• Diabolical demarcations: Landscape and 'anti-landscape in The Blood on Satan's Claw

    David Evans-Powell (see profile)
    Drama, Great Britain, Europe--British Isles, Folklore--Study and teaching, Horror, Horror films, Landscapes, History, Rural conditions
    Item Type:
    Folk horror, British drama, Film studies, Folklore studies, Horror cinema, Landscape, Landscape history, Rural history
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    The Blood on Satan's Claw is attentive to what Paul Newland has described as the “haptic materiality” of the soil and the way it is physically worked . Land management is evident throughout the film. The landscape is defined by notions of ownership and control, as well as forming a topographical representation of the social hierarchy that operates upon it. Even the forest wilderness is characterised by virtue of sitting outside these demarcations. Unearthed from the beneath the cultivated space, and then operating freely across forest, field and building, the fiend throws these ideas of demarcation, function and ownership into question. Civilisation, and how it constructs meaning for itself through ownership, function and demarcation of the landscape, is mocked by the devil’s transgressive ability to move anywhere and inflict trauma. The fiend’s presence challenges concepts of the landscape as an environment controlled and shaped to human need, and instead suggests that it is an “anti-landscape […] the landscape that provocatively throws into question the very idea of the human/national subject as owner of the landscape, as a figure in that landscape, or as an observer of it”. The fiend’s emergence suggests a landscape that is, if not inimical then certainly ambivalent towards those who occupy it. The countryside is depicted as an anti-landscape that diminishes, isolates, and disquiets; it challenges long-held Enlightenment and Christian beliefs in man’s mastery over nature. These tensions can also be interpreted psychoanalytically as those between the abject feminine space of nature and the patriarchal socio-political constructs of civilisation. The objective of this paper is to explore these contested notions of the demarcation, ownership and management of the landscape in The Blood on Satan’s Claw. It will illustrate the tension between landscape and anti-landscape and examine how these tensions can be read as representative of other cultural tensions.
    Published as part of Special Issue #4 by Horror Homeroom, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the release of The Blood on Satan's Claw.
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    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
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