Done to death? Re-evaluating narrative construction in slasher sequels.

DIXON, Elizabeth Emily. (2017). Done to death? Re-evaluating narrative construction in slasher sequels. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom)..

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Slasher sequels, such as those in the Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street series, are often criticised for their derivative processes of narrative construction, which are widely perceived to sacrifice development and complexity for the sake of repetition and formula. Thus, although scholars such as Carol Clover, Ian Conrich, and Tony Williams have examined these films from a range of psychoanalytical and sociocultural perspectives, academics have generally avoided engaging in processes of close formal analysis. Where such analyses do exist, in Vera Dika's structural study of the slasher film, for example, the research tends to be geared toward interrogating the generic properties of the films, rather than the properties associated with their status as film sequels. As a result, there is a general lack of understanding about the narrative construction of the slasher sequel, leaving the dominant critical assumptions to proliferate largely unchallenged. However, for theorists such as David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, working within the domain of 'historical poetics,' even the most conventionalised systems of narrative operate according to complex constructive processes, often perceptible only to those willing to engage in close scrutiny. The reluctance to engage with slasher sequels as sequels is indicative of a wider tendency within film studies, where the practice of cinematic sequelisation has traditionally remained beyond the purview of academic analysis. In recent years, however, writers including Stuart Henderson have begun to re-examine the sequel from new critical perspectives, drawing on both historical poetics and Gerard Genette's concept of hypertextuality to offer fresh insights into the processes involved in constructing a system of narrative continuity over multiple films. With hypertextuality and historical poetics demonstrating the potential to provide new perspectives on the film sequel, this study draws on both approaches to create a combined framework of analysis capable of answering the question: is there any evidence to suggest that the processes of narrative construction in slasher sequels are more complex than previously acknowledged? Using this framework to engage in a formal analysis of the Halloween films reveals a network of dynamic narrative processes operating beneath the conventionalised surface of the series. By subjecting the original story to extension, expansion, elaboration, and modification, each Halloween sequel serves to enhance, complicate, or compromise the coherence of the narrative system as a whole, and, in doing so, prompts the continual reconceptualisation and recontextualisation of previously-established information. In this way, the processes of narrative construction within the Halloween series can be seen to demonstrate complexity at both a formal and cognitive level. These findings suggest that there is evidence to challenge not only the existing critical assumptions about the Halloween sequels, but also the critical assumptions pertaining to other sequels in the slasher sub-genre. With the sequels in the Halloween series generally representative of those in other slasher series, sharing many narrative properties and drawing similar criticisms for many of the same perceived deficiencies, the study concludes that the array of dynamic narrative processes shown to operate in the Halloween sequels is also likely to be present in other slasher sequels. In drawing this conclusion, the study ultimately establishes that there is evidence to suggest that the processes of narrative construction in slasher sequels are more complex than previously acknowledged. By expanding the existing understanding of slasher sequels in this way, this study succeeds in making an original contribution to knowledge, serving to advance both the established field of research surrounding the slasher sub-genre and the emergent field of research surrounding the film sequel.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Hall, Sheldon [0000-0003-0950-7310]
Thesis advisor - O'Brien, Shelley
Additional Information: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), 2017.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 17:19
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:04

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