Author

Gretchen Felker-Martin

Gretchen Felker-Martin is a horror author, ghoul, and film and television critic. She lives with friends in Worcester, MA. Follow her work on Twitter: @gorgonshairpin

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Pain Is a Garment: Pornography and Sexuality in Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden

Pornography—notoriously difficult to define, its moral weight and cultural impact bitterly contested not just by prudes and lewds but by opposing factions within movements like feminism—has always been a dicey subject for discussion. Is it art or exploitation? Does it objectify women or empower us? In Park Chan-Wook’s 2016 twisty lesbian thriller The Handmaiden, the complex nature of porn takes center stage, explored with real insight in a story concerned not just with the abuses and ugliness of pornography, but with the beauty and connection it can foster between lovers.

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Making Monsters: The Enduring Appeal of Star Wars’ Creature Design

A rusted portcullis rises, concealed machinery rattling as sand falls from the bulwark’s blunt durasteel teeth. Beyond, a pair of pinprick eyes gleam in the deeper darkness. Gnarled talons unfurl, and the snorting breath of massive lungs cuts through the laughter in Jabba’s court above. The rancor, portrayed by a foot-tall rod-operated puppet designed by Phil Tippett and the artists of the Lucasfilm creature shop, appears for all of perhaps a minute and a half, but its impact on both the field of special effects and the minds of the millions of children who saw Return of the Jedi in the spring of ‘83—and the tens of millions more who’ve seen it in the decades since—has been tremendous.

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Am I Your Girl? The Female Gaze in Horror Film

As a genre, horror focuses overwhelmingly on women. Our bodies are its medium, whether sensuously posed and slathered in gore or twisted into monstrous forms to reflect our fears and anxieties. Think of Dario Argento’s lovingly butchered maidens covered in gallons of vibrant red paint, or the Alien Queen hunkering bloated and distended among her thousands of eggs, a monstrous reflection of Ellen Ripley’s maternal instincts. But for all horror’s fixation on our suffering—sometimes gratuitous, sometimes revelatory—and inner lives, horror films actually written and directed by women are few and far between.

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You Called for Me: Masculine Pain and Isolation in Akira

From Breaking Bad’s arrogant, embittered Walter White to Conan the Barbarian’s titular brute, the masculine urge to dominate is a prevalent narrative force in popular art. How many movies and shows consist more or less solely of men struggling with one another for control over a lover, a kingdom, a company? Katsuhiro Otomo’s legendary 1988 animated sci-fi feature Akira, a brutal film about a futuristic Tokyo gripped by unrest and corruption, a gang of rough-edged young biker punks, and the mysteries surrounding a group of children with terrifying psychic powers, delves deep into this stock element of so much action-driven fiction, probing at the seldom-touched origins of masculine violence with surprising poignancy.

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The Cursed Interior: Women in Horror

Editor’s Note: This piece contains graphic imagery.

“Emotional.” The word refers not to the experience of having emotions, but to being overwhelmed by them, to becoming a vector for their messy, difficult expression. It conjures up images of puffy red eyes, snot oozing over trembling lips, voices twisted by grief into unintelligible squeaking.

It’s also a word used almost exclusively to refer to women. Our culture has a deep aversion to the uglier aspects of women’s inner lives—not just tears and anger, but the things that fester inside us from our girlhoods to our deathbeds. Our deepest resentments, our smothered dreams, our cruelly cultivated hatred for our own bodies.