EC Comics: Post-War Gothic Naturalism

EC Comics (or Entertaining Comics), published a series of horror, crime, satire, science fiction and military comics in the 1940s and 1950s. These comics had a strong undercurrent of naturalism, echoing the novels of Emile Zola, albeit in fantastic circumstances (such as the Tales from the Crypt series). During a time of increasing political and cultural conformity EC Comics often struck a defiant tone, especially under the leadership of Al Feldstein, that echoed the Pop Front culture of the then recent past. That defiant tone frequently got the writers, editors and artists of EC Comics in trouble with the censors at the Comics Code Authority (CCA).

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The Public Files of Larry Cohen

When Wes Craven died recently, most obituaries focused on his successful money-making Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream series. Very few even mentioned his earlier independent commercial films The Last House on the Left (1971) and The Hills have Eyes (1977), both of which later had higher-budget but undistinguished remakes. These early films belonged to the exciting and innovative decade of the 1970s when the ignominy of American defeat in Viet Nam and crisis of confidence in the White House stimulated many iconoclastic and radical commercial films now conspicuous from the mainstream by their very absence. Craven then belonged to a group of innovative talents such as Brian DePalma, Tobe Hooper and Larry Cohen, all of whom took over familiar generic conventions for their own particular critical perspectives.

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Honda's Horror: The Mycologically Strange

A properly executed horror film establishes a strong connection between a fantastic element and plot devices which resonate with the audience’s social context. Usually these fantasy elements — whether they be ghostly, monstrous, or all-too-human — overshadow the social context of the narrative. Without this social resonance audiences have little reason to perceive the fantastic elements as objects of anxiety and fear.

The contemporary situation is defined by decades of a hyper-competitive culture combined with crushing economic austerity, a toxic brew which has produced an ever-growing crisis of anomie, or social atomization and breakdown. Mass shootings, once exceptional events, have “somehow become normal,” to paraphrase President Obama. In the midst of this, social forms which once served as vehicles to fight these conditions have either been coopted or crushed underfoot, leading people without any recourse but to seek individual solutions to social problems. 

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