Everyone is susceptible to bewitchment and the evil machinations of the ‘monstrous female’. Of the practices and nature of this type of female, which are most abominable: sexual immorality, perversion, corporeal alteration, collapse of boundaries between human and animal, or simply the desire to kill?
In exploitation cinema these forms of abjection are central to the construction of the female body as monstrous. Paranoia, insatiability, jealousy, evil and hysteria are disruptive fictions that are presented as oppositional to the desired traits of being female, and obstinate to the globalised homogenous understanding of human culture. The female characters from this sub-genre of horror cinema – the vampire, the werewolf, the wife, the witch and the mother – are often used as markers to subvert the infrastructures of church, state and heteronormative socialities. No longer the victim but the perpetrator of violence, the monstrous female is a practitioner of alternate identities, systems and orders.
Within the minimal narratives of the exploitation film – sensationalised sex and violence contained within a sadistic and voyeuristic fantasy – how might these dangers associated with the monstrous female situate themselves on the female body, claiming it as a site of violent rage?
Nature of the Hunt is a project by Auto Italia in collaboration with Harman Bains, considering what is at stake in our contemporary desire to re-imagine folkloric and historic modes of violence and resistance. Explored through a disembodied survey of twentieth-century exploitation and body horror cinema, this project asks how the biological danger associated with the nature of the female in these materials might be claimed and shaped. Through a moving image survey of archive material developed in collaboration with Ruth Angel Edwards, the project aims to explore on new terms these female subjects historically considered dangerous to society.
Harman Bains is a London based writer and researcher. She is interested in the human body, mainly on biological extremes, psychosexual fantasy, transmutation and all manner of erotic mania. Since 2014 she has focused this interest through the genre of exploitation films of the mid-late twentieth century, documenting her journey through the exchanges between the horrifying unravelling of violence and its reverberating effects on both the body of the spectator and the body on film.
Image credit: Kôji Wakamatsu, Ecstasy of the Angels (1972)