Refer to Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body (Fox Atomic, 2009) if you aren’t getting the picture. The structure of the argument is that women are represented in a multitude of horrible ways in horror films in order to express male castration anxiety. Thank you, Sigmund.
I may have previously had doubts as to how wide spread the monstrous-feminine trope was, but after seeing Evil Dead (FilmDistrict, 2013), the remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult classic The Evil Dead, I can rest assured: men hate women. Or are scared of them. Or something.
Let me back up. The new horror film, Evil Dead, is terrifying. Think of the most horrifying, disgusting image you can. Now intensify the gross factor, and multiply it by ten. That is essentially Evil Dead. The film is wrought with disturbing visualizations of blood, guts, gore, and an excruciatingly uncomfortable interpretation of rape (as performed by a plant).
The film opens with a young, seemingly innocent girl, who will momentarily be burned alive on a stake by her father. A crazy witch woman screams orders at the father while his daughter curses her entire family and writhes in pain. This scene sets up the lighthearted tone and balanced depiction of female characters for the rest of the film.
Following the familial burning ritual, the audience is introduced to the contemporary cast of characters as they arrive to their holiday retreat, a weekend at the old “cabin in the woods” where female lead Mia will hopefully break her dope addiction. Classic weekend with the pals. Who brought the booze?! Along to help Mia (and eventually to become infected by evil dead) are her brother, David, and his blonde girlfriend who doesn’t speak, and the siblings’ old pals Olivia, the nurse, and Eric, the “wacky” high school teacher.
In contrast to the “monstrous-feminine” picture, the males are painted as heroic creatures, idols to be adored. Despite many a female beating Eric with a crowbar, shooting him full of nails, and infecting him with the evil dead disease, he refuses to die. Literally. He keeps coming back, cool as a cucumber. David, similarly, is undeniably prepared for a weekend with zombies. He hardly gets beat up at all, spends the majority of the movie flashing his hair around and pulling mechanical knowledge out of nowhere.
He shoots his girlfriend and buries his little sister alive, but he really “carries” the film with his good looks and charm. Anyway, what are your sibling relationships like? Regardless of the nails, evil dead bites, and crowbar fun, the male characters keep making it happen. Even when they “finally” die, it’s in a glorified manner. The house lights up and the audience isn’t privileged a view of their shriveling bodies.
The women, on the other hand, are crippled easily. Mia is infected with the evil dead virus first, taken over by trees when she’s standing outside. They (the trees, that is) tie her up, rape her, and inhabit her soul. I think the filmmakers chose her to become infected first because of her drug addiction. Horror movies don’t take kindly to people with issues. Also, when she’s taken over by the evil dead, her psychotic twitching and spirit voice are attributed to “classic withdrawal symptoms.” Hilarious.
The second female to go, Olivia, is infected when Mia vomits all over her face. Easy peasy lemon squeezy—Olivia’s screwed. Next thing you know, she’s sawing off part of her face with a glass shard. Don’t you worry, though, the wacky high school teacher gets in the bathroom quick as a wink and bashes her head in against a wall. Dead as a door nail, and by a rational male hand! Everybody wins. The audience, it is assumed, will get over her death quickly.
The final female to be subjected to violence is David’s girlfriend, who mutilates her own body. In one of the most horrifying scenes of Evil Dead, the audience is forced to watch her perform amputation after her arm becomes infected. Apparently, this type of self-inflicted pain is a visualization of “male fears.”
Since the female is exhibiting the abject behavior on her own body, the male “twisted mind” can gain a perverse pleasure by both objectifying the woman and not having to interact with the subject. It has something to do with vaginas, and turning the woman into a huge wound. Regardless, the scene served to make me feel nauseated. Film theories, you know? It’s just a way to analyze and talk about lady parts, on occasion.
In conclusion, while I’m sure the film was making some broad statement that is crucially derogative towards feminism, I am leaving with a few key tips for the next time I’m stuck in the woods with my recovering (or as the recovering) druggie friend.
1: Don’t trust an addicted person. His/her “withdrawal” may actually be a sign that a plant went inside of them. 2: Therefore, avoid nature at all costs. 3: When one of your friends is infected by spirits, she will attempt to hook up with you in a very real and very disturbing way. In the case of horror films, AT NO OTHER TIME, should you allow the indiscretion. Otherwise you will definitely die. Immediately. The semi-erotic scene will keep you onscreen for at least another ten minutes. 4: Anytime an opportunity for amputation comes, take it! This is your opportunity to exert your lackluster medical authority.
Lastly, 5: find a man! He will probably kill you, but then maybe he will bring you back to life with a homemade defibrillator, and then you can go back to the real world. You might be missing an arm or a leg, but hey! This is how patriarchy works. xoxo Monstrous Feminine.