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“Who’s Afraid of a Shower Curtain?” How Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho Changed the Movie Industry and our Bathroom Habits

By Pia Buchty

“Give them pleasure. The same pleasure they

have when they wake up from a nightmare.”

Alfred Hitchcock

                         

 

A beautiful blonde woman takes a relaxing shower, somebody enters the room, positions himself behind the shower curtain, then there’s a knife and shrieking violins. Does that ring a bell?

To this day, Alfred Hitchcock is considered one of Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers, and his masterpiece, Psycho (1960), has become part of our collective memory. Especially the shower scene is often described as the most powerful and haunting scene in film history. Since the release of Psycho, not a single year has gone by in which the movie – and especially its one-of-a-kind three-minute shower sequence – has not been referenced, imitated, or parodied in popular culture. What is it about that scene that causes people to look three ways before taking a shower? Well, for one the bathroom – normally associated with privacy and safety – turns into an anxiety-inducing place where danger lurks behind the shower curtain. Anything could happen here – and apparently sometimes does.

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Cozy Horror – Stranger Things

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Image credit: Netflix

The title font, reminiscent of 1980s horror-thriller novels, buzzes over the flat screen TV or laptop monitor to the eerily pulsating beat of electronic music. We could pause and quickly answer a WhatsApp message before the episode starts. After all, this is 2018, and we’re streaming via Netflix. But wait, is it really 2018? I’m not so sure anymore. Put your smartphone away, it might as well be…

1983 in a normal American small town called Hawkins. On the way home from a nicely nerdy night of playing Dungeons and Dragons in a cozy basement with his three best friends, twelve-year-old Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) encounters a strange thing and disappears without a trace. Will’s worried single mother Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) turns to local Police Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) – a guy whose morning grooming ritual includes beer and cigarettes and who at first doesn’t take the case seriously. But Will’s friends Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) take matters like these seriously and into their own young hands. While searching for their missing friend, they encounter Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), a mysterious girl with a shaved head and the number 11 tattooed on her arm. The trio will soon find out that these features are not the strangest things about the girl. This American small town with a secretive research lab nearby may not be so normal after all, and even a reluctant Chief Hopper comes to realizes that stranger things of a paranormal nature are afoot in Hawkins. Read more »

Archie Reloaded – Riverdale

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Photo credit: Twitter @CW_Riverdale

“Our story is about a town. A small town. And the people who live in that town” are the first words we hear on Riverdale (2017 – present). These words are spoken by a narrator who turns out to be a seventeen-year-old boy – with a beanie that looks sort of like a crown – sitting in a diner booth, typing away at his novel in the works.

His name is Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), and the people living in the small town of Riverdale are Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), who’s torn between being a high school jock and a sensitive musician; the good girl Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) as well as rich rebel Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes). And, of course, all their friends, enemies, frenemies, and parents.

These names may or may not ring a bell because Riverdale and its ensemble of characters are based on the Archie Comics, which have been published since 1942 and have reached iconic fame in the USA. Since then, the characters have appeared in several shapes and forms, even as a virtual band called “The Archies” with their most popular hit song “Sugar, Sugar” from 1969. Read more »

Under Dark Skies: A Review Essay

By Michaela Keck

The End of the Night

On Friday, October 16, our group of five – two master students, three bachelor students, and I – set out from the Institute of English and American Studies at the University of Oldenburg for a four-day excursion to the ecological field station of the University of Potsdam in Gülpe. This small village is located approximately 70 kilometers northwest of Potsdam, or circa 85 kilometers northwest of Berlin, along the eastern border of the Nature Park and Dark Sky Preserve Westhavelland. Here, we wanted to study, debate, and directly experience darkness in an area that still afforded a phenomenon that is increasingly lost to our brightly illuminated European continent: dark night skies. The plan for this long weekend was to have the afternoons set aside for text discussions and to venture out into the dark after the moon had set. The mornings were free to either recover from our nocturnal activities or to explore the wetlands of our immediate surroundings.

Included in our considerable amount of luggage – the ecological field station requires self-catering – were three seminal texts for our ecocritical studies of darkness: Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder (2005); Paul Bogard’s The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light (2013); and the chapter entitled “Ridge” from Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places (2007). Although the titles of the first two books express a sense of loss and therefore suggest a yearning for an earlier, better, more “natural” life, Louv and Bogard both investigate the Anthropocene with an attitude that combines curiosity, fascination, and pragmatism rather than regression, nostalgia, and moralizing. Read more »

Star Wars – The Last Jedi: No Light without Darkness?

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Photo Credit: NEPA Scene

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

The bright blue letters appear on the big black screen. Reverent silence fills the movie theater. Maybe you’ll hear the sound of cheering somewhere in the back, but mostly you can feel the tense thrill of anticipation. After two years of waiting, STAR WARS – THE LAST JEDI, the eighth episode of the most beloved sci-fi fairy tale of all time and the second movie of the new trilogy, is only seconds away … Read more »