My nude death scene made horror movie history. That’s not why it should terrify you. –

Photo illustration by Luis G. Rendón/The Daily Beast/Getty

Every time they ask me about starring scary—the 2017 slasher that spawned a hit sequel earlier this year—it’s inevitable that people will bring up my character’s name. infamous nude death scene, which has been called “one of the most legitimately disturbing sequences in recent horror history” and is largely attributed to the popularity and early success of the franchise.

I had never been one to engage in mean-spirited Twitter speech, when the platform was recently awash with evaluation. scary Y scary 2 on the basis, frequency and “type” of nudity in each film, stimulated by fan reviews on the lack of female nudity in the sequel: I originally chose not to participate, despite being the main participant with whom such nudity is most closely associated.

However, when the subject was brought up again last Saturday during an interview with kevin smith and my friends at Smodcastle Cinema, I wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge the conversation around nudity in horror movies and finally speak on my own behalf.

To understand the roots of this discourse, it helps to understand the role nudity has historically played on screen, and to recognize that nudity has been a part of cinema since its inception. In its earliest form, Eadweard Muybridge’s 1880 zoopraxiscope (the predecessor to the movie projector) used photography sessions with a variety of subjects, including male and female nude models. Nudity then became part of the medium almost immediately afterward, catching on in both major and independent studio films.

In 1930, the Motion Picture Association of America established the Motion Picture Production Code (or the Hays Codes) with the intention of “protecting the moral standards of motion pictures” by placing restrictions on the material that the major motion picture studios could display on the screen. A highly subjective and early forerunner to the MPAA Movie Rating System, this regulation inadvertently provided space for a new marketing technique to increase ticket sales. Theaters already using the “routine policy” (a movie scheduling strategy in which theaters began their days with showings at reduced ticket prices that would increase over the course of the day) quickly began to fill these showing times with movies that were regulated by the MPPC using catchphrases like “viewers beware!” and “watch only if you dare!” They often claimed that these films were “not for the faint of heart” and often made audiences black out or seriously ill. This marketing technique worked particularly well when it came to selling horror movie tickets (and is still used today, even within the scary franchise: theaters blacked out brand name “barf bags” a scary 2 projections earlier this year).

As horror and grindhouse cinema began to gain popularity, opportunities to explore subversive themes within these films also grew, particularly in regards to women. Femininity, trauma, motherhood, ability, survival, and yes, sexuality became the central themes of horror movies. And in 1978 another subgenre of horror movies became popular: The Slasher.

During the filming of 1978 Hallowe’en, both director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill were heavily involved in the women’s liberation and civil rights movements. Naturally, they chose to have this reflected in the film and their killer, most notably during Lynda’s (played by PJ Soles) iconic scene where she exposes her breasts and, mistaking Michael Myers for Bob, asks, “Do you see anything? what do you like? ”

The scene was brash, confident, flirtatious, and rebellious to a patriarchal norm. The public loved it.

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As the genre continued to grow and expand, these films began to explore more sociopolitical themes. Nudity became ingrained in 1980s horror, later serving as a counter-response to the Reagan-era and AIDS epidemic through films like Friday the 13th (1980), outdoor camp (1983), The return of the living dead (1985), and hellraiser (1987). At a time when sex and cultural identity were branded as “national terrors”, the genre synonymous with fear enthusiastically explored this.

When I was offered my first chance to break into an existing film franchise, the genre was bolder and more experimental than ever. In 2012, I booked the role of Lauren in the Troma Entertainment/STARZ horror satire Anchor Bay. Return to Nuke ‘Em High, which centers on a lesbian couple. At the time, same-sex marriage was not federally legal in the United States, nor in much of the world. In the months leading up to filming and frequently during production, I spoke at length with director Lloyd Kaufman and film curator Pat Kaufman about the nude scenes within the film and their symbolism. As a production, the team felt this was important not only because I was 19 at the time and it would be my first experience with on-screen nudity, but also because it was crucial to protect the authenticity of the queer relationship between the leads in the film. movie.

The experience was exceptionally vulnerable, but the opportunity to work alongside a team of people who valued everyone, regardless of gender or sexuality, was and continues to be something I am exceptionally proud of. When we later premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, we were honored to be named “the first lesbian wedding in France” by Le Figaro just days after the country legally recognized same-sex marriage. Subsequent screenings proved that the narrative was never about nudity, but about the power, symbolism, and influence of this genre film’s ability to address an issue that other types of cinema were still struggling with.

When Damien Leone offered me the role of Dawn in scary, I was sure that the now infamous “hacksaw scene,” in which Art the Clown strips my character, hangs her upside down, and proceeds to slowly slice her in half with a hacksaw, would really make history. It was, and still is, the most dangerous undertaking I’ve ever been in as an actor, and frankly, I would never encourage anyone to attempt it. And yet, the impact of the scene is undeniable.

The reason for Dawn’s death in scary has such seriousness is because it is strongly rooted in reality. Like Lynda in Hallowe’en, Dawn is a character who openly embraces her sexuality, femininity and freedom. She is assertive and outspoken, and as a result, the brutality with which she is “punished” for these traits forces her to be terribly vulnerable, highlighting the physical essence of herself that makes her a woman. The visceral, gut-wrenching, chilling emotions evoked by viewing her death scene do not reside in the fact that she is naked; they lie in the ruthlessness of stripping someone of her personal autonomy and power and forcing those who care about him to watch.

This is where quality cinema lies, not in box office numbers or the opinions of some nudity-seeking Twitter trolls, but in challenging our psychological depths and our understanding of what it is to be human. And while the decision on what makes a great movie is entirely subjective, I would encourage viewers to look for these kinds of metaphors, learn about the meaning behind the stories, and notice the ways in which they are executed, all of which have no nothing to see with the amount of skin you see on the screen.

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