The House is Bad

I haven’t updated this blog in forever but that will soon change. And what better way to start than by sharing with you all the new issue of OneplusOne Journal, Occult, Magick, Evil and the Powers of Horror. Vol II, that includes my essay The House is Bad. I wrote this essay ages ago and it explores houses in the films The HauntingHouse of Usher, and Burnt Offerings that aren’t haunted but are, instead, evil by birth. Touching upon subjects I’m very interested in (space, place, and horror), I’m thrilled to have the first concretized bit of writing from me on the subject is finally published. 

An excerpt is included below but I encourage you to read read the entire issue (downloadable here) because it includes an interview with Graham Harman on H.P. Lovecraft and the horror of politeness in Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, amongst other stellar reads. Good stuff.

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haunting-angles

Cinema was born with a house that was bad. In the late 19th century, George Méliès not only laid the foundation for moviemaking but he also established the association of horror and the home with his fantastical short, The Devil’s Castle (1896). Over one hundred years later, the idea of the “old dark house” remains unshakable; the recent phenomenal critical and commercial success of James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013) is but one example of audiences desiring classic ghostly interventions within the familial space. But while the ubiquity of the house as a site from which spirits, psychotic murderers, and demonic forces come forth is genre commonplace, there are a select few films that expound upon the house itself as being evil.

So, what is an evil house? The evil house is considered here as Deleuzian/Bergsonian durational space, one that exists in a temporal status where there is a collapse of pasts and presents, interior and exterior, memories and events. The beginnings for a bad house lay in its construction; the time in which all of the above became embedded into its foundation or, as Roderick Usher says, the house contains, “every evil rooted within its stones.” In the bad house, the horror is unseen. It is not a portal for ghosts nor is it the manifestation of awful historical events. It is a vibrant living being born and transformed from wicked environments that systematically lure, destroy, and, occasionally, protect its inhabitants. Read the rest…

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Five Questions on Horror & Architecture: AIDA RUILOVA

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Artist and filmmaker Aida Ruilova provides the first set of answers to a series of questions about horror and architecture The Girl Who Knew Too Much is asking artists, filmmakers, curator, and writers.

Five Questions on Horror & Architecture: AIDA RUILOVA


Do you think architecture has the power to be horrific? If so, how?

Architecture manipulates our perception of space. Its effect can be subliminal which makes it very powerful. It can be mesmerizing as much as it can be oppressive.

How has architecture and/or horror impacted, influenced, or been represented in your work?

My works have dealt with the interior and exterior, the body: the human condition.

Why do you think horror narrative continuously returns to the home?

The home is considered a safe space, it gives us the illusion of security and safety. We need the mundane, the everyday to reflect on what we don’t understand.

How do architecture and horror similarly (or dissimilarly) pinpoint/reflect the historical (cultural, socio-political, etc)?

There’s a permanence to architecture because it’s bound as an object. Horror’s ability to reflect the current psyche is shaped by the conflict in our times.

What would be your favorite representation of architecture in a horror film or vice-versa?

‘Rope’ is as chilling in its storytelling as it is in the calculated lengths a director will go to shape a film. Hitchcock wanted the single set film to appear to be one continuous long take. Through set design and some creative panning he was able to create the allusion. It’s technical prowess reveals what it takes to support continuity of mood and narrative in the architecture of a film.

Psycho Buildings

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“Here, we find architecture not in its functional guise but as a site of desire, memory and doubt, home to personal contingencies and collective histories, the clashing of cultures and coalescing of subjectivities. Refusing to address us in the spaces they generate, engaging us in ways that are at once visceral and conceptual, and that call attention to what must be experienced rather than merely seen.” – Ralph Rugoff, Psycho Buildings from the exhibition Psycho Buildings: Artists Take On Architecture.

Image: Mike Nelson, To the Memory of H.P. Lovecraft (1999), 2008.

Hill House: a house personified

No Human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of the house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows and a touch of glee in the eyebrow of a cornice. Almost any house, caught unexpectedly or at an odd angle, can turn a deeply humorous look on a watching person; even a mischievous little chimney, or a dormer like a dimple, can catch up a beholder with a sense of fellowship; but a house arrogant and hating, never off guard, can only be evil. This house, which seemed somehow to have formed itself, flying together into its own powerful pattern under the hands of its builders, fitting itself into its own construction of lines and angles, reared its great head back against the sky without concession to humanity. It was a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, not a fit place for people or for love or for hope. Exorcism cannot alter the countenance of a house; Hill House would stay as it was until it was destroyed. – The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson, page 24).

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. 

psycho-house

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. 

hopper-railroad

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

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