Mr. Brooks (2007 Film)

Mr. Earl Brooks is a wealthy, intelligent, well-respected family man who is addicted to killing strangers. He craves the almost sexual rush he feels from committing acts of murder. Although he is usually meticulous in post-I-just-shot-people-dead-in-their-homes-and-need-to-clean-up-the-blood-stains maintenance, one fateful night, the experienced executioner is surprised to realize that his victims’ curtains were open.

The character’s disposition and hobby force viewers to question: what if a killer lives amongst us? What if the monster is indistinct and unrecognizable from the other members of society?

The fear we receive is rooted in the knowledge of this possibility: the monster need not have fangs or an elongated green face with warts, or even a mummified, ghostly appearance. Because of this knowledge, and because of the use of at least three other conventions, this movie is a suitable example of the horror genre.

So, yes, I wrote this because the trends in horror films are interesting and because I’m too terrified to watch something like The Exorcist.

 

Horror films are focused on the visual image of the repressed. To ignore feelings of fear, anger, sadness or violation, these troubled emotions eventually return with a vengeance. Mr. Brooks has an alter-ego, a repressed figment of his imagination named Marshall, whom only he can see. Marshall urges, perhaps even justifies, Mr. Brooks’ homicidal impulses and asks, “Why do you fight it so hard?”. He explains that it is natural for Mr. Brooks to be the killer he is, for the true terror is that identity is permeable and changeable.

Identity is the stabilization of subjectivity, yet as a result of modernity, there is an uneasy stabilization. The concept of personality, then, relies on the ability to control the otherwise random energy of a modern world. Each person is dealt experiential cards upon which to construct his personality under crisis. Therefore, if Brooks does not kill when the experience arises, how will he forge his identity? How will he know who he really is?

Mr. Brooks does, however, seem to be a man who has properly adjusted to the heightened demands of modernity. In a modern world, there is an increase in the work that is necessary for the enjoyment of what was once easier—real estate, education, interest rates—everything is more. Although Mr. Brooks is a successful businessman, who can afford life’s luxuries and theoretically get relief from modernity, he still has the impulse to kill. He has the money, which should make him feel better about himself and has the ability to consume that which will define him in terms of his objects, but he is not satiated without murder. When you are not satisfied, modernity instructs that one must simply try harder. So, what are the implications of this when one is already well accomplished? Mr. Brooks believes in the myths—that things are progressing toward a time in which he will be satisfied; he diligently works to be the revered society man, but he can never truly be satisfied and will always want more. This is precisely why he kills.

The problem with this analysis alone is the suggestion that his daughter may have acquired his “sickness”. It is alternatively possible that the impulse to murder is genetic, rather than an overlying consequence of modernity? At the end of the movie, Brooks attempts to free himself from the need to kill, but that irrepressible need is re-inscribed and reinforced in his daughter.

It is arguably not a likened DNA which leads the daughter to kill, but perhaps it is her want to compensate for her feelings of substitutability and anonymity. She is disillusioned with the idea that the wheels of modernity make it so that each person has a more difficult time entering the workplace and engaging in the economy in an efficient manner. It would be a much harder task for her to thrive in the same way as the previous generation and mimic the success of her father. The true monster, then, is the degree to which we no longer have control over our economy.

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