How do exploitation movies become part of popular culture? Critically discuss the strategies of exploitation cinema as they apply to either Brian DePalma’s Carrie (1976) or Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965).
Exploitation film is simply known as a movie that exploits one specific topic to its limit. The genre usually surrounds the controversial areas and used to explore and develop complex issues that may not always be ideal in other movies. There were some good films that came out of this genre but the majority of them admittedly were awful. Because of the unique stories and the ability to offers audiences what they can not get elsewhere like sex, violence and taboo topics exploitation genre become an appeal to a large audience. This essay will explore how exploitation films become a part of popular culture by reflecting the sensitive, controversial subjects and discuss the exploitation film strategies as they apply in Brian DePalma’s Carrie in 1976
In 1968, the MPAA was set in motion telling you what you can and can not watch at a certain age and it appears that there will be some sort of rebellion and this was the heyday of exploitation cinema trying to push the boundaries of what was acceptable. Nowadays, exploitation films are films made during the 60s, 70s, and 80s that try to push the boundaries of what is acceptable in mainstream and what is allowed in theatres. To make the topics become more light-heart and easier to approach, the directors usually add a comedy element to the story. Exploitation films contain many other sub-genres like blaxploitation, sexploitation, slasher film, monster film, biker film, rape and revenge film, and they all create a significant influence on popular culture (Roche, 2018). A large number of exploitation films even draw a particularly on the politized counterculture and feature protagonists seeking an alternative mode of living (Mathijs, 2018)
The exploitation cinema has a compatible sense of movement. The exploitation lens follows the act of an intercourse or brutal death until it is finished, documenting details display of sex or violence and leaving as little to the imagination as possible (Waddell, 2018 ). The spectacle of time has also become more protracted in this genre. Sex often occurs in a permeable reproduction of undressing, intercourse and climax, and also the violent death unfolds in a mimesis of heightened detail. Exploitation film shows what the big blockbuster film hides. Clearly, this genre is reflexive, however, they are reflexive of the voyeuristic transgression on display.
In Hollywood cinema, there’s a certain “safety", a information that the camera will refuse to display “the cash shot” or arrange tiring acts of savagery that go “beyond" the R-rating" required by a huge studio discharge. Exploitation cinema subverts these desires by outperforming the boundaries of comparatively “safe", and expertly choreographed, Hollywood exhibition and de-glamorizing acts of sex or viciousness with a moderate, frank presentation.
In 1978, Halloween Heralded is a new subgenre of horror, the teen slasher film. Combining inventive violence and a clever, eerily evocative suburban mise-en-scène with engaging, believable, contemporary teen protagonists and a superhuman killer, director and co-writer John Carpenter created a new, effective type of film horror. There were earlier films that featured teenaged protagonists, such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Carrie (1976), some of them gorier and almost all of them more expensively made, but Carpenter’s camera work and narrative style distinguished Halloween from these predecessors ( Gill, Pat, 2002)
;Carrie effortlessly straddles and frequently blurs, the line between exploitation trash and serious-minded cinema;– Paul O’Callaghan, BFI
In 1976 “Carrie”, based on Stephen King’s 1974 novel, has literally shocked the media industry. Brian De Palma created a deeply thought-out and intelligent rational exploitation film, engaging in an impressively wide range of topics such as teen angst, parent cruelty and high school trauma and pressure.
;In 1976, the first time I saw Carrie, it was the most dramatic film experience of my life. The movie had the kind of impact on me that other people experienced with ‘The Exorcist’ or ‘Jaws’ — it made my head swivel around with fear and excitement, with the sheer cinematic fairy-tale pleasure of what I was seeing, and I lived inside the experience for months.; – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
Carrie was De Palma’s first huge success. The movie was made with a $1.8 million budget and got grossing more than $33 million at the U.S box office alone. De Palma felt that it is unfair for the movie to be classified as an exploitation movie by the studio: I was very unhappy with the way the studio sold Carrie. They dumped it in Halloween and treated it like a B picture – just grab the fast money and that’s it. I’d wave my reviews at them, saying ‘This is an important movie.’ And it fell on deaf ears"( Keesey, D 2015). Mathijs explain the exploitation film by saying “Exploitation…is a type of cinema, often cheaply produced, that is designed to create a fast profit by referring to, or exploiting, contemporary cultural anxieties.” (Mathijs 2018). Exactly so, De Palma had contrived with a small budget and filmed “Carrie” within fifty-two days. Like any other exploitation movie, there is no famous star ( at that time) contribute in the movie and the story was based on a novel written by an unknown horror author which is Stephen King. The director – Brian De Palma had gained some critical favourites however the audiences did not pay any attention and the studio – United Artists had no faith in the picture it was backed with no marketing campaign. (Bracke 2018)
The opening of Carrie demonstrates the trademark preference De Palma has for bold reversals between the fantasy and the reality. The film starts with a high school PE period when the schoolgirls are having a volleyball match. We see the camera slowly zoom in where Carrie is standing. She appears as an outcast who disappointed her teammates and then the movie turns into almost like a sexploitation genre when showing teenage girls scene showering. A full frontal nudity in the girl’s changing room in slow motion right in the second shot of the film and then we see Carrie is soaping herself and the blood from her period start to flow and its unexpected in its way as the shot of nudity is. Brian De Palma has successfully surprised the audience by misleading them, make everyone thought that he or she would be watching a scene is about sexuality then all suddenly it becomes a ranging, angry scene that is, in fact, the pay off of the volleyball match earlier. The camera constantly place the view in a position of intrusion – watching other actors viewing.
De Palma shared that he once planted a hidden microphone in the girls’ sex education class at his Quaker high school so that he could secretly record what went on there, has described the shower scene in Carrie as "just the illustration of a very male fantasy: all of the boys have dreamed of knowing what happens in the girls’ locker room. I decided to go in there with the camera.” (Keesey, D 2015)
After we witness the cruelty Carrie has to suffer at school, the director continues to show how she suffers at home from her maniac mother – Margaret ( plays by Piper Laurie). This fulminating tenseness and horrible persecute is a trigger for telekinesis, the audience accepts this without any argument, and we move forward with confusion dilemma as Carrie’s revenge picturing trespasses into uncontrolled slaughter. Still something of a contentious topic then in 1976 as it is now in 2018, even Carrie’s well-intentioned high school principal is too embarrassed to mention about “the period;.
I agree that the original “Carrie" movie is a fantastic film and also one of my favorites as well as one of De Palma’s best. However, I think an equal amount of praise has to be heaped upon the source material as it is to the director and actors. The story itself plays itself from three different angles in my opinion. Three different villains and three different victim perspectives. Mean girls to Carrie, Margaret White to Carrie, and finally Carrie to Margaret and Mean Girls. Everyone was a bad character and everyone was a victim in their own own right that you can not help but feel a sense of extreme sorrow and simultaneous satisfaction when they all meet their demise. You could even argue for a fourth angle with religious zealotry and Margaret White being the final bad guy and victim respectively. Yes, it was De Palma’s quick cut shots to Carrie’s haunting eyes during her telekinetic lapses and that suspenseful build of deceptive redemption at the prom that added to the story. And each of the actors plays the bully, the vengeful nerd and the zealot with such extreme conviction. But the story itself is so masterful and not just one of simple right and wrong, black and white, hero and villain characters that the original movie was a perfect storm. It truly deserves more praise than it receives and it’s more than cult horror or a genre film.
“Carrie; by Brian De Palma is truly a masterpiece on one of the greatest exploitation films of all time. There are five pivotal female characters: Carrie, her mother, Sue (Amy Irving), Chris (Nancy Allen), and the gym teacher – Miss Collins. The dramatic structure, the sad, happy, horrifying progression of the story, is entirely determined by these five women’s actions and choices. It is a pop tragedy where the male characters genuinely do not matter. (Travolta and Katt’s characters are mere pawns of their girlfriends.) There are not many movies, especially over-the-top tragedies, where only female characters’ choices impact the story. Even better, their motivations represent a wide moral range: from Sue’s guilt-fueled benevolence to Buckley’s complicated mixture of pity and disdain for the damaged Carrie, to Chris’s delicious, and yet somehow understandable – wickedness. As horrifying and tragic as the movie is, it is fundamentally, which is to say, dramatically a feminist work in the best way.
Hypothetically, exploitation films still exist but for some reasons, they are not really categorized them the same kind of raunchiness or style of the ones from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. However, there are many films that play either homage or are direct satires. These films of Rob Zombie that being ;House Of 1000 Corpses;, ;The Devil’s Rejects" and even the Halloween films pay a lot of tribute to exploitation films of the 1970s. Quentin Tarantino and Rothert Rodriguez banded together to make their own recreation of 1970s exploitation film but it goes one step further getting the same type of critical bashing and hate that a real grindhouse film would get. In 2007, an amazing satire of blaxploitation entitled "Black Dynamite" showed up in theatres. It is an amazing satire and was highly suggest in this genre.
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Gleiberman, O. and Gleiberman, O. (2018). Why I Can’t Love Brian De Palma (Though I’ve Always Wished I Could). online Variety. Available at: https://variety.com/2016/film/columns/why-i-cant-love-brian-de-palma-1201803932/ Accessed 2 Oct. 2018.
Keesey, D 2015, Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen?: A Life in Film, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, viewed 11 October 2018, ;http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/login.aspx?direct=true;db=nlebk;AN=991837;site=ehost-live;authtype=sso;custid=s5445732;.
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Palmer, L. (2018). Why Exploitation Films Can Do What ;Serious; Cinema Can’t. online Film School Rejects. Available at: https://filmschoolrejects.com/why-exploitation-films-can-do-what-serious-cinema-cant-dc4a7435390c/ Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
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Waddell, C 2018, The Style of Sleaze : The American Exploitation Film, 1959 – 1977, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. 2 October 2018.