The Mirror/Zerkalo (1975), dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

October, W Magazine, Czech Mate by Michael Thompson

Gena Rowlands, early 60s.

Poster for Takashi Murakami’s film Jellyfish Eyes


Keaton Henson




Birthdays (Deluxe Edition)



Above: Sally Hardesty, archetypal fairy-tale heroine from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, lost in the fairy-tale forest.

Like many horror films, the basic narrative structure of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has elements in common with a number of popular fairy tales. It is not difficult to spot structural parallels with “Jack and the Beanstalk” (the ascent into a secret world, ruled by a ogre; the descent back into the “real” world at daybreak, given chase by an axe-wielding giant); “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” (the golden-haired girl encountering a bestial family sitting around their table at dinner); “Beauty and the Beast” (the beautiful daughter “stolen” by the ugly beast and dragged off into his own world); “Bluebeard” (the “dreadful room” with its terrible secret); “Little Red Riding hood” (the girl lured into the house by a monster in disguise); and, perhaps most of all, “Hansel and Gretel” (children lost in the woods, stumbling upon an attractive house owned by a cannibalistic brute, who kidnaps them and attempts to use them for food).
Other key elements of the film’s structure incorporate a number of random fairy-tale symbols and motifs: the forest, the broomstick, the woodcutter’s ax, lost children, the child in a sack, the bucket, the dinner table, the farm, cows, chickens and pigs, the giant, grandparents, the disguise, the “escape” back into the “real world” at sunrise…
The fairy tale is controlled by a mythic order and a ritual narrative script. The story of “Hansel and Gretel,” for example, embodies the child’s anxieties about abandonment, separation anxiety, being deserted or devoured, suffering from starvation or being punished for oral greediness. But the children are victorious in the end, when Gretel achieves freedom and independence for both, and the witch is utterly defeated. By embodying the child’s anxieties, fairy tales help him or her to understand and overcome these difficulties, as well as to come to terms with Oedipal tensions within the family by separating and projecting various aspects of the child’s own personality and those of, for example, his or her parents into different characters in the story… Most horror films share the positive, pragmatic function of the fairy tale in that—when they do allow unconscious material to come to awareness and work itself through in our imaginations—its potential for causing harm is greatly reduced. As with the fairy tale, the traditional horror film generally works to serve positive acculturating purposes.
Tobe Hooper’s classic piece of cinéma vomitif inverts this mythic order and upsets the ritual narrative script—and on a cosmic level. The inverted fairy tale narrative is not simply a tale of personal tragedy; rather, like all fairy tales, it works to universal dimensions. This apocalyptic sentiment is suggested first by the film’s “documentary” aspect. On one level at least, the film is meant to be approached as a “true story” and has many stylistics of the documentary, such as the opening “explanation” and the specification of an exact date printed on the screen (August 18, 1973)… The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is compelled to repeat a fixation on a nonregenerative apocalypse, an end to history, a cosmic destruction ultimately denied by the film’s ending. Sally’s escape, however, is not a forestalling of the apocalypse, but simply a postponement of the end of the ritual violence. Her escape signifies a return to the cycle of horror, never to be redeemed by any sense of an ending.

- Mikita Brottman, Offensive Films: Toward an Anthropology of Cinéma Vomitif

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