually consuming the film in the same way the killers are, as entertainment that looks “real.” Profiling Henry (8):: Profiling Henry (8): What therefore emerges as a “real” depiction of Henry’s and Otis’ propensity for violence is revealed as something we, however ambivalently, share. The gaze of the camera is deflected from the “truth” about Henry and Otis, to the truth about us, the viewers. Once again, the “truth” regarding why Henry does what he does remains dim and obscure; despite the look of realism that characterizes his “portrait,” nothing more than a gothic cipher emerges (24).
Profiling Henry (9):: Profiling Henry (9): In the final sequence, Henry gazes blankly at his image in a mirror at a hotel room; after his morning toilette, he leaves the hotel room that he is supposed to have shared with Becky the night before. But Becky is nowhere to be seen, and we are initially led to believe that he has perhaps abandoned her. The answer unfolds via a return to the narrative technique used at the beginning of the film: via an acoustic flashback. As Henry drives off, leaving behind him Becky’s bulky and bloodstained suitcase, we hear a woman’s screams. Henry’s “portrait” remains a gothic mask; the portrait that promises a close-up of the serial killer’s soul remains a bland surface, mirroring back the audience’s unsatisfied desire for “the truth” regarding how Henry became the soulless monster he became (24-25).
Documenting Ed Gein (1):: Documenting Ed Gein (1): Similarly, Ed Gein begins (and ends) with bleak documentary footage of the well known killer’s arrest in his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin. Once again, the audience’s expectations are primed to see “the truth” about why and how Ed Gein became the cannibalistic necrophiliac who created a “woman suit,” and whose crimes provided the inspiration for Psycho’s Norman Bates, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Leatherface and Silence of the Lambs’ and Hannibal’s Hannibal Lecter. There is a clear “forensic” look to this film, which bears a certain resemblance to the look of “upmarket TV dramas, especially Prime Suspect whose first ever episode . . . dealt with a serial killer of prostitutes” (Atkinson, 2001) (Cited in Picart and Greek, 25). Documenting Ed Gein (2):: Documenting Ed Gein (2): Yet there are clear problems to taking the movie’s claim to “authenticity” simplistically. In order to explain Ed’s (Steve Railsback, who had played Charles Manson in an earlier film, Helter Skelter) actions, the movie resorts to creating the monster-behind-the-monster, popularized by Hitchcock’s Psycho. Ed’s mother, Augusta (Carrie Snodgress), whose misdirected and excessive religious zealotry, physical abuse, sexual repression, and “bedtime” stories of the more lurid sections of the Book of Revelation from the Bible, emerges as the reason why Ed becomes what he is (25). Documenting Ed Gein (3):: Documenting Ed Gein (3): There is evidence to support the view that many of Ed’s complexes arose from his tangled relationship with his mother, but the film, in deflecting the responsibility of monstrosity from the abused son to the abusive mother, simply falls back on stock representations of the mother-as-devouring-and-poisonous-figure, yet another standard gothic fixture (25-26).
In one scene, Ed prays to his mother’s grave, asking that she be returned to him; a raven suddenly hovers in circles in the sky, breaking the stillness with its cries. Later, as Ed sets out to claim his first victim, Mary Hogan (Sally Champlin), a quick close-up of the raven implies that his Documenting Ed Gein (4):: Documenting Ed Gein (4): mother’s “ghost” (whether as a subjective delusion or an objective fact is immaterial in this characteristic blend of horror and psychological thriller) is present and urging him on to commit the crime. (The popular Crow films use a similar motif.) Unfortunately, this way of framing the story can be traced to the all-too-familiar Hitchcock rendition of Robert Bloch’s novelistic rendition of Gein’s life, in which it is the “monstrous mother,” a product of pop psychology and Gothic cinematic representations, which constitutes the compulsive urge for why Gein commits the heinous acts that have granted him a certain mythic status (26). Documenting Ed Gein (5):: Documenting Ed Gein (5): Repeatedly, the movie makes allusions to Hitchcock’s Psycho. When Ed re-enters the general store to murder Collette Marshall (Carol Mansell), the camera is at an extreme high angle, looking down at the dwarfed characters, as if from the point of view of a bird of prey; this is a signature Hitchcock-ian move. The resemblance to Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates has been noted by film reviewers. For example, Carl Cortez (2001) remarks: “Steve Railsback stars as Gein and plays him as a maniacal little simpleton. In fact, Railsback seems to be resurrecting the ghost of Anthony Perkins (via Norman Bates) in this performance, but missing the humanity Perkins brought to his famous Psycho role.” Later, when Ed has been arrested
Documenting Ed Gein (6):: Documenting Ed Gein (6): and is committed to an asylum, the Hitchcock-ian flourishes are all over the place: the camera zooms into a close-up, with the shadows of the outline of a window in low key lighting at Ed’s back, often signifying entrapment in the Hitchcock-ian universe. Like Hitchcock’s Norman, Ed’s monologues, shot in close-up or medium close-up, reveal a character steeped in self- delusion and madness, in contrast with his quiet and self-effacing veneer. The ending inserts the same documentary footage of Ed being arrested, but this time, zooms into the interior of the car where Ed sits, a diminutive figure who tries to cover his face with his gloved hands. The juxtaposition of the documentary footage once again is supposed to bolster the authenticity of the look we have at Ed Gein—but the style of the montage sequences built around the embedded documentary bear such a striking resemblance to Psycho that it is difficult not to collapse Hitchcock’s Norman into Chuck Parello’s Ed (27).
Documenting Ed Gein (7):: Documenting Ed Gein (7): Gein’s mother, played by Carrie Snodgress, is a tall and thin woman with a low, husky voice, who repeatedly calls Ed “boy”—once again a derivation from Psycho, rather than from “real life” because Gein’s mother was obese (which explains why the women Ed killed were large—a fact that Silence of the Lambs more accurately details in its graphic depiction of “Buffalo Bill”’s skinned victims) (27-28). Documenting Ed Gein (8):: Documenting Ed Gein (8): This brings us to the second feature film that Ed Gein references repeatedly in its gothically styled “true” rendition of Gein’s portrait: Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs. When Brian Hillman (Frank Worden) descends into the darkness of Ed’s basement to find Colette Marshall’s nude body hanging upside down from the ceiling, gutted like a deer, the scene is shot like Clarice Starling’s (Jodie Foster) penetration of Jame Gumb’s (Ted Levine) basement. In both, the subjective point of view is used, and the camera pans over the details of contents of the underground, bringing to light its obscene contents. Later, as Sheriff Jim Stilwell (Pat Skipper) sits, dumbfounded at the discovery that the quiet man who used Documenting Ed Gein (9):: Documenting Ed Gein (9): to babysit his young boys is someone who finds lurid descriptions of Nazi war crimes entertainment, the scene is shot in a manner again reminiscent of the ending of Silence of the Lambs. A fast-paced montage, transitioning in keeping with the flashing of cameras taking shots (very like the ending of Silence. . ., after Clarice has shot Gumb and the contents of his basement are being documented), reveals the numerous items that abound in Ed’s house of horror: a heart steeped in blood in a skillet on the stove, various body parts floating in a bottled solution, the “woman suit” and the belt of human nipples resting on a mannequin (28). Question:: Question: Compare and contrast the “preening scene” in Silence of the Lambs with the equivalent scene in Ed Gein. Slide63: Finally, the scene in which Ed emerges from his farmhouse, clad in his “woman suit” (from a dried facial mask and wig to labia strapped on to his pelvic area) is eerily reminiscent of the haunting scene in Silence . . . where Gumb cavorts and poses nude in front a camera, as he pulls his penis between his legs to make himself appear female. Yet the impact of both scenes is different: while Gumb’s cavorting scene is terrifying, Gein’s is oddly funny, particularly when he scurries back into his farmhouse, as if terrified that someone would see him, after he has spent the past two minutes beating his drum of human skin and carrying on loudly, like a stereotypic “savage.” If Henry’s portrait is dimly lit and out of focus, Ed’s portrait is too well lit and obscured by prior renditions, resulting in the “real” Ed emerging as a caricature. The result, as one critic notes, is that “the original cannibal now seems like a pale imitation” (Ed Gein, 2001). Nevertheless, both Henry and Ed Gein fall back upon gothic tropes in order to “explain” the unnatural compulsions of these two well known serial killers (29).
The Real and the Reel: The Real and the Reel Nevertheless, one common “truth” that both portraits draw of these two serial killers is that they were abused sons—and as such, emerge as figures both imperiled and perilous; sympathetic and horrifying; all-too-human and unrecognizably monstrous. A key symptom and expression of this liminal space they occupy as simultaneously dangerous and endangered is that they suffer and are empowered by a compulsion to kill in a patterned, ritualistic way. The easy slippages between fact and fiction, and the ambiguous positioning between the “documentary” look, the “arty” independent film look, and the splatter film look, are precisely what enable the gothicization of these narratives of real serial killers, as enduring reel life myths (29).
Converging Myths: Serial Killers and Vampires: Converging Myths: Serial Killers and Vampires Question:: Question: What are the hints that Hannibal Lecter is aligned with the vampire in Silence of the Lambs? Lecter in Silence of the Lambs--1: Lecter in Silence of the Lambs--1 Lecter menaces not simply by assaulting, but by possessing a terrifying ability to insinuate himself into the minds of his patients/victims (and the audience). The other characters in the film recognize this subtle threat. “Believe me,” FBI section chief Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) warns Starling, “You don’t want Hannibal Lecter inside your head.” Craig McKay, the film’s editor describes Lecter as “leaning back, drinking it all in, vampirically” as he elicits personal information from Clarice (Bliss and Banks, 1996). One of the guards echoes this sentiment when he asks Clarice whether Lecter is “some kind of vampire.” Traditional concepts of monstrosity clearly inform the Lecter in Silence of the Lambs--2: Lecter in Silence of the Lambs--2 film’s portrayal of Lecter; nevertheless, he is tellingly characterized in terms of an attractive and fascinating monster—in keeping with contemporary (and original novelistic) characterizations of vampirism as a suave Count Dracula (rather than a clumsy and inarticulate Frankensteinian creature) who achieves penetration not so much by force as by the allure of his Otherness (31-32).
Questions:: Questions: How do the myths of serial killer and vampire merge in Immortality?
What effect does this merging have on the audience? Serial Killer & Vampire in Immortality--1: Serial Killer & Vampire in Immortality--1 To the audience familiar with the cinematic traditions of vampire lore, the signs are all there: the vampire’s irresistible seductive charm; the expressionist shadows cast against a surface in order to signify the approach of the vampire; the use of the vampire’s ring to claim a bride. The vampire’s ring, signifying his authority, his supernatural powers, or heritage, is cinematic, rather than literary in origin, and seen in a multitude of movies such as House of Frankenstein (1944), The Vampire’s Ghost (1945), Blood of Dracula (1957), where the ring is now a medallion, Horror of Dracula or Dracula (1958), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), and Dracula Today or Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) (35-36).
Serial Killer & Vampire in Immortality--2: Serial Killer & Vampire in Immortality--2 At the height of her passion, he suddenly covers her mouth, twists her face sideways, and bites her neck, as blood spurts on the wall. She struggles but he holds her down, continuing to sink his teeth into her neck. The camera moves further back to show that the blanket has becomes drenched with blood, and he sits up, his mouth ringed crimson. The deep brilliance of blood, introduced very early in the film (as blood drips from a car somehow suspended high up among some trees on to Steven’s hand as he looks up), is also a hallmark of vampire films, and is a consistent feature as the plot unfolds. In addition, later shots of Grlscz also show him wearing a long black coat that swirls like a cape around him, reminiscent of the black cape that the archetypal vampire usually wears( 35-36).
Question:: Question: What are some of the problems that emerge from labeling Grlscz a vampire? Vampire or Not? (1): Vampire or Not? (1) However, there is some difficulty with labeling Steven a vampire. If he is one, he is very different from the standard cinematic depiction. He does not have fangs, he can walk in broad daylight, he can touch crucifixes, and he is a medical researcher who reveals genuine compassion for his patients. Yet there are also clear hints that he is something other than human—perhaps even superhuman. For example, he moves faster than any ordinary human being can, as evidenced in the single fight sequence (reminiscent of Hong Kong martial arts films in which Leong specialized) in which Vampire or Not? (2): Vampire or Not? (2) Grlscz effortlessly overcomes an entire gang of thugs in order to save Anne from being raped. In addition, Grlscz almost unconsciously assimilates other peoples’ attributes to become his own; it is as if he is a blank slate upon whom the imprint of those who grow close to him (and thus become marked as potential victims) are burnt in. Thus Maria’s ability to write the opposing lines “I love you” and “I hate you” simultaneously later become transmuted into his ability to compose lines of poetry and to draw a portrait of Anne Levels (Elina Löwensohn), his final prey and love interest (37). Vampire or Not? (3): Vampire or Not? (3) Grlscz also possesses the ability to expel all the negative emotions his victims have felt toward him by coughing up a daggerlike crystal (a theme that has Cronenberg-ian resonances with its emphasis on the physical externalization of emotional tensions, such as in The Brood). His “unnaturalness” as a serial killer and gothic creature is visualized in the scene where he squats at a beach, after he has disposed of Maria’s body. The camera shoots him from a low angle, as he sits, a dark, brooding figure with his hands clawlike, and his body heaving strangely, like a bird of prey momentarily resting (37).
Question:: Question: The movie was originally titled The Wisdom of Crocodiles. Why is that? The Wisdom of Crocodiles: The Wisdom of Crocodiles The title of the film was originally The Wisdom of Crocodiles, which illuminates one main theme of the film. During scenes of lovemaking with Anne, Steven, in a voiceover, tells his new lover that human beings have three brains: a human brain, which overlays a mammalian brain, which in turn overlays a reptile brain. Thus, Steven concludes his bizarre “bedtime story” with the words that every time the psychiatrist asks someone to lay on the couch, one is in effect being asked to lie down with a horse and a crocodile (37).
Questions:: Questions: How does Immortality bisociate images of serial killing with suffering with AIDS?
What effect does this have on the audience? Hunter and Hunted--1: Hunter and Hunted--1 As the movie continues, we find out that Steven is more “crocodile” than human; though malice is not one of his flaws, like a vampire or a serial killer, he is compelled to kill, and to kill ritualistically in a patterned way. When he is ready to kill his victim, he lines his bed with a disposable silver sheet, which catches most of the blood, and becomes his victim’s shroud. Every month, he must feed upon a woman’s blood, not for her blood itself, as popular vampire lore would have it, but in order to consume the love that resides in her blood so that he may continue to live. When he genuinely falls in love with Anne, and fights the compulsion to kill her off, his body fails to heal, and in a haunting sequence that mimes the progression of AIDS, his body begins to degenerate (38). Hunter and Hunted--2: Hunter and Hunted--2 Yet like the serial killers immortalized through film in both “cinema verite” and popular horror-psychological thriller genres, Grlscz emerges as a figure both sympathetic and terrifying. It is clear that he detests his condition, and is in search of that mythic woman who could love him “perfectly” and thus cure him of his affliction. Steven seems more like a victim driven to kill by his own nature, rather than a sadistic predator who enjoys his victims’ suffering. In addition, Grlscz’s friendship with Inspector Healey (Timothy Spall) may have been initially motivated by selfish motives (i.e., he saves the inspector, who was tailing him, from a gang of thugs perhaps in order to throw suspicion off himself as a murderer), but the friendship between the two men later deepens and is cemented by mutual confessions (38). Questions:: Questions: Discuss Grlcsz’s characterization in the final sequence.
Do you see any thematic or formal similarities with Blade Runner’s scene in which Roy Batty and Rick Deckard encounter each other? The Final Scene--1: The Final Scene--1 In the final moments of the film, which are slightly reminiscent of one of the concluding sequences of Bladerunner in which Rick Deckart (Harrison Ford) hangs from a ledge as Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), Anne hangs perilously from the side of a building as Steven hangs on to her. She has chosen to jump rather than to become his victim, and it appears that he is determined to claim his prize. After struggling in vain with him, she uses the ornamental chopstick she had used to prop up her hair (an Oriental family heirloom that signified that the owner of the chopsticks would always be safe and well fed) to stab Grlscz’s hand repeatedly. He somehow manages to swap hands, and like Roy Batty (with his own hand impaled by a The Final Scene--2: The Final Scene--2 nail), who unexpectedly saves the bladerunner who had come to kill him, Grlscz pulls Anne to safety and allows her to escape as he bleeds to death. The final sequence of the film shoots from high above, once again in a Hitchcock-like style, to reveal Grlscz, clad from head to toe in black, his bleeding hand punctured, as if by stigmata, and his body twitching in the final throes of fear and pain. Grlscz thus emerges as a stylish, charismatic, and even sacrificial vampire-serial killer figure, with whom the audience identifies, despite his monstrosity (39). Questions:: Questions: How is Hannibal Lecter portrayed in Hannibal, compared with Silence of the Lambs?
What effect does this have on the audience? Hannibal is back--1: Hannibal is back--1 As Ridley Scott (2001) remarks in the director’s commentary on the film, Hannibal, like Clarice, is “pure in his own way”—he seems to have a sense of honor and ethical responsibility to those who do not violate his sense of civility, such as Clarice and Nurse Barney Matthews (Frankie Faison). In fact Hannibal in this sequel, unlike Silence of the Lambs, seems compelled to kill only if his sense of “good manners and taste” are assaulted. Thus, a narrative device that Hannibal uses, in order to put the audience squarely on his side has been used in a prior film: Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. In both films, what appears to be an omniscient or objective point of view is revealed to be the killer’s point of view such that his murderous Hannibal is back--2: Hannibal is back--2 acts seem justified. In Hannibal, all of the doctor’s victims are varieties of what he calls “free range rude,” including the avaricious, the lustful, and the pedophilic. Thus, it only seems poetic justice (tinged with very dark, sardonic humor) when he murders them, in a Dante-esque fashion, such that their deaths mirror their crimes. (Seven uses a similar approach, as each of the victims representing the seven deadly sins is murdered by getting their “just desserts.”) (40) Questions:: Questions: In what ways do Hannibal’s murders seem “just”?
How does this affect the audience? Justice according to Hannibal: Justice according to Hannibal Inspector Francesco Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) is hanged and gutted, like his famous ancestor, for similar crimes of greed and treachery (to Hannibal). Mason Verger is condemned to being eaten by the man-eating hogs he had bred to make Hannibal suffer; the death he had dreamt of inflicting on Hannibal becomes his own. Paul Krendler is forced to eat delicately spiced and sautéed pieces of his own brain in front of the horrified and drugged Clarice, in atonement for his “rudeness” to Clarice. In all of these instances, it is Hannibal’s point of view that justifies why these punishments are fitting and just. And in all of these instances, it is Hannibal’s equanimity that renders the gore “entertaining” because we are drawn into sharing his point of view, without realizing it, in contrast with Henry’s “home invasion” scene mentioned earlier (40-41).
Questions:: Questions: How is vampirism linked with cannibalism in Hannibal?
How does Hannibal’s image in Hannibal compare with his depiction in Silence of the Lambs? Vampire-Cannibal in Hannibal--1: Vampire-Cannibal in Hannibal--1 The allusions to the vampire myth continue in Hannibal. Director Ridley Scott (2001) describes Hannibal’s videotaped appearance during his murder of Pazzi (seen from the point of view of Clarice, who is viewing the footage) as reminiscent of Nosferatu, one of the most famous German expressionist depictions of the vampire legend. As Hannibal walks through the streets of Florence, with his Borsali hat tipped at a rakish angle, his coat billows around him like Dracula’s cape. Like the vampire, Hannibal seems to glide effortlessly through doors, and moves into and out of places with a speed and silence impossible to humans. Like the count, Hannibal flirts suavely and successfully with women, such as the Vampire-Cannibal in Hannibal--2: Vampire-Cannibal in Hannibal--2 inspector’s wife, Allegra Pazzi (Francesca Neri), and seems to be able to hypnotize his prey into inflicting pain upon themselves, like Mason Verger. Like the vampire, Hannibal possesses an uncanny command over animals; the man-eating hogs avoid him, and Krendler’s guard dog is clearly intimidated by him. Like a vampire that “sleeps” until he is awakened, Hannibal is in “hibernation” and comes out of a “ten year retirement” only when he hears of Starling’s disgrace. (One movie review (Elliott, 2001) puns: “He’s back . . . in all his gory”—drawing parallelisms between this contemporary vampire, and an earlier equally fashionable Frankensteinian monster: the Terminator.) Artie Megibben (2001) once again renders explicit the Gothic appeal of Hannibal:
Vampire-Cannibal in Hannibal--3: Vampire-Cannibal in Hannibal--3 Ever since the night Renfield met Dracula, moviegoers have had an appetite for blood-sucking villains with class. And not since Bela Lugosi has a villain had more class and style than Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter. He quotes the classics. He’s a patron of the arts. And his fangs are as acquainted with Bulugar caviar as with the soft, supple flesh of his victims. Hopkin’s Lecter does not so much snarl as purr—whispering seductive innuendoes set to opera music—an approach matched only by Eden’s subtle serpent (41-42). Hannibal as “Dark Angel”: Hannibal as “Dark Angel” Conclusions (1):: Conclusions (1): Thus, though both the serial killer and vampire movies we have surveyed end up with a similar conclusion regarding the nature of voyeurism in relation to the visual (i.e., that part of the visual pleasures of these films is that we share the killers’ points of views at various points), it is interesting that our reactions to this realization is very different in Henry, as opposed to Hannibal. Perhaps it is because Henry seems too “real” with its rootedness in the blue collar world and the gritty streets of Chicago, and its use of cinema verite, in contrast with Hannibal, which is an unabashed glorification of the serial killer as genius, vampire and dark angel rolled into one, with its polished cinematography, Conclusions (2):: Conclusions (2): Florentine locale, lush mise en scene, and beautiful musical score. It is clear that the issue of class clearly creates a different type of identification in these two genres. Nevertheless, there is a clear sense in which the cinematic representations of serial killers and vampires, as “mythic” and “real” figures, blur into each other as simultaneously dangerous and endangered creatures who are driven to kill by compulsions as strong as the reflex to breathe. And it is the “authenticity” of easy slippage across the cinematic modes of “documentary” and “fiction” that enables the gothicization of serial killers as vampiric (42-43).