Abstract

This paper is a learning of schizoaffective disorder through the lenses of slasher-cinema studies literature, subjectivity camera theory, and Mad Studies. The author imports wholesale the language of slasher-cinema studies to help articulate his schizoaffective stories through an autosomatography. He recommends that the slasher subgenre of horror can be a progressive text to assist schizoaffective sufferers with understanding aspects of their schizo-symptomologies.


The 'mentally ill' masked 'maniac' is a marketing mainstay of the slasher subgenre of horror (Nowell, 2011). Madmen are evidenced prominently in the following motion pictures: Schizoid (1980); Maniac (1980); Unhinged (1982); Madman (1982); Silent Madness (1984); Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness (1986); Delirium (1987); I Madman (1989); and, Psycho Cop (1989) (Owen, 2012; Armstrong, 2003; Worland, 2006). Hollywood has produced well-over three hundred films in this strain of horror, spanning the 1970s to the present with maniacs coded as psychotic and donning a deep-seated insanity, whilst the murderer maintains a degree of normality. The disabled, psychiatric 'Other' is introduced as a means "to disgust the audience [and] reaffirm their normalcy" (Phillips, 2012, p. 69).

Slasher films best represent the realities of 'schizo'-subjects (Nowell, 2011). Screenwriters inscribe these subjects as 'schizophrenic' and suffering from a panoply of psychoses such as delusions, and auditory and optical hallucinations (Owen, 2012). Slashers are all too human, and take us slightly "beyond the bounds of what psychiatric texts properly describe" (Knight & McKnight, 2003, p. 214). Imbuing the threat with mental illness adds depth and complexity to the slasher. Yet, while the 'mentally ill' monster takes on a purposeful and complex context, mental illness continues to threaten and disrupt normates' notions of "human identity and social normalcy" (Yeo, 2014, p. 79). Academics and researchers preclude space for inverting non-mad/mad dynamics, highlighting salient mad roles in cinema, or contesting the sick and passive roles characters not in their right mind assume (Procknow, 2019 in press).

Cinema depicts 'lunatics' and their mental distress in a rather sanitized manner (Harper, 2008). Critics of this subgenre ignore the differences between factual and fictive, and attempt to "censor fiction as if it were reality" (Cowie, 2003, p. 28). Out of fear of being branded psychopathic themselves, academics have been discouraged from drawing progressive readings from slasher subtexts (Nowell, 2011).

I preface my story by stating how I'm implicated in this paper as someone who has lived with schizoaffective disorder for the past twenty years. I narrate my storied self as a psychiatric consumer, male, early thirties, ex-criminal, who resides far below the poverty line. I tap into the mad lexicon and reclaim words such as: 'mad', 'crazy', 'insane', 'schizo', 'lunatic', and other time-worn terms oft-used to denigrate psychiatric subjects to refer to my neurodivergent self (and, unfortunately others) throughout. Whilst I struggle to unseat pejorative terminologies and am at the same time bound by them psychically and culturally, I find it, nevertheless, difficult to resist them in sane hegemonic cultures that vilify those of us with schizophrenia or schizoaffective diagnoses. Ignoring this tension, I problematize, and place these pejorative words in single quotation marks to signal them as reclaimed terms. People whose lived experience is deemed mental illness struggle to gain "equality for their experiential knowledge" (Russo & Beresford, 2015, p. 155). There is a dearth of research on 'brainsick' academics' own (dis)embodied experiences with psychic difference (Procknow, 2017). The silencing of our subjectivities has nourished a culture of complicity in our mental 'Othering' (Procknow, 2017). Rarely have pedagogues self-disclosed their mental health statuses when discussing mad matters (Procknow, 2017). Within academia there is a poverty of psychic disability disclosures, specifically amongst men (Brookfield, 2017).

Cineaste scholars have focused solely on victim-first analyses, as opposed to that of the perspective of the aggressor (Clayton, 2015). Little is known about the ways in which psychiatric patients are figured into slasher storylines (Phillips, 2012), specifically 'schizophrenics' (Owen, 2012; Stout, Villegas, & Jennings, 2004). The papers that do exist are qualitative (Chmielewski, 2013), descriptive, or single case studies, where only a few exemplars of one or two movies have been undertaken (Owen, 2012). Slasher films have the ability to "open a path toward critical reflection" (Freeland, 2003, p. 205). Critical self-reflection is needed where mentally ill viewers narrate how slasher films affect and influence them (Worland, 2006; Chmielewski, 2013). My autosomatographic vignette of learning insaneness is a dialogic, counter-hegemonic exploration of coming by schizoaffective disorder and making sense of my altered states through the subjectivities of the slasher and subjective camera lens theory.

This paper is structured as follows: Firstly, a conceptual overview of subjective camera lens theory is provided, namely for how it imbues perspective and a human mask to 'mentally ill' slashers. Secondly, autosomatography is introduced as this paper's methodology, and intertwined with Mad Studies theories that together look to restore strength to mad subjectivities. Thirdly, these theories are applied and related to my own autosomatographic account of schizoaffective disorder, specifically the auditory hallucination state that this disorder gives rise to that I call my 'alter.' I locate myself in the literatures of slasher film criticism/theory and reflect upon the subjectivities of the celluloid slasher that are germane to my own struggles with schizoaffective disorder. Only theories where slashers with psychiatric histories borne out through the lenses of subjective camera angles were engaged. I use this language to better articulate and elucidate my story. Moreover, I discern more about my alter through the scopic lens of the slasher's own schizo illness, such as learning that the language, personality, and face of my alter are distinct from those that my conscious self embodies. This paper concludes by suggesting that myself, like the filmic 'mad' murderer, is unable to return to sane normalcy.

My large-scale motivation for authoring this autosomatography is that I've noticed a shortage of reflexive accounts by mad-identified or psychiatric consumer authors and their experiences with intractable, serious, and persistent mental illness in Disability Studies and Mad Studies. Although, both disciplines call for the centering of "experts by experience" knowledge(s), I have found scant research in Mad Studies where consumerist subjectivities are actually being posited. Put simply, I'm troubled by what I perceive as pro-survivor (and to a lesser extent, ex-patient) praxis and anti-psychiatric knowledge(s) taking precedence in Mad Studies (Sweeney, 2016). This concerns me because survivor and anti-psychiatry scholarship seem to vilify consumers for sustaining Big Pharma.

No other cultural medium foregrounds madness like the slasher strain of horror. Therefore, I maintain that the slasher subgenre is a staple of Mad culture. That is why I find the paucity of schizophrenics' own stories of how screenscapes of madness have been used to unpack meaning about their psy-diagnoses disconcerting (Chmielewski, 2013).

Lastly, I believe it is important to put my perspective out there so that I can be authentic and authentically mad. To say one suffers from psychosis is one thing, but to narrate the shape that one's psychotic breaks take is all too absent from Mad Studies. This paper is an accounting of negotiating psychic space with a schizoaffective disordered 'alter,' specifically before I entered into the psy-regime as a patient (Foucault, 1994).

Subjective Camera Angle Theory

Subjectivity shots subsume viewers behind the murderer's mask in order to see what they see. In the slasher subgenre the matter of point-of-view, power, and vision is "explicitly foreground[ed]" (Sconce, 1993, p. 110). This subjective camera motif is a recycled narrative device relating the focalizer or the focalizing shot with the one who sees, yet is not revealed. To focalize is to present a scene through the first-person visuals of the stalker. Halloween's (1978) four-minute prolog popularized the "subjective camera prowling through streets and houses that [located] the audience into the optical point of view of the killer" (Worland, 2006, p. 101). As spectating subjects, our visuals are mediated by the slasher's steady, static, omnipresent gaze captured through the lens of a single-take, steadicam (a mechanical device used for smoother recording), or a hand-held tracking shot that sutures spectators into the film (Neale, 2004). The visual trope (a recurrent theme) of the subjective camera angle, its furtive, prying scope accompanied by the stalker's raspy exhales and footsteps marks their "sadistic-voyeuristic position" (Genter, 2006, p. 111). Point-of-view shots and the mise-en-scene collude to confuse spectators and mask the psychopath. The mise-en-scene is a pastiche of camera angles, lighting, locations, and characters that "distinguish the normal - and the audience - from the deviant" (Phillips, 2012, p. 68). The murderer's features are obscured until the film's denouement unmasks them (Worland, 2006). Narratives of discovery confirm or deny the verisimilitude of the protagonist's derangement: "the point of entry for an exploration of how to sort out the normal from the pathological through identity and representation" (Needham, 2002, n. p.). Our spectatorial gaze is as a co-conspirator, collapsed, and coerced into complicity, turning their murderous perspective "into an analogue of the audience's viewpoint" (Telotte, 2004, p. 25). This analogue thrusts us into the murderer's psychoticism (Robinson, 2012).

In slasher films subjectivity shots signify mental illness and mental illness is synonymous with the 'maniac' (Dika 1990; Robinson, 2012). The instability of point of view has been characterized as a "syntactic characteristic of the genre" (Roche, 2015, p. 22). The first-person point-of-view of unhinged, diegetic 'psychos' is a narrative in and of itself, "push[ing] forward [the killer's] experience of psychopathology in the form of a [mental illness]" (Anderson, 2003, p. 299). Slasher films reserve these shots for those of unsound mind in order to place viewers "repeatedly in [their] position, seeing what [they] see, tempted to feel what [they] feel" (Dickstein, 2004, p. 51). Subjectivity shots grant us glimpses into the madman's interiority (Dika, 1990). Therefore, I story how subjectivity shots have granted me glimpses into my own critical madness, and my autosomatography will provide readers with snapshots of these glimpses.

Slasher films waver between objective (where the audience are onlookers only) and subjective camera angles. Few films are seen entirely through either an objective or a subjective lens. With that said, viewers come to know that soundness of mind is reflected via objective angles, whereas unsoundness of mind is conveyed through a subjective, single-take steadicam. This is one way in which spectators are able to make the connection between unsound minds and first-person perspectives.

Many slasher films open with scenes inside an asylum (e.g., Stepfather II, 1989; Silent Night Deadly Night II, 1987; Splatter University, 1984; Angst, 1983). These scenes are often shot objectively. The sanitarium is a place of objective, positivist, and linearly formed understandings of the neurobiology of mental disease (Sweeney, 2009). The 'mad' incarcerant is medicated, seemingly stable, and epistemically violated. The positivist, objective camera shots are ordered as sane and psychiatrically-owned. However, only when, or after, the 'psycho' flees the asylum is their subjectivity restored. This subjectivity is indicated to the viewer by the use of subjective camera angles. Therefore, their escape and subjective recovery appears to be an affront to psychiatric objectivism – no longer are they medicated and stable patients. Slasher scripts that infuse killers' subjectivities "suggest how easily and fully our normal world of appearances can be shattered by the intrusion of a harsh new reality" (Telotte, 2004, p. 26).

Herein, I contrast the slashers' own unstable, untreated, volatile subjectivities to narratively constitute my mad subjectivities, when I too was unhinged and free from the remit of psychiatry. I recognize certain cinematic elements to be representative of a knowledge or ontology of madness through subjective shots. For example: when the murderer's interior/exterior is ruptured and polyphonic voices, personalities, or identities emerge; the paranoia of seeing and being seen (stepping in and out from behind objects); and a perverse voyeurism that intrudes into the unsuspecting lives of sane victims.

Qualitative research that captures mad perspectives demands that researchers "embrace subjectivity, look for multiple answers, and assume that there are many ways of knowing" that are forlornly different from the mainstream template (Gewurtz, Moll, Poole, & Gruhl, 2015, p. 204). As a mad-identified, genre familiarist I have a more holistic knowledge of cinematic madness "because [I can] access…mainstream discourse [as] well as [my] own" (Faulkner, 2017, p. 506). As a mad spectator, I have full spectatorial focalization (a cognitive advantage over sane characters, and objectivity), and inside knowledge of the 'outsider' (Roche, 2015). On the contrary, normates have impoverished visuals (Roche, 2015). To their chagrin, so-called normals must wait for the protagonist and their coterie to be brought into the ocular fold of the focalizer, confirming the coincidence of insanity. As a schizo-spectator I am afforded "a place of observation, knowledge, and critique comparable to that of other identity positions" (Erb, 2006, p. 47). This schizoaffective accounting entails a critical self-reflexivity, where I scribe my subjectivities as the creator of my own mad analysis and theory to subvert mainstream media and psychiatric scripts (Beresford & Wallcraft, 1997). My schizoaffective disorder represents "a rich critical interpretative lens" permitting me access to absolute truths about life with an intractable mental illness (Castrodale, 2017, p. 51). These epistemic 'truths' are absolute, insomuch as they are self-evident to me.

Methodology: Autosomatographical Scripting of Mad Knowledge

This paper switches between the disciplines of cinematic criticism/theory, Mad Studies, and the methodological orientation of critical autosomatography. Slasher films are used herein as a (psycho-)analytic template for making sense subjectively of my 'alter,' rather than my madness serving as an interpretative lens for the analysis of slasher films.

Through the methodology of autosomatography I delve headlong into the scopic gaze of the slasher to ascertain the ways in which deranged states are structured and storied, and how their scripted fictions and my story intersect and bear out. Autosomatography is a first-person narration where I begin to unpack and make meaning of my suffering and illness (Couser, 2016). This methodology allows me to reclaim the right to speak about my psychiatric disease and politicize my psychoses free from further pathologization (Costa, Voronka, Landry, Reid, McFarlane, Reville, & Church, 2012; Couser, 2016). My autosomatography is a performative utterance that attests I can capably articulate and inscribe meaning to and about my mental maladies through non-pathologizing objective and subjective lenses (Couser, 2016). This autosomatography evolved into a 'personal narrative.' This narrative entreats my schizoaffective disorder as its phenomena and focuses on life events that have sculpted my understanding of this disorder thus far (Ellis, Adams, & Bochner, 2011). In this critical piece, I survey 'Self' as 'Other,' and gift my schizoaffective suffering forward to neurotypicals so that they may get "a glimpse into a world the majority ignores" (Malhotra & Rowe, 2013, p. 10). I share my schizoaffective stories to colonize sound-minded psychic s/States with my psychoticism, to infect normals with this 'brainsickness' that the greater sane body politic has, in part, infected me with. This autosomatography is comprised of a series of gritty, subversive stories which challenge the hegemony of saneness by privileging the frenetic ramblings of a 'raving mad' academic. This autosomatographic text is also intended to undermine 'regimes of truth' (LeFrançois et al., 2013), and recuperate my narrative(s) from the discursive structure of media sensationalism and pathologization. Lastly, this personal narrative is a non-pharmacological stratagem for shoring up stocks of individual resilience to prevent psychotic relapse (Costa et al., 2012; Russo & Beresford, 2015). Guiding my autosomatography is the following singular question: how has slasher-cinema and subjective camera angle theory been instructive in teaching me about my madness and alter?

When I was twenty-two my mental health was inscribed by two psychiatrists as schizophrenia, and later rebaptized as schizoaffective disorder by a third when I was thirty. Schizoaffective disorder is a complicated condition to diagnose and treat (Ayd, 2000). The diagnostic criterion for this disorder is outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). Schizoaffective disorder follows the same prescriptions used in diagnosing manic, mixed moods (in bipolar disorder), depressed, and schizophrenic states (Ayd, 2000). Schizoaffective sufferers experience uninterrupted manic and or major depressive episodes, or mixed episodes while embattled by hallucinations, delusions, or disorganized speech or thinking (Ayd, 2000).

This schizoaffective storying contextualizes my psychosis, the alter which it birthed, and my once-desired return to sane normalcy. Forthwith disclosing my psychic status and stepping out from my 'mental closet' (Noble, 2005) has been a tiring attempt at being authentically mad. Many of my disclosures to date have divulged the bipolar side of the schizoaffective spectrum (Procknow & Rocco, 2016). Shame and fear have made me conceal my schizo-symptomologies. Mentalism (the belief in my own psychic inferiority) (Chamberlin, 1990) hindered my help-seeking from the age of fourteen to twenty-two, and had me keeping my 'schizo' woes secreted for the next nine years from family and friends.

The pathogenesis of my psychiatric illness coincided with my sexual maturation. Around the time I reached puberty I withered into an existential depression, a darkness that still subsists today. My normal world had become 'Otherworldly'. My first psychotic break followed closely my first depressive episode, birthing an audible, hallucinatory, male alter. I refer to this hallucination as my 'alter' or my psychotic 'Other'. He is a command hallucination (auditory). Command hallucinations instruct bearers to grimace, attack others, self-harm, commit suicide or homicide (Ayd, 2000). During the first year he appealed to my squeaky vocularity and pimply-faced exterior. His voice was more masculine: aural, external, and within hearing range. As the days turned into months we grew close. For reasons unknown, he later turned on me. He began to sever the vitals of my sanity by flaying and eating away at the raw meat of my neural matter. He harangued me to self-harm, gestured me to leap from buildings I ambled by, and screamed 'Jump!' when cars, trucks, or subways careened passed me. His psychotic posturing worsened when in the company of sound minds. Eventually, his psychoticism blistered through my psychic field and began dismantling the physical. He inscribed me a dejected, weak, and unhealthy exterior. I spent my entire youth snorting a sundry of substances that only masked my outward symptoms.

That self-medicated mask made me appear sane and normal to those who chalked my madness to substance abuse rather than to onset schizoaffective disorder. His sway over my subconscious shifted my mind off-kilter. I experienced anxiety over this loss of sanity and desperately scrambled for wholeness and stability. When substances failed to drive him away, or were found wanting, I turned to the slasher subgenre of horror, originally in an attempt to manufacture sane masks. Shortly thereafter, I started to infer more about my condition through slasher screenscapes.

This autosomatographic vignette of learning insaneness through slasher films focuses on snapshots of isolated moments that have emerged as narratable. Moreover, an epistemological pluralism comes into play here, where the knowledge(s) of my conscious 'self,' unconscious 'alter,' and the diegetic 'madman' converge.

The murderer's scopic gaze has informed my own knowledge construction about schizo-states. I do not assume the scopophilic drive as a device for cinematic pleasure, and to intrude upon the privacy of "others from his/her hidden position in darkness" (Giles, 2004, p. 39). I use this scopophilic lens to interrogate the sane body politic's synthetic sanity and the madman's illness. This drive is reserved for making meaning out of mental illness through the slashers' scopic field, psychoses, and their violent encounters with sound society.

Resisting Sane Normativity

Slasher cinema subtexts are a psychoanalytic, socio-cultural lens through which I make sense of the madness that my psychotic 'Other' perpetrated. In the proceeding sections, I will lead the reader on a journey of five progressive, non-linear states of being/knowing in relation to the slasher subgenre of horror. The autosomatography starts with a story of how my alter had influenced me to distrust sanity, and jaundiced my view of saneness. Next, I detail the fears I had of psychiatry that had led me to stave off disclosure and resist psychiatrization. More specifically, I was fearful that institutionalization would make me maniacally violent. Then, I ruminate over how slasher cinema can bring understandings of varied, ruptured polyphonic strands to bear on reflections of alterity, such as the voice that my alter assumed, and how he mapped madness exterritorialy on my mirrored reflection (rupturing outward). In the fifth and final section, I conclude that there is no return to sane normality, or sane normalcy, and how this conclusion has led me to accept the permanence of my mad state of mind. Overall, the paper would appear to suggest schizoaffective disorder as fractured and comprised of non-linear polyphonic branches (or expositions) of experiences. Each exposition serves as an informative standalone section. However, when these non-aligned threads are knitted neatly together into a patchwork it will, I hope, give readers a fuller account of my life with schizoaffective disorder.

In the figuration of the diegetic monster "it has also become possible for…[us to] pay just as much attention to the figuration of 'normality'" (Urbano, 1998, n. p). The mise-en-scene screens 'normality' as a hodgepodge of boring, middle-class (Nowell, 2012), sane complacent, attractive, "young beneficiaries…[of] oppressive class structures that shaped social inequality in Eighties America" (Nowell, 2012, p. 96). Slasher films cast their target demographic into the diegesis "or, at least,…their mythical ideal" (Dika, 1990, p. 59). My madness was confluent and inseparable with poverty and a history of criminality. To see saneness normalized as being privileged and part of a middle-upper class upbringing stirred my alter into a frenzied disdain for sanity. He commanded that we terrorize 'sound' spaces, smash their strata of sane normativity, and disrupt normality in ways that press these spaces to be more inclusive of u/Us. (Note: 'We' or 'us' is used to mark a moment when he and I agreed). His angst remonstrated against these paragons of saneness and their neurotypicality. His psychoticism shone through with instructions to strike at, or attack, ostensibly normal, middle-upper class citizens, or to shield myself from their distrusting, fixed stares. We (the alter, slasher, and I) exist ontologically in disparate spheres from the ordinary, sane normative world. We witness their world spinning around us through schizoaffective spectacles. The mentally well embody par excellence that which we cannot be. We found common ground in this slasher subgenre, i.e. to dispatch the sane and normal, so that us abnormal could become the new norm.

In the subgenre "the way other characters [were] presented to us [was] thoroughly colored by [the killers'] own responses to them" (Knight & McKnight, 2003, p. 219). Audiences then "begin to feel the sort of disdain for its other characters that [the slasher] feels" (Knight & McKnight, 2003, p. 219). Slasher films desensitized me to saneness. As saneness seemed ungraspable, sound-minded s/States became the 'Othered.' Did this subgenre insulate me from the "horror of something painfully real?" (Solomon, 2003, p. 251). The painfully real, as he had convinced me, was sane normality. I came to denounce able-mindedness, and equated it as exclusionary and unrelentingly oppressive. He wallowed in the slasher's patently 'insane' angst against the sane body politic. Apart from the fictional, he implanted in my mind's eye delusory spectacles of their torn flesh mirroring the mise-en-scenic motto "where anyone [was] a potential victim" (Freeland, 2003, p. 209). Through their Othering, the mask I've fashioned has become suspicious and prejudicial of the sane.

In the slasher film, derangement of mind is misleading and implied rather than narratively shown. For instance, when first-person accounting is scripted as distorted (a narrative conceit), their narration of reality is not a true accounting of himself or his actions (Knight & McKnight, 2003). My alter's anti-sane stance disrupted my day-to-day dealings with familiars. His shouts and howls suffused and resounded throughout my mental space, drowning out neurotypical voices. He chimed in with a maligned, violent spin on their spoken version by introjecting a false narrative which altered their intent. He had me believing they were out to get me. My own accounting of these 'alt-realities' he rendered epistemically unreliable. He fed me discursive falsities to make me appear less reliable when I responded to questions normates never asked. The diegetic mind can be scripted and nondescript, where contrarily mine was off-script and descriptive. As my illness relates to film, viewers with damaged minds are better able to discern which narrative elements are epistemically reliable, given our relatable knowledge(s) (Knight & McKnight, 2003).

Resisting Psychiatrization

Slasher films assume the 'psychiatric gaze,' i.e. a "camera's critical stance toward psychiatry and psychiatrists" (Donaldson, 2005, p. 32). Psychiatry threatens my mental difference and, in many ways, the existence of celluloid psychopaths. Although psychiatrists are positioned to treat the 'mentally ill,' they end up reinforcing "the very abnormality of those they want to help" (Stein, 1980, p. 636). I saw on screen how the fictional psychiatric firmament was as complicit in manufacturing madness as was biological or traumatic etiology. Psychiatry officiated mad s/States by unleashing them in order to name them (Foucault, 1994). The psychiatric gaze is blatantly obvious in Trauma (1993). Adriana Petrescu blames psychiatry for morphing her hysteria into psychosis. Petrescu was involuntarily placed in a madhouse that "[metaphorically] chops off heads and constructs docile, consuming bodies" (Badley, 2002, n. p.). It is where she fell victim to the domineering gaze, speculum, and scalpel of neuroscientists. She became a "product of the clinic in the Foucauldian sense" (Badley, 2002, n. p.). She thereafter avenges the loss of her sanity, and assails the psy-professionals complicit in her psychiatric assault by using a luggable, makeshift garrote device to chop their literal heads off.

I was afraid of being dumped at the doorstep of the asylum where psy-scientists would slash-and-burn all subconscious terrain where my abnormal alter had never invaded. I dreaded that the asylum would officiate and mediate the alter from his nether position in my mind to the forefront, surfacing it, unleashing it. I refused to be churned out of the madhouse even madder than I had been upon entering it. The screened 'madman' struggled to retain semblances of his pre-psychiatrized 'Self,' the person he was before first entering into it. I was terrified of being scurried off, straight-jacketed, and placed into padded accommodations. I feared that such a psychiatric assault would provoke him into permanent, psychopathic existence. I thought about how I would escape this 'regime' and its violence, and worried about what motives they would ascribe to my flight. Would they think that my alter had colonized what was left of my sanity?

Patients fleeing the psychiatric apparatus are equated in this subgenre as aesthetically violent and dangerous. So it was with Michael Myers from the Halloween franchise, who fled Smith Grove's sanitarium and set upon a killing spree. I believed that escaping the asylum would have branded me violent and non-compliant. I feared that being tarred a 'lunatic' would send me spiraling further into psychopathy, that my alter would bleed into the physical and I would become the cinematic pathological insane type. Therefore, I asked: could I be trusted within healthful hegemonic structures without attempting to threaten or disrupt them? Would I retaliate against those attempting to capture and restore me to the asylum? Slashers would much rather spill blood and respond with violence when threatened with re-institutionalization. They will resort to any gradation of bloodshed to evade further psychiatric assault. Take ex-patient Evelyn Chambers in the psycho-biddy classic Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1986), who overhears her daughter's prayers when genuflecting to a makeshift shrine honoring her deceased father: "Daddy, got to talk to you its mommy she's getting sick again. I think she needs to go back to the hospital. She told me if I ever mention it again she was going to get me." The mere mention of re-hospitalization stokes Evelyn into a frenzy. Evelyn retrieves and swings a sickle aimlessly about the room, dismantling the shrine with one roundabout motion, and ending with the curvature blade piercing her daughter's neck.

I dreaded that the inner workings of my mind gone 'mad' would be deftly silenced. I believed psy-scientists would laden my truths with lunacy and doubt that my hallucinatory 'Other' was capable of non-violently co-occupying sane space. Epistemic warfare would be waged against my truths. Many slashers deploy this epistemic device. For example, Cynthia in Bad Dreams (1988) awakens from a thirteen-year-long trauma-induced coma. Psychiatrists deny the verity of her truths. Her psychiatrists knew her illness was non-existent, but yet concealed this fact from their charge and instead harbored a sinister, ulterior motive. I worried that psychiatrists would presuppose that I was non-sensible enough to deny my alter criminality and deter his threat to hegemonic saneness. In most slasher films "the killer [can] be in the victim's space [and] choose[s] not to attack" (Dika, 1990, p. 22). I learned that, I, like the diegetic slasher, can swap in and out of (ab)normalcy and contain my psychopathology when brushing shoulders with normates. This will continue to be the case as long as I continue to deny him physicality, and not allowing the fictional and representational to boil over off screen into reality.

My Alter's Voice as a Polyphonic Strand

Voice identification within this subgenre can be narrative subterfuge. The 'maniac's' voice can cause confusion and rupture the borders of subjective/objective and interior/exterior (Erb, 2006). Psychotics in New Year's Evil (1980) (use a voice box), the New York Ripper (1982) (deploys Donald Duck's quackery), and A Blade in the Dark (1983) (assumes a high-pitched female's voice) are given a secondary voice to use during their assaults. In each of these films the murderer's dominant voice and center of vocular identification is concealed, in turn masking their identity. In Psycho (1960), Norman's deceased mother vied for vocularity while Norman struggled to retain his own. Since Norman is himself and his mother, his vocularity vacillates between the two: the real and the deceitful. The 'deceitful' secondary voice "spread[s] psychotic effect from one character to another" (Erb, 2006, p. 56). A person with a history of alterity can evince polyphony when they have two or more voices (Walker, 2011). Polyphonic voices are naturally non-linear. However, in mental illness linearity is possible (Walker, 2011), that all selves can coexist and be linearly stable along the same spectrum of alterity harmoniously rather than discrete and autonomous selves, shorn of co-consciousness (Walker, 2011).

In A Blade in the Dark (1983) spectators can't see the face of Linda. Linda is Tony Rendina's feminized alter personae (both acted by Michele Soavi). We are unable to discern whether Tony's vocular rage "is an instance of external sound" (Tony speaks aloud as Linda and for himself), or as an internal sound (or do both voices only linearly exist in Tony's mind) (Erb, 2006, p. 56). The vacillation between the inside and outside gave me thought about my audible alter and whether his aural, monotonic voice was an instance of internal vocalization. Or, perhaps, had the inside ruptured into the outside? Secondary vocularity granted me a glimpse into the maniac's interiority, and, subsequently, a glimpse into my own. My conscious narrative never cedes whole, unitary vocular control to him or his nonsense. His intelligibility I've relegated to accessory status. His vocularity resides in the inside, and as long as I stay stalwart in denying him externality, his threats remain interiorized.

My alter's voice is more than a frayed, polyphonic strand, but rather an authoritarian personality that cuckolds my sanity. Diegetic 'maniacs' "incorporate the personality of an authoritarian into their psyche" (Robinson, 2012, p. 39). They don't know that their "own mind…is actually creating the alter ego" (Robinson, 2012, p. 39). When realizing that my alter's auditory signatures were internal, I mapped his personality onto the onscreen monster. I surmised through these films that hallucinatory states inhabit and stalk the nether recesses of the subconscious. He was not some proximal, somatic manifestation trailing in my footsteps. Insanity is amorphous and a corpus without flesh. My body and mind, much the same as the diegetic madman, bear my flesh so that through the narrative of discovery my psychic viscera becomes readable. I believe my alter is a symbolic stand-in for a father figure to fill the vacuum of being born and raised fatherless. I embody aspects of his personality with short bursts of anger and frustration. Did my childhood of poverty in a single-parent home breed a latent anger within 'us' toward conventional mother-father coupling, where the regimes of sane normativity resembles that of heteronormativity?

Mapping on the Madman the (Un)known

The slasher subgenre arouses "in us a strong desire to know something unknowable" (Freeland, 2003, p. 204). In slasher films split, cracked, or shattered specular surfaces are narrative devices that designate a character's mental state as undergoing psychosis (Goodwin, 2014). When maniacs stare in a split, shattered mirror their mental Otherness and monster-like qualities are accented and return the gaze (Goodwin, 2014). The splintered mirror symbolism helped me understand how my alter frames and projects a fragmented me. When I glance at myself in the mirror, the mirrored, besotted 'Other' gazing back isn't real. I learned early through slasher consumption that my mirrored projection and my mind's projection were two disparate events (or entities). My psychoses halved my face as (un)masked. In the mirrored image 'known' and 'unknown' geographies were mapped. This narrative element is regarded as a 'doubling motif.' The "motif of the mirror image or double" often symbolizes the slasher's conflicted psychology (Knight & McKnight, 2003, p. 219). My left-side was the 'known': the 'known' that still wished for invisibility. This schism imprinted on the right half of my face the fragmented visage of the 'unknown.' This 'unknown' my deluded alter staked claim to. He mutinied with his voice, howling for wholeness. The 'unknowable' was a delusional construct he created to invert the well-trodden psychic/physical dyad. The unknowable side I read as part-fiend/friend, dead pan and expressionless. My right eye drooped, appeared heavy and lazy. Only I could gaze upon him. Both the 'known' and 'unknown' were constantly infighting and had to mediate facial congruity when in sane company. For instance, an entire year passed when I could only comfortably smile, laugh, and speak through a slightly ajar left side of my mouth. My alter framed the 'unknown' mirrored facade as a projection, "revealed to be false, or at least not always accurate" (Donaldson, 2005, p. 42). The camera here restored to me "what the [diegetic] schizophrenic subject [had] threaten[ed] to destroy: reliable perception" (Donaldson, 2005, p. 43).

Audiences tend to be less interested in the slasher's "abnormal psychologies." Rather, they revel in the slasher's sheer outer ugliness that makes readily apparent any "internal workings of [their] anguished self" (Schneider, 2003, p. 175). The 'reel' of my psychic 'horror show' did not need to unspool in the stares of able-minded audiences. My alter, I knew, did not need flesh, only fleshing out. I learned through these films that my accessible outward appearance does not have to be associated with the grotesquery that lays within.

There is no return to Sane Normalcy or Sane Normality

Sane normalcy and normality are nuanced, and refer to two dissimilar relapse events. Once one is psychiatrized for them, to fall back to a non-mad state is a myth (Erb, 2006). Or, I surmise an earlier state to mean 'sane normalcy.' Madness is a fixed ontological condition. Our disturbed minds can never be completely eradicated. On the obverse, sane protagonists seek the restoration of time and space back to their heydays of 'sane normality' (Goodwin, 2014). When characters of sound mind organize and militate against madmen, they strive to restore time to an idealized past. I surmise such heydays as 'sane normality' (Robinson, 2012).

When my deviance is reified in popular cultural artifacts as an aberration of the norm, I'm reminded of how insurmountable restoring sane normalcy is. This constitutes an assault on my dissimilar state(s) of 'Being.' Having begrimed my mad authenticity for so many years to fit into the healthy-minded millwork to no avail, I, instead, accepted my schizoaffective disorder and altered states as authentic states of knowing and 'Being' in the world. I had shed my aspirations of sane normalcy. I began to intimately engage in piecemeal mad disclosures to normalize my psychoses. I repositioned my mental maelstrom as a human variation worthy of embrace. The more I attempted to shake my psychic tree of its traumatic or biological etiology, the less of an advocacy identity I took on to help myself and 'Others' with schizo-diagnoses.

In order to normalize schizoaffective disorder, I came to trust two realities: that the schizoaffective condition is relatively constant and permanent; and, I need to repose confidence and trust into my symptomologies - their validity, appearance (aural, yet externally non-existent), and regularity (substance abuse, sleep deprivation). I had to cede that these symptoms were innocuous. For example, when my alter ekes back into short interludes of existence I know to ready myself for instructions to self-harm, and for a verbal onslaught of sane 'Othering.' Medications only mask my interiority and will never dispose the undesirable within it. Learning to live with psychiatric disease as an infinite condition, and calibrating the correct dosage of medication has augured well for me. I accept that these injunctions won't necessarily bode well for all schizoaffective sufferers. I do envisage myself as a pro-consumer who has accepted a sick role, passivity, and a certain degree of docility as a service user.

On a final note, I gained subjectivity of my condition through abjection (Jerslev, 1994). My alter's angst (e.g. anti-saneness) had taken on the contours of the irrepressible horror riven within 'Self' (Jerslev, 1994). By psychically distancing myself from his brimming angst I took up the process of 'abjection' (Kristeva, 1982). I had separated myself from his rage, and apportioned him to the outside, given him bodily boundaries (by locating his angst and anger in the slasher's own), and ascribed his violence as the abjured and 'abject' (Cowie, 2003). My alter's hatred was what I could not contain - the abject. The abject as a non-object confirmed myself as the Othered subject (Kristeva, 1982; Jerslev, 1994), where myself as 'Other' was constituted in terms of a sane(r) 'ego'. His hatred, the 'id', came to represent the monstrous within me, that I repressed (but could never destroy), and projected the abjected "outward in order to be hated and disowned" (Wood, 2004, p. 111). Undergoing abjection, I took my alter's rage (object-now reviled abject) and decried it as detestable as a "way of creating difference" (Jerslev, 1994, p. 20). When I wedged myself from t/his 'difference' it marked the beginning of my subjectivity, where 'I' was being born, and subjectivity was constituted (Jerslev, 1994). Through abjection and acknowledging my alter's angst as the detested, I sourced the subjectivity needed to unpack meaning and make sense of his disembodied rage. Through subjective recovery I was better able to make sense of his interior position. Aided by medication and mindfulness he remains, most days, repressed in abeyance. We cannot exist linearly, for his irrepressible psycho-social instability can only be silenced by suppressing his entire being.

Final Thoughts

The corpus of slasher films are arguably educative and performative texts that have granted me a smattering of glances into the fictional alterity of diegetic psychopaths and the plastic sanities of the presumptuous, prototypical survivors. 'Maniacs' lacking mens rea helped to create fictive visuals through which my alter vicariously enacted his own anti-sane prejudices and violence.

Cineaste critics that lambast auteurs use of subjective camera angles to shoehorn spectators into adopting a killer's gaze are complicit in reifying epistemic injustices against 'reel' and 'real' mad citizens (Worland, 2006). Our poignantly felt experiences of loss of sanity are suffocated. Our motives behind inflicting insane rage are ignored and inscribed little, if any, justifiable significance (Harper, 2005). If normates could suffer the killer's trauma from their perspective this, I posit, would shatter the 'regimes of truth' that vitiate the epistemic value of our subjectivities. If the scopic lens were contrived to return voice to the disabled, queer bodied, or people of color, cineastes would, without peradventure, praise this as hinting progressive subtexts (Harper, 2005; 2008).

Admittedly, my autosomatography took on a noir-like first person narration - a less sanitized version than academic audiences are accustomed to. I comment herein only on the sickness I share with the all-too-human diegetic killer. I intimate inside knowledge of the 'outsider's' subject matter. As a subject matter spectator, I have epistemological and social resonance with the focalizer's repressed aspects as someone struggling with similar schizo-symptomologies. The slasher's scripts have also become my own.

Conceivably, the slasher subgenre may psychically damage some sufferers of schizoaffective disorder, who similarly may attempt to make meaning about their psychosocial disability from this subgenre's subtexts. Damage can be incurred in two ways: firstly, rather than focusing on the multidimensionality (and trials) of living with this alterity, mentally ill spectators might internalize themselves as despicable, unidimensional 'Others.' This unidimensionality is stereotypical of 'schizo' slashers (Harper, 2005). This may result in developing, as I once had, an unsettling paranoia and anxiety about harming others. I assuaged these anxieties by asking myself what motivates the 'madman' to kill in the first place? This required a radical rethinking of diegetic victim dynamics. I began to contemplate the madman's motives. To do this I invoked and inverted Wood's (1979) theory that the 'monster threatens normality,' to instead suggesting that 'normality threatens the monster.' I began considering that the filmic maniac was, in part, the reel/real victim, fighting against sanism (the mental Othering of psychiatrized people) (Perlin, 2008) and psychiatric oppression. Perhaps the violence they enact is a subversive protest against sociopolitical suppression (Harper, 2005), sane supremacy, and "trying to right the wrongs that were done to [them]" (Robinson, 2012, p. 117). Rendering the madman into a figure worthy of humanization I consider to be my earliest entryway into Mad activism. By putting a human face on the celluloid mad subject it makes a case for slotting slasher films into Mad culture.

Secondly, I believe that some viewers, whilst using slasher films as a template to make sense of their own lunacy may encounter 'sane dysphoria,' where, the mentally unwell consume and idolize screenscapes of saneness, strive for sanity, and when realizing they cannot be sane suffer generalized malaise. Slasher films can desensitize psychiatrized viewers to 'scapes' of saneness and the sane supremacy the sane perpetuate in the same way that non-White viewers turn to Hollywood motion pictures to glean more about whiteness and white privilege (Shome, 1996).

I consume slasher films as a means of suppressing my alter's rage, not the alter itself. Firstly, I learned that psychiatry is only one way of containing hallucinations, and can never necessarily phase them out. Secondly, every film is a dual or double-viewing. My lucid, conscious 'Self' sees this subgenre for its saneness and envies it. Even though my psychotic 'Other' eschews screenscapes of saneness, these envies and detestations seldom clash or confront one another. He is complacent in his insanity. My ego conscious side of 'Self' learned insaneness to understand more about my alter, and how sane society organizes to subdue psychotic breaks from the mean. Since madness glossed over my veneer of human normality, I sought a reprisal, or a resurgence of innocence when I was comforted by and shrouded in sanity. In other words, a return to sane normalcy. This return is unlikely, and I know this. Instead, I began to challenge my mental models about saneness, and concluded that sanity was not right for me. I reprogrammed my ingrained models to accept 'insaneness' as my correct psychic s/State, ceded to treatment, and accepted the realities of my schizoaffective states. Sanity is far from sacred. I've come to understand that sanity is as much an absurd farce as insanity.

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