Blood Baths

Over time, the horror genre has included more and more explicit scenes of gratuitous violence and gore. Some have even gone so far as to describe these extreme depictions of violence and the consumption of these images as pornographic in nature (Tait, 96). Suzanne Broderick speaks to this pornographic element to depictions of violence in her piece "Mayhem and Gore" when she discusses the sometimes sexual gratification that some women achieve when watching extreme depictions of violence. Out of all of the horror films that have depicted extreme amounts of blood and violence, however, two particular films stand out: Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film "The Shining" and Wes Craven's 1984 film "A Nightmare on Elm Street". In both of these films there are scenes which feature extreme amounts of blood.

In the film "The Shining", there are multiple scenes that depict extreme violence--images of the twin girls who once resided in the hotel butchered with an axe, their blood covering the walls--yet one scene in particular stands out in terms of extreme volumes of blood. This scene is the scene in which the young child "Danny" envisions the hotel's elevator doors opening up to a torrent of blood. This blood completely fills the hallway and confronts Danny with the realization that this hotel itself holds some sort of evil. As Robert Kilker explains in his work "All Roads Lead to the Abject: The Monstrous Feminine and Gender Boundaries in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining."", the blood that issues forth from these elevator doors holds a connection to the polluting menstrual blood which Kristeva discusses in her work "Powers of Horror" (Kilker, 59). The evil of the house, then, can be seen as an expression of the feminine. The evil in this case is situated in the reproductive properties of the hotel--reproductive in the sense that this hotel has the power to similarly produce insane and murderous caretakers. Kilker also notes in his work that the blood that issues forth from the elevator is completely abstracted from the victims who produced this blood and creates a rift between the actions of the murderous men and the consequence of the slaughtered family (Kilker, 59).

Similarly to this extreme volume of blood that can be seen in "The Shining", there's a scene in "A Nightmare on Elm Street" in which a geyser of blood shoots out from the bed of one of Freddy Krueger's victim's beds. In this scene, the young man "Glen" ignores the advice of his girlfriend "Nancy" to stay awake, and instead falls asleep on his bed surrounded by electronic devices. As soon as Glen falls asleep, Krueger's gloved hand--a glove that has long blades attached to the fingertips--comes up from the bed and sucks Glen in. After a brief struggle, the water under Glen's bed fills with blood, and then a geyser of blood shoots out from the bed towards the ceiling. Once the blood hits the ceiling it continues to move across the ceiling, defying gravity, until at last Glen's mother enters the room only to see it covered in blood and more blood continuing to pump out of the bed. The absence of the mother from this scene speaks to the tensions between family and community that crop up in the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series (Heba, 1).

The blood that spews from Glen's bed is obviously much more blood than a human body could contain. In her work "Recreational Terror: Women and the Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing", Isabel Pinedo discusses how this extreme amount of blood challenges the post-modern viewer with the spectacle of "the ruined body" and forces them to examine the fragility of their own body (Pinedo, 19). Mikko Canini speaks to this process of self-examination that horror films encite in his work "Horror and the Politics of Fear". Canini posits in this work that while fear, an external force, instructs citizens to adhere to cultural norms, the feelings of dread that a horror film can elicit in an audience forces the audience to recognize a threat "as an internal, constitutive element of the subject’s life-world." (Canini, 203).

In both "The Shining" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street", extreme amounts of blood are used as a visual tool to force the audience to confront the image of "the ruined body". The blood that is used in both of these scenes is also abstracted from the victims that produced this blood. This abstraction from the victims, in the case of "The Shining", furthers the gap between the actions of men and the victimization of women and children. For "A Nightmare on Elm Street", on the other hand, this abstraction serves as a means to express the tensions between community and family. While somewhat different in their meanings--both express clear tensions between separate groups and identities--both of these examples add to the discourse surrounding blood in film by revealing how blood as a visual tool can force audiences to have an internal recognition of their own potential to become "ruined bodies".

Blood as Rebirth Consumption of Blood/ Vampires Blood Baths Home

Works Cited

Tait, Sue. "Pornographies Of Violence? Internet Spectatorship On Body Horror." Critical Studies In Media Communication 25.1 (2008): 91-111. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 8 May 2013.
Broderick, Suzanne. "Mayhem And Gore." Film & History (03603695) 28.3/4 (1998): 93-87. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 8 May 2013.
Kristeva, Julia, and Leon S. Roudiez. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. New York: Columbia UP, 1982. Print.
Heba, Gary. "Everyday Nightmares." Journal Of Popular Film & Television 23.3 (1995): 106. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 8 May 2013.
Pinedo, Isabel Cristina. Recreational Terror: Women and the Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing. Albany, NY: State University of New York, 1997. Print.
Canini, Mikko. "Horror And The Politics Of Fear." At The Interface / Probing The Boundaries 70.(2010): 203-214. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 8 May 2013.
"A Nightmare on Elm Street - Glen's Death." YouTube. YouTube, 05 Nov. 2011. Web. 08 May 2013. .
"The Shining-Elevator Scene." YouTube. YouTube, 28 July 2012. Web. 08 May 2013. .