Volume 13, Issue 7 / July 2009

Philosophy and Horror

As this issue was taking shape I noticed, quite by chance, that the two broad subjects expressed across the five essays (a philosophical-based film criticism, with an emphasis on time, and the horror genre) might be construed by some readers as being contrary (if not irreconcilable) in nature. It made me think back to an incident many years back after I had presented two conference papers in consecutive years, the first paper was on Andrei Tarkovsky’s Bergsonian, time-based aesthetic, and the second paper was an historical-formal analysis of Peter Jackson’s ‘gore-gag’ horror comedies. A person who was in attendance for both papers expressed incredulity that the same person could have such disparate research interests. Many years later the same could be asked of Anna Powell, and her recent (2005) book, Deleuze and Horror Film. In fact, this seemingly (to some anyway) contrary range of scholarly and critical-historical interest cuts to the very heart of Offscreen and, of course, its editor. If I were forced to select my favorite filmmaker, I would unhesitatingly respond with Andrei Tarkovsky. And if I were forced to name my preferred genre, I would unhesitatingly respond with horror. And this fairly accurately sums up this month’s issue, which starts off with Daniel Garrett’s astute review essay of two recent books on philosophy and film. The first, Film and Philosophy: Taking Movies Seriously by Daniel Shaw is a survey of which (and how) cine-philosophers have treated film as a medium for philosophical speculation; while the second, Doing Philosophy at the Movies by Richard A. Gilmore is, as the title suggests, philosophical criticism applied to film. The next two essays focus on the philosophical concept of time, with contrasting approaches. The first, by Michael Bloom, deals with the specific (Tarkovsky’s Mirror), and the second, by Irini Stamatopoulos, deals with the general (a phenomenology of cinematic and human time). Bloom’s essay relies on Tarkovsky’s writing and aspects of Bergson’s philosophy to generate a formal analysis of Tarkovsky’s unique subjective (autobiographical), dream-like aesthetic. Stamatopoulos’ essay (which is not for the theoretical faint of heart) starts from the premise that narrativity and temporality are co-dependent, which makes the experience of human time and narrative time similar in kind. To cite Stamatopoulos’ quoting of Paul Ricoeur: “time becomes human time to the extent that it is organized after the manner of a narrative; narrative, in turn, is meaningful to the extent that it portrays the features of temporal experience.” Stamatopoulos moves on to use Deleuze and Bergson as a philosophical basis, Paul Ricoeur for narratology, André Bazin for film theory (realism, cine-metaphysics), and then the Western genre as a case study. Philosophy gives way to horror for the final two pieces of the issue, the first an essay on the invigorating (if not entirely revisionist) slasher film, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, and the second, an interview with Montreal director/writer Maurice Devereaux on his independently financed survivalist horror film, End of the Line. (Donato Totaro, ed.)

← Previous Issue

Next Issue →

Recent Issues

More →