Vampire capital, undead labor, toxic assets, and possessed houses
March 9, 2018 12:12 PM   Subscribe

“Gothic Marxism then allows for these texts (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Sinister, The Purge, Get Out) to be interpreted as sites of social production rather than a mirage to be dispelled but solutions to the concerns and material anxieties to which they respond and draw from seem far less evident. The shadow of the crash earlier this century is still haunting popular culture as the development and persistence of these films concerned with the issue of housing goes to prove. Furthermore, these cultural expressions of anxiety reflect the persisting material and political issues still plaguing the ways in which capitalist society handles the question of housing. “ - Your Home May Be Repossessed if You Do Not Keep Up With Your Payments: A Marxist Approach to Post-Recession Horror Film, Jon Greenaway.

Towards a Gothic Marxism: On Monsters.
posted by The Whelk (10 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
It would be a fun world if you weren't able to pay your bills, your bank would possess your home or auto (in the ghostly sense) and you'd have to deal with some percent of annoyance and possibly injury and death. Which is worse: housing precarity or a house that doesn't like you?

BTW, I'm pretty sure I've seen all the films mentioned, but really can't remember anything about any of them except for the first Paranormal Activity, which wasn't bad an in my opinion represented a pretty realistic response to a paranormal infestation and Get Out, which was pretty good until it went off the rails. So I'm having a hard time following the economic argument. Interesting idea though.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:37 PM on March 9, 2018

I don't think I would describe the Paranormal Activity house (located in San Diego I think ) being a middle class starter home either. But I'm not sure if that makes a difference in the article.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:40 PM on March 9, 2018

The first Paranormal Activity film was set in Coronado, an island across San Diego bay. It's not a "tract house" as described in the article. And Katie was sporting a pretty fine set of wheels in the film, as well. The 3rd film explicitly dealt with the protagonists living in a house that was well beyond their means to afford. But then the bill comes due.
posted by SPrintF at 1:22 PM on March 9, 2018

I thought the first Paranormal Activity would have worked better as an hour-long episode of a horror anthology show. I remember someone telling me there had been sequels, and being sure they were pulling my leg.

I do like the thesis of the article, though. Previous socioeconomic studies of horror have often focused on the public sphere and workplace. Cocooning in the single-family dwelling has been something many middle-class families seek out as safety from the figurative "monsters" outside for a while now.

But those days are over for some of us, and precarious for others. When we lose the shelter of our haunted split-level in the good school district, are we headed for 24-hour empty-eyed, breakless shifts turning the big stone wheel at Béla Lugosi's cursed Haitian sugar mill in White Zombie?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:25 PM on March 9, 2018

Cocooning in the single-family dwelling has been something many middle-class families seek out as safety from the figurative "monsters" outside for a while now.

I was trying to think of a movie where ghosts (not zombies -never zombies) attack a mass number of people in public and could only think of Ghostbusters. Those guys really knew how to mine uncharted territories.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:29 PM on March 9, 2018

The 3rd film explicitly dealt with the protagonists living in a house that was well beyond their means to afford.

One of them maybe (5) focused on lower class characters living in an apartment maybe? It not good and I don't think it had anything interesting to say about the difference between a middle-class single family haunting vs an apartment haunting. But just saying the series mined a few different scenarios.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:33 PM on March 9, 2018

Dana Stevens on Paranormal Activity, 2009
posted by condour75 at 5:02 AM on March 10, 2018

[I]n modern Horror, possession is not only a recurring motif, it is also a key one, essential to the power of the genre, precisely because it allows the genre to get at the fundamental horror that is private property in a bourgeois society. . . . American ghost stories are almost always about property rights and land claims. They tend to begin, especially in cinema, with a family (white) moving into a new house. The house will be haunted by the prior property claims of people who used to live there, or who used to live on the land where the house is built. And it’s no mystery why, really.
posted by EarBucket at 6:26 AM on March 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Came for “hauntological” was disappointed.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:06 AM on March 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Interesting. I expected to see something about the trope of the house that is sold for a too-good-to-be-true price because it is haunted.

Has anyone dealt with a house directly haunted by the spectres of the exploited laborers who built the house? Most of the time, hauntings seem to take the form of former residents.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 2:12 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

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