Skulls: repetition and representation

For some reason it always comes back to Bava. And while I know that the skulls in Mike Nelson’s exhibition More things (To the memory of Honore de Balzac) is not a direct reference to the skeletal figure in Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires (itself a direct influence on Alien), the similarity between scale and presence is striking.



Planet of Vampires 5

Part of the Repetition and Representation series. 

Psycho House: representation and repetition

The fine line between imitation, homage, and influence in artworks and horror movies isn’t just reflected in the works of today’s filmmakers. In the early 1960s, the now iconic house featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal thriller Psycho was the preeminent site of all things horror. In fact, it still quietly looms on a hillside at Universal Studios California as frightening and distant as ever to the tourists who ride by. And although Hitchcock had done something similar twenty years earlier in Rebecca (1940), using the house as a near character full of anxiety and memory, that film was all about interiority of space and of mind. Psycho, on the other hand, was a full-on exterior explosion, everything on the outside, the lure to a deadly trap. 


The slippages again occur here, reaching further back into art history, as the bones for the Psycho house were inspired by and modeled after this 1925 painting, House by the Railroad, by American realist painter Edward Hopper. Not horrific by any means, Hopper’s paintings reveal static moments shared between an architectural space (diner, movie theater, room) and those creatures who inhabit them. 


Thanks to the Horror and Architecture  (the new-to-me but still-awesome-after-zero-updates-for-two-years blog).

Previous in this series:

Sinister walls: representation and repetition

In continuing the exploration of the slipages that occur between imitation and homage in contemporary creative forms, here is an interesting correlation of imagery from the new “home video discovery turns to haunting” film Sinister with Stan Shellabarger’s 2005 performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and Paul McCarthy Face, Head, Shoulder Painting – Wall Black Line (1972). Shellabarger and McCarthy’s embodies these prolific similarities of reference between horror cinema and visual art as their work deals with repetition, endurance, and a relationship to the space that surrounds them.

Thanks to Scott Speh at Western Exhibitions.

Related in the series: Cabin in the Woods and Peter Doig’s 1990s cabin paintings.

The cabin in the woods: representation and repetition

As I’m writing an essay about the uncanny relationship to Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires (1965) and Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), I’m thinking about the slipages that occur between imitation and homage in creative forms. Where does the impulse come from to manifest a narrative, a style, an atmosphere come from?Where is the boundary border between being on the safe side of homage rather than the evil side of plagiarism? And how does this influence perpetuate the evolvement and dissemination of the horror genre?

In a collusion of similar thoughts, yesterday I looking at the cabin paintings from the 1990s by Peter Doig. Knowing his interest in horror film, seen in his culling from Friday the 13th (1980) imagery, I’ve tended to draw a correlation to this cabin series and the pervasive use of the isolated cabin in the woods in horror films. The claustrophobia of the forrest, shown frenetically and close up in Doig’s paintings, is situated around the idilic solitude of the house. This notion, of course, tends to explode in horror cinema – man is not safe, not even and especially, in nature. 

So as I look to Doig’s “homage/influence” from horror, I noticed that perhaps horror film is producing a mutual admiration. How did I come to think this? Seeing the poster for Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods (2012) I felt something familiar. There was something about that cabin, mirroring itself, reflection both an above world and a reality below that struck a nerve. Then I remembered Doig’s cabin paintings, his layering on imagery, the spatiality he establishes in his work:

Peter Doig – Camp Forestia (1996), Oil on canvas


The similarities between Camp Forestia and The Cabin in the Woods poster suggest that visual art and horror film might just be bouncing ideas (concept and design) off of each other. Intentional or not, this type of intense self-reflexivity means that these ideas about the representation of horror are contagious. My only hope is that there is still room in which to facilitate the production of new generative images and narratives. 

Scream versus Scream

In 1996 a little film named Scream became the ultimate post-modern and self-reflexive horror film. It managed to solidify the “rules” of the slasher genre (and before that giallo) even though these rules were never die-hard and it remains as a really clever and fun movie. Fifteen years laterScream 4opens today and to mark this occasion, having not seen the film yet I don’t know whether this is good or bad, here is a reminder of painterly inspiration in horror cinema: