Title

Selling the Splat Pack: The DVD Revolution and the American Horror Film

Date of Award

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

American Culture Studies/Popular Culture

First Advisor

Dr. Cynthia Baron (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Dr. Scott Magelssen (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul McDonald (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Maisha Wester (Committee Member)

Abstract

In 2006, journalists began writing about the emergence of a group of young filmmakers who specialized in horror films featuring torture and graphic violence. Because of their gory and bloody movies, these directors came to be known as “the Splat Pack,” and they were depicted by the press as subversive outsiders rebelling against the Hollywood machine. However, what many discussions of the Splat Pack ignore is how the success of this group of directors was brought about and enabled by the industrial structure of Hollywood at the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century. Drawing from political economy methodology, this study seeks to understand and illuminate the industrial changes and realignments that gave rise to the Splat Pack, first by looking at how industrial changes have affected the content of horror films of the past, and secondly by examining how the advent of DVD technology made way for the gory, “Unrated” films of the Splat Pack.

DVD played a major role in the rise of the Splat Pack by changing the way horror films were presented to their potential audiences and by leading to an industry acceptance of “Unrated” films. With this in mind, this study then turns to an analysis of several key films directed by the Splat Pack and uses the commodity form of the DVD as a lens through which to interpret these films. By foregrounding the commodity status of these films, this study resists reading these films as subversive manifestos. Instead, it seeks to use these films as a means of better understanding how commodity form affects content. The ultimate argument is that the films of the Splat Pack are commercial products made particularly salable by the DVD era and must be confronted and understood as such.