Author

Gretchen Felker-Martin

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

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A Photo of a Naked Girl: Online Angst and Agony in Assassination Nation

While teenage best friends Lily (Odessa Young), Bex (Hari Nef), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), and Em (Abra) lounge in Em’s bedroom watching Yasuharu Hasebe’s 1970 exploitation flick Stray Cat Rock and wearing red raincoats in imitation of the film’s protagonists, masked men surround the house. The camera drifts down halls and through empty rooms, looping in silence around the suburban house and up to the eaves to peer in at the distracted girls. Slowly, as first Em and then Sarah is taken hostage, the tension grows. More men slip in through jimmied windows and doors left ajar. One by one, they begin snatching the teens.

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Spoiled Milk, Fresh Meat: Beauty and Feminine Competition in The Neon Demon

In many ways, womanhood in the Western world is a zero-sum game. You’re the “it” girl or you’re nothing. You’re beautiful or ugly. You’re virtuous or evil. You’re fresh or you’re spoiled. But where does this brutal, winner-take-all model leave friendship between women? Or romance? If another woman’s beauty could spell irrelevance for your own, how could you feel anything for her but paranoia and jealousy? Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2016 horror thriller The Neon Demon, the story of a young, beautiful ingenue breaking into the modeling scene in LA and running afoul of a coven of envious women, digs its gleaming talons deep into that question.

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Made from the Red Soil: Fantasies of Misery in Neon Genesis Evangelion

The giant mecha genre is, at its heart, a teen power fantasy. Step into a cockpit and suddenly your body is a hundred times larger, armored and invulnerable. You can fly through space, dodge missiles, and cut starships in half with swords made of diamond-edged light. Nothing can stop you. Neon Genesis Evangelion—Hideaki Anno’s brutal, convoluted 1995 anime in which three teenagers must bond with and pilot the bio-robotic constructs known as Evangelions to prevent humanity’s annihilation— turns this central conceit inside out so violently you’d need an umbrella to keep the spatter off.

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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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How Star Wars Set the Standard for Movie Monsters

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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Here’s What Makes a Movie Monster Great

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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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.