Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Catharsis and the Impossibility of Closure in Horror

Interesting chat about horror movies with Adam Lowenstein:

CP: When I talked to Roth recently, he said he holds hope in the fact that soldiers in Iraq have thanked him for Hostel, for giving them "tools" in much the same way that you're talking about. A word like catharsis seems insufficient to describe the effect that you and Roth are talking about.

Lowenstein: I agree with you. I think that catharsis is among the least valuable assets that one could gain from a horror film. Because catharsis is really all about...

CP: Closure, right?

Lowenstein: Closure, yes. And forgetting—"getting over" something. What these horror films remind us, of course, is that the trauma is never really over—that we haven't remembered it enough before we can forget it. I think the real value of the horror film is to remind us that catharsis is too easy, too artificial, and too closed. We know from history that the events we think we've passed through and gotten over and understood come back to haunt us in all kinds of ways. Horror's dark gift is to remind us that the tragic events we think we've gotten over and understood always come back to haunt us.

It's old-fashioned Return of the Repressed kind of stuff. What we find terrifying at any given time is that which we most want to pretend doesn't exist. It's those fractures and nasty unspoken secrets that haunt us and can't ever let us go.