Voice of America? Agency and Audience Reception in The Tingler (Castle, 1959) and A Quiet Place (Krakinski 2018) - Université de Bretagne Occidentale Access content directly
Conference Papers Year : 2023

Voice of America? Agency and Audience Reception in The Tingler (Castle, 1959) and A Quiet Place (Krakinski 2018)


In William Castle’s 1959 gimmicky horror masterpiece, The Tingler, a parasitic creature resembling a tiny unshelled lobster wraps around the human spinal cord and feeds on fear. The only way to hamper its growth is to scream: left unchecked (as is the case with Martha Ryerson Higgins, the deaf and mute wife of movie theater owner, Oliver Higgins) the Tingler can take on enormous proportions and detach from its human host, free to run amok and gorge itself on human terror. In 1959, the message was clear: only by using their voices could people hope to combat deadly fear. Conversely, in John Krasinski’s 2018 post-apocalyptic horror film, A Quiet Place, alien creatures hypersensitive to sound roam the US, feeding on anyone who makes a peep. The Abbott family has managed to survive thanks to their ability to use sign language, a skill they have mastered thanks to their deaf teenage daughter, Regan. In this case, survival depends on not speaking up and, in the end, the monsters are rendered vulnerable by a listening device. Famously, for The Tingler’s initial theatrical release, Castle, the “King of Gimmicks” wired mechanisms under a few seats in each theater which would vibrate at specific times in the film, thus eliciting panicked responses from the audience. The film opens with a public service-type message from Castle explaining that audience members have only to scream to avoid danger, and at the film’s mid-point, the director had actors planted in the audience scream and faint, leading to more commotion as an onscreen voice instructs the spectators not to panic. Beyond this intentional manipulation of audience response, reception of The Tingler provides a fascinating lens through which to view US postwar culture and its fear of the Other within. Released two years after the election of Donald Trump, A Quiet Place met with massive box-office success and a sprinkling of prestigious awards. Viewers commented on the power of silence and on the weaponization of loudness and loud voices in the film — an apt reflection on the increasingly divisive, hyper-vocal current context in 21st-century US culture. At the same time, a number of voices within Deaf and nonwhite communities experienced the film differently, interpreting the film’s focus on silence in other ways. This talk will analyze how The Tingler and A Quiet Place explore notions of agency through the use and suppression of the voice, and how audience reception of both films can shed light on the cultural contexts of each.
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hal-04558618 , version 1 (25-04-2024)


  • HAL Id : hal-04558618 , version 1


Elizabeth Mullen. Voice of America? Agency and Audience Reception in The Tingler (Castle, 1959) and A Quiet Place (Krakinski 2018). Voix Sons Bruits Silences Noises Sounds Voices, 54e Congrès de l'Association Française d'Études Américaines, May 2023, Dijon (Bourgogne), France. ⟨hal-04558618⟩
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