Fill Me With Your Demon Seed


More movies should be like “Demon Seed.” That’s right, “Demon Seed,” the trashy 1977 adaptation of the Dean Koontz novel about an evil computer that impregnates Julie Christie. I should also mention that the computer, whose name is Proteus, uses a bronze metal phallus.

Why must we look back in disgusted admiration at such an objectively absurd film? Certainly not because American cinema is in need of more misogyny, more rape scenes, or more metal phalli. Rather, our horror films—which are supposedly the products of a rich, illustrious Western mythic tradition dating back to who-knows-when—have become stale and boringly safe.

Consider what dark fantasies have been offered to us recently—moldy, twice-baked garbage like “The Ring Two” (sequel to a remake of a Japanese movie), “The Fog” (remake of a mildly diverting John Carpenter movie), “The Amityville Horror” (wretched remake of wretched movie), “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (remake of exceptional horror movie), “House of Wax” (second remake of the 1933 chiller “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” this time with Paris Hilton), and the upcoming “Saw 2” (sequel to wholly uninteresting gorefest that no one asked for).

I honestly never thought I would yearn for the days of “I Spit on Your Grave” and those horrible Paul Morrissey/Andy Warhol movies like “Blood for Dracula.” But here I am, pining for the years of sickening rape-revenge movies and dismembered body parts. For the sake of clarity though, it’s not sex and violence that we’re missing.

Certainly this year’s “House of Wax” remake was plenty gory, and the neo-slashers of the last ten years have featured supple amounts of nubile flesh. If that’s all I was after I would just watch “Cherry Falls” or “I Know What You Did Last Summer” or straight-to-video gems like “Frankenfish.”

The missing link is all that wonderful psychosexual craziness—that sense of uncanny terror—and most all the creepy feeling that the screen is acting out repressed fears and desires you didn’t know you had. You could take everyone’s favorite poststructuralist gender theoretician, Judith Butler, and her old sparring partner, Donna Haraway, to most 1970s horror films and watch them battle it out over a cappuccino after the movie. Nowadays, they’d probably just yawn endlessly like I do at the horror-junk Hollywood churns out.

A hypothetical conversation after “Demon Seed” could be:

Haraway: “She’s birthing a cyborg, dammit! Its artificiality is deconstructed to expose human volition.”

Butler: “You’re such an essentializing cow. It’s the product of two distinct bodies, in this case only one: a corporeal body. The offspring, as its organic essence is generated through the raped body, is coded by feminine violation and hence ‘marked’ or ‘inscribed,’ if you will, with the very constructed-ness of gender.”

Haraway: “Oh I certainly will construct your gender, you tired old feminist monkey. Why don’t we take this outside and my half-machine, half-kangaroo bodyguards will code your body ambiguous, bitch.”

The upcoming remake of “The Hills Have Eyes” could never provoke that kind of discussion. But even if theory-infused body horror isn’t necessarily your thing, it’s hard to argue satisfaction with the state of American horrors. Particularly in this time in our history—with a dirty war going on, outbursts of neo-conservative social injustice everywhere, and a pervading sense of capitalist malaise—where are the films that mirror our cultural situations in the manner of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” as a metaphor for Communism?

The beginning of the AIDS crisis and the rise of new reproductive technologies set off waves of nutty horror films that took our collective fears and misplaced anxieties and made them mythic —and in so doing exposed a peculiar kind of American cultural psychosis. Obsessed with life, obsessed with death, and so horribly afraid of encroachments upon either realm, we would lash out or ostracize those that could infect us with cultural change.

For now, though, we’ll have to deal with “Saw II.”

—Staff writer Clint J. Froehlich can be ed at


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