Apocalyptic Dread: American Film at the Turn of the by Kirsten Moana Thompson

By Kirsten Moana Thompson

The facility and presence of dread in fresh American cinema.

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Extra resources for Apocalyptic Dread: American Film at the Turn of the Millennium

Sample text

In Thompson’s Cape Fear, Cady’s second rape victim is Diane Taylor (Barrie Chase), a “fallen” pageant queen who refuses to testify against him, not because of any uncertainty as to Cady’s conviction (which the narrative implies would be inevitable with her testimony), but because of the social and familial disgrace as a rape victim. Initially in a catatonic stupor after her rape, Diane refuses to communicate with the police and abruptly leaves town. Similarly, the Bowdens would not let their daughter Nancy testify against Cady for sexual stalking, out of the same fear of social stigma.

Similarly, Bowden lies about his current affair to his wife and in an unconscious displacement of what could be a description of his teenage daughter, misleadingly but suggestively describes his mistress Lori Davis as “just a kid, a baby. ” As a monster and as a doppelgänger of Samuel Bowden, Cady becomes the displaced external figure of dread for a family already fractured by conflicts engendered by the father’s ethical lapses. Embodying the threat of sexual violence to all the Bowden women, Cady substitutes for Bowden’s incestuous desires, yet the real threat to the family is in the legal and sexual improprieties that Bowden already has committed.

In other words, trauma is a historical symptom in which personal narratives of self, identity, and history are disrupted by a symptomatic dissociation. Time doesn’t diminish memories that lie in the unconscious because, as Mary Ann Doane suggests in her recent study of modernity and time, the unconscious is a “space, a storehouse, a place outside of time, infinitely accommodating, where nothing is ever lost or destroyed” (42). Thus, memory as flashback is a visual representation that has no integrated place in the past or the present.

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