Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Shakespearean Horror—Or just Horrible Shakespeare?: The Glass House

The Glass House. Dir. Daniel Sackheim. Perf. Diane Lane, Leelee Sobieski, and Stellan Skarsgård. 2001. DVD. Sony Pictures, 2002.

Shakespeare makes his way into most genres. Most of the films in the horror or suspense genre that involve Shakespeare are either intentionally or unintentionally humorous. Theatre of Blood is one example (for which, q.v.).

The Glass House is somewhere in between. I think someone clever enough could write an article about this film equivalent what Eric S. Mallin's “‘You Kilt My Foddah’; or Arnold, Prince of Denmark” (Shakespeare Quarterly 50 (1999): 127-51) did for Last Action Hero (for which, q.v.). There's Hamlet here, but in a way that undermines our expectations.

A teenage girl arrives home past her curfew to find the police in her house. She thinks she's in trouble, but she soon learns that her parents have died in a car crash. At the funeral, she meets this man:

He seems awfully nice and offers to help her in any way that he can. In the Shakespeare-aware viewer, this sets up the Hamlet analogue expectations nicely.

But our expectations are almost immediately thwarted. Some former neighbors of the family who are named Glass and who live in a house with lots of glass walls are their appointed guardians. And they're creepy. That's where the horror comes in—and it's also where Hamlet is brought to the fore.

I've mashed together some clips of the Hamlet material. The girl is studying the play in her high school class, and that makes her think of the possibility that her parents were murdered by her guardians (who are having enormous financial trouble and the kids have an enormous trust fund and blah blah blah).

The creepy guardian offers to help the girl with her homework, and he does, which seems really nice. But he plagiarizes—from Harold Bloom, of all people—and the girl (who has plagiarized before) gets in a lot of trouble. It turns out that the creepy guardian wasn't actually being nice; he was trying to get her caught for plagiarism.

And then there's a lot of horror / suspense stuff, mostly terrible, and the film ends.

It's not a great film, but I'm intrigued by the way it sets up our expectations for a Hamlet-style revenge tragedy and then fails to deliver (sort of—I won't give any spoilers).


The main lesson to take away is that plagiarism is always a bad idea. Always

Links: The Film at IMDb.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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