ABSTRACT

Drawing on the Lacanian rereading of Freud, feminist theory has concentrated on the representation of woman as lack and absence. When the spectator is encouraged to identify with the victim, an extreme form of masochistic looking is invoked; the look is confronted by horrific images signifying extreme terror, pain, death. Whereas the classic horror film tends to affirm the controlling gaze at the moment of narrative closure (the monster is defeated/life is affirmed) the contemporary horror film frequently asserts the primacy of the masochistic look in its moment of closure (the monster lives/death reigns). Mulvey's theory of the sadistic male gaze, which seems to describe so well the structure of spectatorial relations in other genres, does not explain the very different structure of looks that is constructed in the horror film. The presence of the female castrator in the horror film also raises problems for the Freudian theory of fetishization and the phallic woman.