See that girl in the green above, holding on to her eyeballs for dear life because she knows if she doesn’t she’ll never be able to sleep again? That girl is usually me. But due to a recent read, I’ve started to change the way I think about horror movies – or at least some of them…a certain genre of them…
I recently read a book titled, The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi. This book can be defined as “a ghost story about identity.” The book, like other horror books/films, makes you wonder: what’s real and what isn’t? But my experience with this book was unlike my experiences with other scary stories or horror movies that I’ve seen thus far. This book had me thinking about life. I was trying to relate to it. I was asking bigger questions than I ever had after experiencing the ‘horror’ genre. I found this genre to be extremely fascinating, and it made me want to see what other types of books like this are out there. Or, if there’s more depth to horror movies/books I have seen/read, and I just didn’t realize it…
For example, this article provides a list of movies that count as ‘psychological thrillers.’ The list includes Psycho, The Shining, The Silence of the Lambs, The Blair Witch Project, Black Swan, and more. Most of those still seem pretty different than The Icarus Girl, however. In my opinion, the main difference is that The Icarus Girl isn’t going to keep you awake at night like Psycho, The Shining, The Silence of the Lambs or The Blair Witch Project might.
But when I saw the title Black Swan – I was intrigued. To me, it seems that that is the closest title mentioned (at least) to fit the same genre as The Icarus Girl.
According to IMDb, “Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballerina whose passion for the dance rules every facet of her life. When the company’s artistic director decides to replace his prima ballerina for their opening production of “Swan Lake,” Nina is his first choice. She has competition in newcomer Lily (Mila Kunis) however. While Nina is perfect for the role of the White Swan, Lily personifies the Black Swan. As rivalry between the two dancers transforms into a twisted friendship, Nina’s dark side begins to emerge.”
It’s a different plot. But some aspects strike me as similar – for example, the idea of a ‘white swan’ and a ‘black swan,’ compared to the idea of Jessamy and TillyTilly (TillyTilly is Jessamy’s imaginary, or not so imaginary, friend in the book). TillyTilly starts out as a seemingly innocent imaginary friend, who mirrors Jessamy’s thoughts. But then her dark side comes out – and it starts to take over her life. Much like Nina’s dark side does in the Black Swan.
According to an ABC News article referring to the Black Swan, “It was intense and disturbing and fascinating and mysterious,” said Nadine Kaslow, vice-chair of the department of psychiatry at Emory University and psychologist to the Atlanta Ballet. “What was a hallucination and what was real? When people are psychotic, it’s difficult, even as a therapist, to know what’s real and what’s not.”
It continues on to say,
“But speaking as a psychiatrist, Lamberti said the film did not accurately depict schizophrenia, as has been widely speculated, but “does present a reasonable portrait of psychosis.”
“People tend to be scared of things they don’t understand,” he said. “If you have never treated or observed a person with psychosis, it’s upsetting.”
Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality that usually includes false beliefs or delusions, and seeing or hearing things that are not there.”
This makes me wonder, and I urge readers of The Icarus Girl to consider – is Jessamy experiencing a sort of Psychosis, perhaps sparked by her inability to fit in? Do you think this is something that really happens to children, or adults too?
Interesting questions, right? And those are the kinds of questions this genre brings about. Again, it makes me eager to find more stories of this kind.
As I was saying earlier, perhaps scary movies do have more to them then we might originally think. Check out this article titled, “Horror Films with Hidden Messages.” This article mentions movies like “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” and its hidden agenda to promote veganism. It’s interesting, because when I saw the movie, that didn’t cross my mind. But now that I’m envisioning the cruel graphics involved with animals…it makes perfect sense.
The article also talks about “Night of the Living Dead,” and how that movie came out a year after Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated. The producers purposefully hired a black actor to play the role of the hero, to try and ease the racial tensions that were going on (and still are…)
Last one I’ll mention (but I find this super interesting) is Godzilla. The article says, “Americans may have seen just a guy dressed as a lizard, but Japanese audiences had no trouble spotting the anti-atomic statement less than a decade after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
It’s especially interesting to me because most of the time, when someone asks if I want to go see a scary movie, I’m like helllll no. Because I just close my eyes the whole time, with this funny hand motion where I actually cover my eyes with my hands while blocking my ears with my thumbs (try it right now if you’d like – it’s super effective) But now, I might change my answer to helllll yes. Scary stories can have super deep messages…about race, history, diseases, health, food habits, etc. And they portray their message while scaring the shit out of you – which I think is pretty cool. Minus the nightmares.
So I’d like to end this article with a shout out to Helen Oyeyemi and her ghost story about identity, and to all other authors/producers etc. of this genre. You’ve opened my mind to some interesting questions – and you’ve provided me with some confidence going into the next Paranormal Activity (which one are we on now, like 17??)
All images/information from:
Thompson, Westley. “Psychological Thrillers Provide More Depth to the Horror Genre.” The Daily Athenaeum. N.p., 30 Oct. 2013. Web. 14 July 2016. <http://www.thedaonline.com/arts_and_entertainment/reviews/article_b1b2c4b2-4130-11e3-b54e-001a4bcf6878.html>.
James, Susan Donaldson. “‘Black Swan’: Psychiatrists Diagnose Ballerina’s Descent.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 20 Dec. 2010. Web. 14 July 2016. <http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Movies/black-swan-psychiatrists-diagnose-natalie-portmans-portrayal-psychosis/story?id=12436873>.
“Horror Films with Hidden Messages.” Virginian-Pilot. N.p., 24 Oct. 2006. Web. 14 July 2016. <http://pilotonline.com/entertainment/horror-films-with-hidden-messages/article_845c19a8-6ad6-50ad-beb5-649d65f75dd7.html>.
Downer, Lesley. “The Icarus Girl Play Date From Hell.” NY Times, 17 July 2005. Web. 14 July 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/17/books/review/the-icarus-girl-the-play-date-from-hell.html?_r=0>.
“The Icarus Girl.” Goodreads. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 July 2016. <http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/139724.The_Icarus_Girl>.
“Black Swan Movie Review & Film Summary (2010) | Roger Ebert.” All Content. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 July 2016. <http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/black-swan-2010>.