Over the course of the past two decades, horror cinema around the globe has become increasingly preoccupied with the concept of loss. Grief in Contemporary Horror Cinema: Screening Loss examines the theme of grief as it is represented in both indie and mainstream films, including works such as Jennifer Kent's watershed film The Babadook, Juan Antonio Bayona's award-sweeping El orfanato, Ari Aster's genre-straddling Midsommar, and Lars von Trier's visually stunning Melancholia. Analyzing depictions of grief ranging from the intimate grief of a small family to the collective grief of an entire nation, the essays illustrate how these works serve to provide unity, catharsis, and—sometimes—healing.
Erica Joan Dymond is assistant professor of English at East Stroudsburg University.
Part I: Loss and the Child: Grief and Endangered Youth
Chapter 1. Horror at the Crossroads: Mapping the Child’s Grief in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Chapter 2. “We Can Survive This”: An Examination of Loss and Grief in Juan Antonio Bayona’s Elorfanato (The Orphanage) (2007)
Erica Joan Dymond
Chapter 3. Elevating Grief: Ari Aster’s Hereditary (2018) and the A24 Horror Film
Andrew Grossman and Todd K. Platts
Part II: Loss and Gender: Grief and Motherhood/Womanhood
Chapter 4. To Make You Feel My Love: Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook (2014), Motherhood, and Loss
Rebecca L. Willoughby
Chapter 5. The Myth of the Natural Woman: Horror and Grief in Ari Aster’s Midsommar (2019)
Aspen Taylor Ballas
Part III: Loss and National Identity: Grief and History
Chapter 6. O Father, Where Art Thou?: Grief and Cannibal Culture in Jorge Michel Grau’s Somos lo que hay (We Are What We Are) (2010)
Chapter 7. Sadness is Rebellion: The Ontopolitics of Queer Loss in Mladen Đorđević’sŽivot i smrt porno bande (The Life and Death of a Porno Gang) (2009)
Chapter 8. The Grieving Dead: Haunting and the Haunted in The Spierig Brothers’ Winchester (2018)
Part IV: Loss and The Known World: Grief and Annihilation
Chapter 9. “No One Will Miss It”: Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist (2009) and Melancholia (2011) and the World-Without-Us
Grief in Contemporary Horror Cinema: Screening Loss is an accessible and wide-ranging exploration of grief as represented in many of the most interesting recent horror films on the topic. Of particular interest is the collection's inclusion of insightful essays addressing the socialization of grief through gender, sexuality, the family, and colonialism and how these complexities manifest in the themes and aesthetics of horror films.
Grief in Contemporary Horror Cinema: Screening Loss offers a welcome multinational approach to the role played by, and complex and contradictory representations of, grief and loss in this genre. The various contributions demonstrate how universal themes of grief and loss are particularised in individual films and are often deployed to examine legacy and contemporary issues of national, familial and individual vulnerability. The book ultimately provides a valuable lens through which to examine a wide range of subgenres from arthouse to gothic horror.
This collection is fascinating, poignant, and timely, a true gift to scholars and horror fans living in a grieving world that has been subjected to a deadly pandemic for more than two years. In her introduction, editor Erica Joan Dymond begins with the premise that “horror cinema has become more nuanced over the last twenty years.” The chapters that follow provide compelling arguments for why this is the case. As contributor Asper Taylor Ballas contends, “Grief and the elaborate human response to it, stands as one of the most defining human qualities, and, therefore, contending with grief means a deep, thoughtful, and even horrifying look into humanity’s core.” Focusing on new, cutting-edge films about which little has been written, and international in scope, Grief in Contemporary Horror Cinema is sure to set the stage for future discussions of grief, loss, and horror.