Blood Doubles: A Renegotiation of Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla on Film: A Collection of Critical Essays

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Sheridan le Fanu’s 1872 lesbian vampire novella Carmilla has attracted so much scholarly attention that it comes as something of a surprise that the numerous film adaptations of the tale have received little to none. This essay analyzes the international archive of Carmilla adaptations, in particular those belonging to the genre of Euro horror, as a recuperation of the very themes and characteristics that negate their scholarly value: violence, sexually explicit content, low production budgets, and their supposed pandering to the male gaze and attack on lesbian subjectivity. As texts that queer traditional cinematic narrative, these films are revived as sites for a feminist recuperation of the horror film genre.

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This chapter explains a brief history of the Spanish horror film, as well as a consideration of several of its key facets: its characteristic patterns, themes, and motifs; its often subversive treatment of sex and gender; and its longstanding relationship with Spanish art cinema. Although it has often been overlooked or underappreciated in scholarly work on the horror film, Spanish horror cinema represents a rich national tradition and a vital contribution to global horror. Spanish horror cinema often works to subvert gender norms at the level of representation. Key here is the recurring figure of the female protagonist. In his seminal essay on the connection between Spanish art and horror cinema, Andrew Willis demonstrates how art filmmakers working under Franco used the horror movie as a vehicle for expressing their opposition to fascism.
Beginning in the 1950s, "Euro Horror" movies materialized in astonishing numbers from Italy, Spain, and France and popped up in the US at rural drive-ins and urban grindhouse theaters such as those that once dotted New York's Times Square. Gorier, sexier, and stranger than most American horror films of the time, they were embraced by hardcore fans and denounced by critics as the worst kind of cinematic trash. In this volume, Olney explores some of the most popular genres of Euro Horror cinema-including giallo films, named for the yellow covers of Italian pulp fiction, the S and M horror film, and cannibal and zombie films-and develops a theory that explains their renewed appeal to audiences today.
Between 1968 and 1974 there was an extraordinary proliferation of lesbian vampire feature films. This proliferation was due to a combination of factors. Graphic representations of lesbian sex entered the low-budget horror genre due to the more general relaxing of restrictions on what was permissible on screen at that time. This took place against what is often termed the ‘sexual revolution’ and the rise of feminism. Critical work on these films has tended to follow the work of Bonnie Zimmerman and Andrea Weiss who suggested that the narrative of these films employ a structure of bisexual triangular desire wherein the heterosexual couple are threatened by the lesbian vampire only to be reunited at the end of the film – thus alleviating men's fears and re-establishing patriarchal norms. A close analysis of the films, however, indicates that although some do employ the structure of bisexual triangular desire, the critique established by Zimmerman and Weiss is extremely impoverished in relation to the complexity of the films themselves.
Nina Auerbach shows how every age embraces the vampire it needs, and gets the vampire it deserves. Working with a wide range of texts, as well as movies and television, Auerbach locates vampires at the heart of our national experience and uses them as a lens for viewing the last two hundred years of Anglo-American cultural history. "[Auerbach] has seen more Hammer movies than I (or the monsters) have had steaming hot diners, encountered more bloodsuckers than you could shake a stick at, even a pair of crossed sticks, such as might deter a very sophisticated ogre, a hick from the Moldavian boonies....Auerbach has dissected and deconstructed them with the tender ruthlessness of a hungry chef, with cogency and wit."—Eric Korn, Times Literary Supplement "This seductive work offers profound insights into many of the urgent concerns of our time and forces us to confront the serious meanings that we invest, and seek, in even the shadiest manifestations of the eroticism of death."—Wendy Doniger, The Nation "A vigorous, witty look at the undead as cultural icons."—Kirkus Review "In case anyone should think this book is merely a boring lit-crit exposition...Auerbach sets matters straight in her very first paragraph. 'What vampires are in any given generation,' she writes, 'is a part of what I am and what my times have become. This book is a history of Anglo-American culture through its mutating vampires.'...Her book really takes off."—Maureen Duffy, New York Times Book Review
This paper intends to use psychoanalysis to discover where and how the fascination of film is reinforced by pre-existing patterns of fascination already at work within the individual subject and the social formations that have moulded him. It takes as its starting-point the way film reflects, reveals and even plays on the straight, socially established interpretation of sexual difference which controls images, erotic ways of looking and spectacle. It is helpful to understand what the cinema has been, how its magic has worked in the past, while attempting a theory and a practice which will challenge this cinema of the past. Psychoanalytic theory is thus appropriated here as a political weapon, demonstrating the way the unconscious of patriarchal society has structured film form.
Recreational Terror: Women and the Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing. State U of New York P
  • Isabel Pinedo
  • Cristina
Daughters of Darkness: The Lesbian Vampire on Film
  • Bonnie Zimmerman
Heritage of Hammer: Carmilla Karnstein and the Sisterhood of Satan.” Dracula’s Daughters: The Female Vampire on Film
  • Douglas Brode
Gender in the Modern Horror Film
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Other Love: Le Fanu’s Carmilla as Lesbian Gothic.” Horrifying Sex: Essays on Sexual Difference in Gothic Literature
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Masquerade Liberties and Female Power in le Fanu’s Carmilla.” The Haunted Mind: The Supernatural in Victorian Literature
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Vision and Vacancy: The Fictions of
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The Lesbian Vampire Film: A Subgenre of Horror.” Dracula’s Daughters: The Female Vampire on Film
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The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film
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Jess Franco on Blu-Ray: Female Vampire/Erotikill
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The Vampire Film: Undead Cinema. Columbia UP
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Tracking the Vampire
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The Vampire in the House: Hysteria, Female Sexuality, and Female Knowledge in Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla
  • Tamar Heller