Are There Lesbians? No
The tagline for Splatter Capital promises “a guide for surviving the horror movie we collectively inhabit” but really it is a breakdown of how splatter horror can act as a Marxist representation of life under capitalism – where bodies are dismembered and consumed by the more fortunate for the sake of maintaining production. It also poses that splatter horror can present a cathartic alternative, where the disenfranchised are able to rise up and literally “eat the rich”.
“My theory is this: splatter, with its screen motifs of violence and gore, knows that when capital inscribes itself into our bodies and when our bodies are hardwired into capital what we are experiencing is a protracted mutilation whose internal processes are both accelerated and destabilised in times of crisis” (p13)
Each chapter focuses on a different point in splatter cinema’s history; starting with its birth in Grande Guignol theatre and revolutionary Russia, to post 9/11 America. Along the way Mark Steven’s builds an argument that in horror capitalism and exploitation cannot be divorced from gender and race, and that in the realm of exploitative horror, someone must suffer. Steven’s highlights the problematic tensions that come from the masculine/feminine dichotomy of nature and industry, proletariat and bourgeoise. He continues an argument that Carol Clover presents in her book Men, Women and Chain Saws and notes that it is the male (often immigrant) figure who fills the role of the disenfranchised, out-of-work or barely-scraping-by worker who survives by applying his trade to the bodies of wealthy, white city women.
Along with the failure of industrialisation, Steven is more than happy to go on the offensive against neoliberalism. He details the move from a notable working class to the building of professional relationships through networking as a type of unpaid labour that comes from the rise of an interest in finance and what I like to think of as “imaginary money”. This relationship between networking and finance, Steven argues, acts as a “social web dependent upon the production it nevertheless disavows.” (p.102)
Oddly, for a book focused on cinema and capitalism, Steven doesn’t spend much time on the circulation and decoding of the Image as a form of cultural capital and labour. Just as capitalism must be rethought and exchanged for a more viable system, so too, must the images presented to us via various forms of media be altered for us viewers to find ourselves represented (politically and symbolically) within the system of cultural exchange that is largely dominated by the white male hegemony.
I found Splatter Capital to be a highly readable book. Having spent quite a large amount of time actively avoiding Marxist thought processes, it was nevertheless a smooth introduction to those modes of thinking, even if I don’t tend to agree with all of them. Given that we are currently in both a horrific time and, resultingly, a time in which a lot of new horror works are being produced, Splatter Capital provides a way of “reading” the present through a reading of the past.
“When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.”
– Jean-Jacques Rousseau