Gothic Bingo; or, an Exercise in Fear

28 October 2022
By Elena Cebulash, Sophia Heidebrecht, and Andriana Taratsas

Ah, Halloween. The one time of the year when you can get your fellow edz to watch a horror movie despite their wimp-adjacent personalities. (The Warwick Castle Haunted Dungeon was suitable for ages 10 and up, ELENA.) It was time to take a break from helping roommates sew a nun costume (how fitting) and make things scary — in a literary way. It was time for a round of Gothic Bingo.

male gothic
female gothic

We won’t pretend that we unearthed Gothic Bingo amidst the ruins of an abandoned castle. Instead, it was invented by a certain editor/roommate duo as a way of intellectualizing the horror movies which they wanted an excuse to watch. If we’re honest, the details of the origin story have become a bit blurry — we think Google Scholar was used at one point — but somehow the following document was created. Feel free to print it out and play along.

Now, obviously the language of “Male” and “Female” Gothic is a bit silly — most films (or books, for that matter) don’t fit neatly into either. But it’s still a lot of fun! (Especially with movies that aren’t even trying to be literary — if anyone plays while watching a slasher, let us know how it goes.) For example, The Boy (2016) follows the generic conventions of the Female Gothic surprisingly well. Is it a good movie? Not particularly. Would we recommend it? Not particularly. But we did get bingo! (Oops. Was that a spoiler?)

So armed with our silly little bingo sheets and our critical thinking skills, we each headed off to take on a movie. First, though, we had to decide what to watch — and who better to ask for recommendations than Professor Jessica Leiman, Laird’s resident expert on the Gothic? Admittedly, Jessica’s not much of a horror nut. But she did have some suggestions for us, including the French adaptation of Matthew Lewis’ The Monk, which horrified both Andriana and Sophia. Naturally, Elena, who had never experienced the horrors of the novel, had to watch that one. Meanwhile, Sophia took Jessica’s alternative suggestion El Orfanato, while Andriana went rogue and chose (her) fan favorite, Stree.

The Monk

How scary was this movie? On a scale of hot virgin to scary millipede, this movie was stormy weather monk-sex. 

You have a paper on this movie due tomorrow. What’s the title? May I have an extension?

As may be evident from the game played above, I went through a lot watching this movie. I saw so much that I can never unsee, and it would be too traumatizing to return and review this film for you. TL;DR: here are the live tweets.

  • 3:25 I’ve already checked off 6 squares
  • 9:48 This is a really good movie, I like it!
  • 11:47 Scene by Candlelight and a hot virgin fainting?? I only need Horror over Terror to win and I don’t even know what that means!
  • 13:02 I’m attracted to everyone in this movie right now
  • 6:15 Cryptic Dream! Cryptic Dream!
  • 16:21 Scary Mask Aughjfejhajfha! 
  • 20:16 Still horrified by this mask
  • 23:02 Secret note fell from pocket… pregnant nun!
  • 26:00 This movie has incredible fits
  • 30:08 What does Sublime mean???
  • 31:40 Does a slutty nun count as Sexy Woman (Evil)?
  • 32:33 Does a scary nun count as  Sexy Woman (Evil)?
  • 34:21 Slay cinematography
  • 40:00 Ambrosio is like sooo pious (swoon)
  • 41:08 Valerio’s voice is a bit feminine ngl
  • 41:50 Totally a woman
  • 41:58 Easy. 
  • 43:42 Scary bug!! Bug is Satan?!?!
  • 45:37 That mask never gets okay…
  • 47:27 I will not be recounting what I’ve just gone through, but I’ll say: poison sucking -> millipede flashbacks -> full frontal??
  • 51:08 Sentencing a pregnant nun to death feels very un-pro-life of the Catholic Church but everyone knows the parties switched platform
  • 55:30 Hole to hell??
  • 56:10 um. Ghosts Are Real
  • 56:46 I think I love this movie.
  • 57:31 The monks are having sex- pan to Jesus on the cross- foggy scary mask, sex noises AND
  • stormy weather? 
  • 58:37 I didn’t look up Sublime, but somehow I know this is it.
  • 1:00:00 I’m declaring Horror over Terror. Why? Because.
  • 1:03:21 omg omg omg dream becoming real! Sexy virgin!
  • 1:16:07 Okay, I’m bored. Where is the murder??
  • 1:26:06 Incest! Theatrical Incest!
  • 1:27:05 Ew, a penis.
  • 1:30:19 I am obsessed with this movie
  • 1:33:14 Satan! Satan in a fur coat!
  • 1:36:00 Movie is over. I declare it safely gothic and wildly male.
The Monk Gothic Bingo
Elena’s Male Gothic bingo board. . .

El Orfanato

How scary was this movie? On the one hand, there were some pretty goofy sound effects. On the other hand, I’m terrified of children. I give it a 5 scary children out of 10.

You have a paper on this movie due tomorrow. What’s the title? Accordions and AIDS: The terror of motherhood in El Orfanato

The film I chose was perhaps a more modern take on the gothic. El Orfanato (2007) tells the story of a woman named Laura, who takes her husband and adopted son back to live at the former orphanage where she grew up. What could go wrong? Enough to almost get bingo. Twice.

Like most modern takes on the Gothic, El Orfanato picks and chooses which elements of the genre it includes. The film feels like the Female Gothic all grown up — it’s less about marriage, and more about motherhood. I didn’t get to cross off “Creepy Old Man,” but there was a Creepy Old Woman who wasn’t a nun, but she was a social worker, which seems close enough. As for “Male Aggressor,” I was debating with myself — would a child count? Speaking of children, one scene in particular seems suspiciously reminiscent of one involving Agnes from The Monk. Let’s just say I might have to add a square about dead children to the bingo sheet next time. It also had a weird amount of extra-diegetic accordion music — I certainly don’t remember that part in The Italian

sophia bingo pt 1
sophia bingo pt 2
gothic william
Sophia’s watch buddy


How scary was this movie? I mean. . . it’s about a ghost. But she’s a lusty ghost. The scariest part is how hard she has to work to get a date. Yeesh. 4/10.

You have a paper on this movie due tomorrow. What’s the title? Horny to Death: Celebrating Female Sexuality in Stree

I chose to (re)watch Stree, a 2018 comedy-horror film that is my go-to date night movie with my boyfriend who is “tired of it.” Stree is about an absolute GhostBoss who is eternally lusty after being murdered on her wedding night. Every year, she haunts the town during its four-day festival and kidnaps unsuspecting men for Mommy/Daddy time, leaving only their clothes behind. All of this could change, however, when a mysterious woman appears in the life of main man Vicky.

While Stree checks off a number of boxes for the Female Gothic, it leans toward the Male Gothic. First off, the trinity of a male director, protagonist, and screenwriters (boooooo) are three points for the Male Gothic. The connection between sex and death is also characteristic of the Male Gothic, albeit a reversal of the traditional relationship (sex-then-death becomes death-then-sex for our spectral Stree). Finally, the creepy factor comes off as more Male than Female Gothic, featuring a real ghost, as well as horror rather than terror.

Still, I must admit just how *refreshing* Stree is for the unfiltered female sexuality and reversal of the male gaze. I mean, come on. We see a woman — admittedly a dead one — asserting her sexuality in a very bold way. And she isn’t entirely the villain! There is even room for sympathy! No, she doesn’t end up with a PFWB (possessed friends with benefits) relationship. But she is a strong 19th-century(?) woman! She doesn’t need a man. An absolute icon.

Stree Bingo
female stree 2

In the end. . .

All of us English majors chose films that weren’t in English, funny enough. Apparently we decided it was time to brush up on our French, Spanish, and Hindi. But maybe, just maybe, as Jessica so cleverly pointed out to us, that was the most Gothic of all. Filter the story through subtitles, pretend it’s from a hundred years ago, move it to Spain (or India), and suddenly we can displace the fear. (And *maybe* sleep a little better at night.)

For now, though, it’s time to get back to making this nun costume. Too bad it’s not a monk costume. Mwahahahahaha.


  • 2022-10-29 17:42:15

    I would like to argue in favor of The Boy! It may not necessarily be "the best," but as far as 2010s horror movies go, it is a decently told story with not too many jump scares that I found particularly fun. On the other hand, The Boy 2 should be erased from cinematic history.

    • 2022-11-07 17:19:53
      Replying to Hannah

      I too would like to argue in defense of The Boy! It was incredibly spooky for me when I watched it at 15 years of age and I in know way predicted the twist! I was far too distracted on anything other than the pretty woman from The Walking Dead, and how she was acting in something other than The Walking Dead, where I thought she lived?

  • 2022-10-31 17:32:30

    Delightful. Love it when sublime ✨🌳🥰😇.

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