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Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film

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Do the pleasures of horror movies really begin and end in sadism? So the public discussion of film assumes, and so film theory claims. Carol Clover argues, however, that these films work mainly to engage the viewer in the plight of the victim-hero, who suffers fright but rises to vanquish the forces of oppression.


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Do the pleasures of horror movies really begin and end in sadism? So the public discussion of film assumes, and so film theory claims. Carol Clover argues, however, that these films work mainly to engage the viewer in the plight of the victim-hero, who suffers fright but rises to vanquish the forces of oppression.

30 review for Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dirk

    If you see only one movie this year, read this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lauryl

    Okay, so at the moment, I'm actually halfway through it, but I'm enjoying it immensely, not least because it combines my love of horror movies with my love of analyzing the crap out of everything for its feminist implications. The writing is crisp and succinct and a bit less dry than reading, say, Laura Mulvey, but still dense with ideas and academic enough to satisfy the snob in me. Not too facile, I guess is what I mean to say. I also enjoy Clover's willingness to ask more questions than she h Okay, so at the moment, I'm actually halfway through it, but I'm enjoying it immensely, not least because it combines my love of horror movies with my love of analyzing the crap out of everything for its feminist implications. The writing is crisp and succinct and a bit less dry than reading, say, Laura Mulvey, but still dense with ideas and academic enough to satisfy the snob in me. Not too facile, I guess is what I mean to say. I also enjoy Clover's willingness to ask more questions than she has answers for. She's clearly interested in mining the material for what's actually there rather than starting with an immovable thesis and tailoring her research and observations to fit.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anna (Bananas)

    This book is responsible for igniting my horror obsession. Various genres are covered (slasher, possession, haunting, revenge-I Spit On Your Grave gets a lot of attention), as well as films that influenced horror, like the Alien movies, Deliverance, and even The Accused. The "last girl" trope, male gaze, and other common elements are discussed, their place in the history of horror cinema, their origin and purpose. The book also delves into why we enjoy being frightened. Why are we so attracted to This book is responsible for igniting my horror obsession. Various genres are covered (slasher, possession, haunting, revenge-I Spit On Your Grave gets a lot of attention), as well as films that influenced horror, like the Alien movies, Deliverance, and even The Accused. The "last girl" trope, male gaze, and other common elements are discussed, their place in the history of horror cinema, their origin and purpose. The book also delves into why we enjoy being frightened. Why are we so attracted to stories about monsters, violence, murder, and rape? Because we're sickos? Sadists? There are other reasons. That primal rush you get from fear, for example. One criticism, perhaps unfair, is that the content is a bit dated, since this was published in 1992. For that reason, many excellent recent horror films are not covered. Time for an updated edition maybe?? On the flipside, all those classic horror movies you do get to read about are to die for. Sorry...I know, but I had to say it. Speaking of cheese, comedic horror gets mostly left out. No Army of Darkness? Evil Dead does get a mention, but I would argue that movie wasn't really trying to be funny. It just was. Men, Womem, and Chainsaws is a little too academic at times. It needs to have more fun! But for the most part I liked it. I was entertained, and I learned more about horror classics, especially those from the 70s and 80s.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Blake

    If, as their detractors would have it, horror films offer satisfaction of sadistic desires then they offer as much to the masochistic ones or more. Put pithily as it is, this is a crucial point from Clover that tears apart a prevailing view of horror. You are thereafter in possession of a fine thread and, though this book can at a cursory glance seem a haystack, it’s a worthwhile task to search for the needle: Clover does the sewing and leaves you with a tidy stitch. Though they will be familiar If, as their detractors would have it, horror films offer satisfaction of sadistic desires then they offer as much to the masochistic ones or more. Put pithily as it is, this is a crucial point from Clover that tears apart a prevailing view of horror. You are thereafter in possession of a fine thread and, though this book can at a cursory glance seem a haystack, it’s a worthwhile task to search for the needle: Clover does the sewing and leaves you with a tidy stitch. Though they will be familiar to the experienced horror audience by now, the author takes us through the tropes and traditions of horror films and from the commonalities of a broad survey we emerge with three separate subgenres that will be relevant to her treatment of gender: the slasher film, the possession film, and the rape-revenge film. Whilst Clover’s treatment of possession films is thoughtful and of rape-revenge films daring and refreshing, it’s her rescuing of the slasher film from the jaws of critics that is the heroic act here -or rather how she throws the film into the predicament of its own “final girl” and allows it to fend for itself. The devoted horror buff will probably enjoy Clover’s initial analysis of horror films for its own sake, but reaching past this there is something more significant on offer. For Clover, the horror audience is uniquely gender-neutral. Indeed, she commends it as a virtue of the horror approach that it reaches through gender brazenly and, though a point of no little contention, plucks out and holds in bare palms what later “serious” films will only attempt to do with thick gloves. Horror films manage to have a largely male audience identify with a female survivor; the viewer goes with her into the bad place, cheers on her escape and empathises with her suffering. Of course, it’s been quite a few years since Clover wrote this book and horror has undergone some interesting changes in the between time. The decline of slasher films, which the author laments here, would see a dramatic increase in the years following: Scream and its iconic self-awareness would be nearly as influential as Halloween was all those years ago, horror remakes would become a veritable class of their own (even Scream 4 is in on this), and documentary-styled shockers would bring a frightening clarity of realism to an otherwise mythic form.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stasi

    i think sometimes, pig blood is just pig blood. some things are just things, and not a sexual reference.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jessrawk

    This book struggles in part (I think) because the author has trouble truly embracing horror. She seems to feel the need to authenticate the horror films she discusses by aligning them with mainstream Hollywood movies. This wouldn't be as distracting if she did not go into such detail about these non-horror films. Unfortunately, she winds up making them the focus at many points, losing her readers. For example, she spends the better part of the third essay talking about Deliverance in explicit de This book struggles in part (I think) because the author has trouble truly embracing horror. She seems to feel the need to authenticate the horror films she discusses by aligning them with mainstream Hollywood movies. This wouldn't be as distracting if she did not go into such detail about these non-horror films. Unfortunately, she winds up making them the focus at many points, losing her readers. For example, she spends the better part of the third essay talking about Deliverance in explicit detail, while name-dropping other actual horror films with nary a description. She also has a bad habit of relying on the same few films throughout all four essays. Her heavy, heavy, heavy reliance on Freud is quite tiring & irritating by the end. The worst part, though, is when she tries to force a terrible connection between "Indians" [sic] and rapists/evil-doers. That moment was just atrocious. It wasn't all terrible, of course. She did provide us with the idea of the Final Girl, and there are other moments where she highlights quite intriguing ideas about horror films (her analysis of Peeping Tom is notable). If only she had fully embraced horror as horror & given up trying to authenticate it with its mainstream cousin.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carla Remy

    4/19 No, I didn't read this again, I just need to amend it. I recently saw this book on my shelf, and wanted to see what I said about it, so I brought up this review. Anyway, I have no idea what I meant by "I feel privileged, as an outsider." I guess that I'm not a film scholar and most of us don't care about these things? Yeah, that maybe makes sense . But such big (pretentious) words for such a confusing sentiment. 10/17 I like the writing of academic books and I love analysis of horror. There is 4/19 No, I didn't read this again, I just need to amend it. I recently saw this book on my shelf, and wanted to see what I said about it, so I brought up this review. Anyway, I have no idea what I meant by "I feel privileged, as an outsider." I guess that I'm not a film scholar and most of us don't care about these things? Yeah, that maybe makes sense . But such big (pretentious) words for such a confusing sentiment. 10/17 I like the writing of academic books and I love analysis of horror. There is though, an obsession with identification here (and often in these books), specifically gender identification. I feel privileged, as an outsider, to say: don't we all just identify with whoever we feel like when watching a movie? This book, from 1992, while being real film theory, is culturally notorious, for the first use of term Final Girl which took on a life of its own, especially in recent years ( I have seen it become much more popular). I enjoyed the introduction in this newer reprint, where Clover writes about the misinterpretation of the term. She was actually writing about identification (there Is a reason Final Girls are virgins with boy names, because boys Identify with them). It is a good term, though, for a real thing, and sometimes culture needs a phrase.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Constance

    Comprised of four essays on horror films, this book is a window not so much into the films of the era but into the ways film critics and academics watched and talked about films at that time. Two of the essays particularly interested me: one on the 1980s slasher craze (Clover coined the term "final girl," by the way) and one on rape/murder/revenge films of that era, specifically two movies I have not seen - Ms. 45 and I Spit on Your Grave - and one I have - Last House on the Left (based on Bergm Comprised of four essays on horror films, this book is a window not so much into the films of the era but into the ways film critics and academics watched and talked about films at that time. Two of the essays particularly interested me: one on the 1980s slasher craze (Clover coined the term "final girl," by the way) and one on rape/murder/revenge films of that era, specifically two movies I have not seen - Ms. 45 and I Spit on Your Grave - and one I have - Last House on the Left (based on Bergman's The Virgin Spring, which I've also seen). Clover seems to be one of the few critical apologists for these films in an era when Siskel and Ebert, and other less visible critics, were bashing them at length. If you are interested in film criticism or horror movies, give this a try. Be warned, though, it is highly academic in tone, not a light read. I don't agree with all of Clover's conclusions, but then I have the hindsight of almost three decades to look back at what these films accomplished... and, yeah, I do think they accomplished something. They certainly spoke to something people wanted to see, and I don't think it was women-in-danger or women punished for sexual activity or any of the things Siskel and Ebert suggested. (In fact, most slashers kill off more men than women. Yeah, I've done the numbers. Clover suggests we see women characters frightened more, but I'm not sure I entirely agree with even that.) The victims of slashers are incidental to the fact that someone - an underdog, smaller and weaker than the towering Jasons and Michael Myers, usually a woman, sometimes a child, sometimes a woman and a child together, inevitably the nicest person in the movie - holds evil at bay, at least for a while, at least until the next installment. That, I suspect, is what people liked to see in these movies in an era of rising mega-corporations and big business: the little guy winning for once, even if it's only for a while.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Even though this was written in the 80s and published in 1992, leaving a huge gap between then and the current display of horror films, it is still an important work that for the most part refutes the viewer identification with sadism thesis. The "Final Girl" is in our lexicon because of Clover and she makes a powerful argument that the popularity of horror films, even among its mostly male viewers, is rooted in identification with the victim and from a perspective of masochism. Although horror Even though this was written in the 80s and published in 1992, leaving a huge gap between then and the current display of horror films, it is still an important work that for the most part refutes the viewer identification with sadism thesis. The "Final Girl" is in our lexicon because of Clover and she makes a powerful argument that the popularity of horror films, even among its mostly male viewers, is rooted in identification with the victim and from a perspective of masochism. Although horror films are broadly discussed, three main threads are examined in detail: slasher films, satanic possession films, and rape-revenge films. Scrupulously researched with extensive footnotes and references, so a gold mine for readers like me who like to chase down rabbit holes. Although academic, Clovers style is smooth enough for even non-academic readers to follow, as long as there's a willingness to learn some terminology in the process.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dfordoom

    In Men, Women and Chainsaws, written in 1992, Carol J. Clover looks at the horror movies of the preceding two decades, focusing particularly on low-budget films and even more particularly on that most despised of all sub-genres, the slasher film. Clover disputes the traditional interpretation of such movies as being driven purely by male sadism towards women. She asks pertinent questions about why a form that appeals mostly to young men should feature almost exclusively female heroes, and should In Men, Women and Chainsaws, written in 1992, Carol J. Clover looks at the horror movies of the preceding two decades, focusing particularly on low-budget films and even more particularly on that most despised of all sub-genres, the slasher film. Clover disputes the traditional interpretation of such movies as being driven purely by male sadism towards women. She asks pertinent questions about why a form that appeals mostly to young men should feature almost exclusively female heroes, and should ask its audience to identify with these female heroes. She suggests that whatever is going on it’s a lot more complicated than mere sadism. She also examines two other horror sub-genres that were extremely popular at the time, the demonic possession movie and the rape-revenge movie. She notes the very different critical reception given to a movie like I Spit On Your Grave (universally reviled, in often hysterical terms, by mainstream critics) compared to an acceptable mainstream feature like The Accused. She argues that I Spit On Your Grave was actually the more honest of the two movies, and the more radical in its gender politics. Her main contention is that there’s a considerable amount of cross-gender identification going on in horror movies, and that audiences may well be identifying much more with the victims, and much less with the victimisers, than is generally thought. She also raises interesting points about the city/country opposition in horror movies, and about the way big-budget mainstream movies are so often simply watered down versions of themes that have already been explored in considerable detail in independent films. It’s a fascinating and thought-provoking book, and really it’s concerned with much larger issues of violence in movies and not just with particular genres of horror.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Peter Landau

    Sometimes a chainsaw is just a chainsaw and then there’s MEN, WOMEN, AND CHAINSAWS: GENDER IN THE MODERN HORROR FILM by Carol J. Clover, which takes a Freudian look at the slasher craze in exploitation, with detours into rape-revenge and satanic possession movies. The chainsaw, butcher knife, hypodermic needle, etc., are, well, you can figure that out. But Clover blazes an original trial in being the first to define the concept of the “final girl”: the last victim left standing who kills or vanq Sometimes a chainsaw is just a chainsaw and then there’s MEN, WOMEN, AND CHAINSAWS: GENDER IN THE MODERN HORROR FILM by Carol J. Clover, which takes a Freudian look at the slasher craze in exploitation, with detours into rape-revenge and satanic possession movies. The chainsaw, butcher knife, hypodermic needle, etc., are, well, you can figure that out. But Clover blazes an original trial in being the first to define the concept of the “final girl”: the last victim left standing who kills or vanquishes the madman. Clover is not dismissive of the genre. No Siskel and Ebert shaming for her. She sees the psychological significance of “I Spit on Your Grave” and others, not as a lens to focus the voyeuristic sadism of the men in the audience (though maybe for some) as much as a way for them to identify with the woman and cheer her on when she finally gets her revenge. The book is a greatest hits of some of the finest B-movies to hit the grindhouses in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It’s a bit academic but a lot of fun to see these movies being taken seriously before mainstream cinema neutered them into respectability. My only problem is the explanations take away the fun and mystery of horror. It might offer insight and a clue to why we love to get the shit out of us, but honestly I care less about that than getting the shit scared out of me. There’s a place for critical exploration, but as a creative process it produces films that are dead on arrival. It reminds me of when I was in college and joined my first band as a drummer. None of us knew how to play, so I listened to music differently, breaking apart the different instrumentation and studying what it did and how it worked with others sounds in the song. For the longest time after that I couldn’t hear any song holistically. They were bits and pieces cut up and barely stitched together in my head. The experience of a great pop song, say, was lost on me until I taught myself to forget and listen anew. That’s the danger of putting anything on the couch, at least for me. Break it down to see how it ticks, but your can rarely put it back together. I’s always the sum of its part, never a whole thing again. What practical knowledge is gleamed from such exercises? Maybe if you’re an engineer there’s value in it. But data can be misleading. It take a bit of crazy to create and there’s not a roadmap on how to get there if you want to make something more than adequate or less than tasteful.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jan Stinchcomb

    This book is starting to feel a bit dated and undeniably hung up on Freud/Lacan. Still, Carol J. Clover coined the term "Final Girl," and that famous opening chapter will forever remain a must-read for horror fans. I also found Chapter Three, which focuses on the rape-revenge genre (with special emphasis on I Spit on Your Grave), to be intensely interesting. The book as a whole, which examines so many films by male directors for a supposedly male audience, makes me all the more grateful for toda This book is starting to feel a bit dated and undeniably hung up on Freud/Lacan. Still, Carol J. Clover coined the term "Final Girl," and that famous opening chapter will forever remain a must-read for horror fans. I also found Chapter Three, which focuses on the rape-revenge genre (with special emphasis on I Spit on Your Grave), to be intensely interesting. The book as a whole, which examines so many films by male directors for a supposedly male audience, makes me all the more grateful for today's horror queens: Biller, Kent, Amirpour and Ducourneau.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David

    Probably one of the most special pieces of modern film analysis it is I think a must-read for anyone interested in (horror) films. It's the kind of academic writing I strife for: precise, entertaining, and understandable even to someone not familiar with the theoretical framework this book builds upon.

  14. 5 out of 5

    6655321

    There are some really interesting and vital points about the relationship between the audience and horror movies but rather than plumbing that particular depth; the reader is instead treated to an endless stream of psychoanalytic recursion (which weirdly is very much about Carol J Clover's relationship to horror films and less about the relationship between horror films and their actual audiences because most audience members are not Carol J Clover). This isn't to say the book is entirely wretch There are some really interesting and vital points about the relationship between the audience and horror movies but rather than plumbing that particular depth; the reader is instead treated to an endless stream of psychoanalytic recursion (which weirdly is very much about Carol J Clover's relationship to horror films and less about the relationship between horror films and their actual audiences because most audience members are not Carol J Clover). This isn't to say the book is entirely wretched, the 3rd and 1st chapters have some really strong components but they are often thatched together with long digressions into psychoanalytic theory that simply lose me (not in the sense that i do not comprehend what the theory is saying but, rather, i do not comprehend *why* i would in any way be convinced of the theory). Her predictions come across as somewhat cute (such as the lack of zombie films [could i live in this time line?]) and also looking at the reification of the slasher genre into the mainstream assuming indie horror would die (the short answer: the relationship between the audience and the film [i.e. that you go in *knowing* how the film will progress, wish for a good series of well executed but expected tropes *or* a really clever reversal, and eventually leave] gets super meta (Scream, for example, or Funny Games or You're Next), found footage and torture become major genres (Blair Witch --> Paranormal Activity & SAW), classics get remade (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of Wax, the Wicker Man, Dawn of the Dead, etc.) and Zombies become an almost overwhelming presence in the horror scene. This is an enormous digression to point out: better understanding the nature of horror films would have lead to *some* more accurate predictions (including the cautious nature of the movie industry regarding horror and the tendency to mine a vein until it collapses making what will become the next hit more whim and newness based although still rooted in horror in some sense))

  15. 5 out of 5

    Felix

    Carol J. Clover in this book sets out to refute the thesis that horror films cater to sadistic impulses and that their viewers are identifying with the perpetrators of on-screen atrocities. This refusal to join the chorus of horror's condemnators alone makes me partial to her arguments. But its not just a question of personal taste. Clover's arguments in support of her own thesis (that male viewers cross-gender identify with female victims) are sound and convincing, supported by detailed analyse Carol J. Clover in this book sets out to refute the thesis that horror films cater to sadistic impulses and that their viewers are identifying with the perpetrators of on-screen atrocities. This refusal to join the chorus of horror's condemnators alone makes me partial to her arguments. But its not just a question of personal taste. Clover's arguments in support of her own thesis (that male viewers cross-gender identify with female victims) are sound and convincing, supported by detailed analyses of a number of horror flics of varying renown the majority of which are from the 70s and 80s. I found the two middle chapters on possession and rape-revenge films to be the best. They are well-written, clearly structured and the psychoanalytical jargon was at a minimum. Which brings me to what I disliked about the book. Parts of the first chapter (on slasher films) seemed a bit crude in comparison to the rest of the book, especially the rather descriptive inventory of the slasher film components. Also, I am not a fan of psychoanalytical theory generalised to explain people's behaviour, even less so if it is almost unadulterated Freudian in nature. It seems to me a bit problematic at best to take results derived from early 20th-century bourgeois subjects and take them to be valid a hundred years later for all strata of society (but that's a looong discussion I do not want to enter here). Clover does that at times and especially in the otherwise superb last chapter. All in all a highly recommendable book, at least for people who are not allergic to psychoanalytic theory and willing to overlook a tendency to over-generalize.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Men, Women, and Chainsaws is a film theory book that I've heard referenced since I've been getting more interested in gender and horror. I couldn't get it for years because it was out of print and/or super expensive, but now it's reprinted and accessible. I was daunted at first because I know from literature that theory books aren't always the most entertaining read, but the majority of the book is easily readable and engaging. Carol Clover lays out the formulas for three different horror subgen Men, Women, and Chainsaws is a film theory book that I've heard referenced since I've been getting more interested in gender and horror. I couldn't get it for years because it was out of print and/or super expensive, but now it's reprinted and accessible. I was daunted at first because I know from literature that theory books aren't always the most entertaining read, but the majority of the book is easily readable and engaging. Carol Clover lays out the formulas for three different horror subgenres and references numerous films (mostly in the 70's) to support her claims as well as other film theorists, Freud, 17th and 18th century views of gender, among others. The first chapter, focuses on the formula for slasher films. The villains are typically frozen in development in some way like Michael Meyers or have some sort of muddled sexuality like Leatherface. Most of them have an overbearing mother or some sort of obsession with their mother like Norman Bates. Their choice of weapons are knives and chainsaws instead of guns. Their victims can be male or female, usually young adults, but the final one is always female. This final girl is more aware of her surroundings, less distracted, and usually romantically unavailable. Clover theorizes that she's more masculine so the male audience can relate more to her than the other more feminine and frivolous teen victims. Sometimes the final girls only survive by sheer chance, but others survive due to fighting back. Clover calls her the victim-hero because she suffers through the whole film watching her friends die, being hunted, and knowing that she's being hunted. Looking at this formula in the present, I see plenty of films that follow it, but in recent years, many break out of or mock this formula like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and Cabin in the Woods. The second chapter illustrates the formula for possession films. The person (or thing in the case of Christine) possessed is almost always female because they are more vulnerable to the supernatural and underneath all their decency, they still could become witches. They are usually possessed by male entities and act in horrific ways outside of how women should act, like grotesque sexuality and foul language. These possession stories are never actually about the women being possessed, but about what that possession means to a man in the situation. I don't think I realized this was a feature in every film in this subgenre and it makes sense why it's one of my least favorites. The women are violated and essentially raped, only to serve as a journey for the man on the outside rather than one for that woman. A prime example is The Exorcist where Reagan and her possession serve as a spiritual epiphany for Father Merrim in his crisis of faith while Reagan remembers nothing of her ordeal. I haven't seen a whole lot of change in this genre in recent years. The possessed tend to be more violent rather than sexual, but the possession as a vehicle for male character and plot development still happens all the time. The third chapter focuses on rape revenge films, which is a genre I'm honestly not very familiar will. Clover talks about how along with the gender conflict, a country and city conflict that goes along with that. The country folk are poor, unhealthy, uneducated, and unemployed. They might also have sexually depraved relationships with animals or their own family members. They blame their improverished situation on city people due to industrialization destroying nature and big businesses crushing their smaller businesses. The city people are either women or considered feminized men. The country people attack and violate city people for revenge, only to have those people come back to exact revenge as well. The lower versions of rape revenge films have women exacting their own revenge, which gives them agency and power. It also often criticizes the justice system that rarely works in favor of these rape victimes. The more celebrated versions like The Accused have the justice system come out in their favor and obscure that criticism. The remade versions of these films seem to be glossier versions that don't bring anything new to a modern audience. Although these films can be exploitative and uncomfortable to watch, I have renewed interest in watching them because of Clover's analysis. The last chapter is about meta horror films. More obviously meta films like New Nightmare, Scream, and Cabin in the Woods hadn't been made yet, so Clover's focus is the film Peeping Tom. Mark films his female victims while he kills them, making the audience view the scene through his eyes. He recreates scenes reflected from his own abusive childhood. Clover puts forth that this film critiques the masochistic viewer looking at the sadistic filmmaker's violent production. This chapter as a whole is more scattered and less focused, mostly because of the state of meta horror at the time. I would love to see her or anyone else take a second analytic look at these same (plus more) genres and analyze how they have changed or stayed the same. Men, Women, and Chainsaws has an illuminating look at horror genres still alive and well today. Clover has some strong arguments and views films and subgenres. I don't always agree with her rationales or citations. I don't agree with Freud's psychoanalytic theories and I don't think a single sex model (where men and women are essentially the same gender) is an accurate representation of cinema. She talks a lot about how cameras and weapons of various types are phalluses that the final girls then take for power at the end of the films. In some cases, like the sexually charged scene in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 between Leatherface and Stretch, I can see how it would be considered to be that, but I think it's overreaching at times. Overall, this film theory book offers a solid breakdown and analysis of different subgenres and how men and women are treated in them.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    i liked this book... it got me thinking and reading more into the horror movies i know and love and even introduced me to some i now want to see. the end kinda goes off on a tangent i think but i love most of it... she has put a lot of thought into it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Maddy

    If I'd known it was this good I'd have read it years ago.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Ricks

    Ah how I love readable fun crit

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stas

    written by Joshua Clover's mom.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robert Seitz

    Sometimes when I am feeling very light and humorous, I like to watch horror films. Sometimes, when my nerves are tender, I avoid them. So the way I physically relate to images can change quite a bit over time. But some of my biggest childhood heroes, like Rod Serling, Elvira, or Vincent Price, introduced me to the highbrow possibilities for humor and social reflection in dark tales. And it's always been with us, much of folk lore is particularly dark and likely to be along the lines of a horror Sometimes when I am feeling very light and humorous, I like to watch horror films. Sometimes, when my nerves are tender, I avoid them. So the way I physically relate to images can change quite a bit over time. But some of my biggest childhood heroes, like Rod Serling, Elvira, or Vincent Price, introduced me to the highbrow possibilities for humor and social reflection in dark tales. And it's always been with us, much of folk lore is particularly dark and likely to be along the lines of a horror narrative, including nursery rhymes and the like, so why should we expect anything else than a hearty, healthy cultural production of new horror tales? It's a public secret really - for those in the know, a good scare can actually add a spark of life and refreshment when you're down. Other times you're far from the story, and more in the prop room with the people who spend hours daily on makeup and puppets, or various ways of smooshing and slicing up vegetables to obtain scary foley sounds. You're more aware of the spendthrift playfulness or the poetic double entendre, or the equivalent of a magic show in somebody's garage. Having a fright with a friend is also a way of improving a bond, this phenomenon has been studied by scientists. I didn't read the entire book, but enjoyed the direction and her observations well enough to feel I didn't need to. One key fact she begins with in the excellent first chapter - the audience often knows what to expect, especially with sequels, and tends to be delighted by iteration and nuance, making the experience often plotless. Almost a ritual, not only of catharsis, but of identification with the victims, of connecting to emotions that might otherwise be like a car left in the garage for too long. I also like the way she points out that there's usually far larger quantities of murder in your ordinary, everyday action film, a genre that is far more successful. And in typical action films, we are less likely to experience the emotions of the combatants, especially awkward emotions like fear or shame, instead in action movies, bullets spray and bodies just tend to pop up and flop over, like targets in a carnival shooting range, heck even whole cities are routinely apocalyticated in the whoosh of a tidal wave, missiles, or a meteor in your predictable disaster movie. Horror on the other usually takes place in far more dream-like, personal and even symbolic arena, and we tend to move from one character's experience with it to the next. I think this essay continues to be respected and referenced, because she really gets the heart of the matter - it works especially for people who possess a good measure of empathy, and this is why top artists continue to dip into it, despite its being famous for not paying as well. It definitely is attractive to artists of all walks. In fact, I would probably think twice before trusting anything personal to someone that I knew did not enjoy at least some arena of horror, or leaving them alone in my personal space, near my pets, etc. I gave it three stars only because it is a completely academic work about a totally pedestrian form of delight.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Willow Redd

    Listen, I love film criticism and theory. Now, by film criticism, I don't mean film critics, because I don't think they really understand or appreciate film in the proper way. No, by "film criticism," I mean deeply researched critical theory like this book. Carol Clover has been taking a deep look at horror movies for years, and what she's come up with is a fascinating study of the gender representation within that genre. I don't mean to say the basic gender breakdown between killer/monster and vi Listen, I love film criticism and theory. Now, by film criticism, I don't mean film critics, because I don't think they really understand or appreciate film in the proper way. No, by "film criticism," I mean deeply researched critical theory like this book. Carol Clover has been taking a deep look at horror movies for years, and what she's come up with is a fascinating study of the gender representation within that genre. I don't mean to say the basic gender breakdown between killer/monster and victim, but the overarching masculine vs. feminine within each character represented. What Clover's exhaustive research into both the horror genre and psychoanalytic theory has found, as it relates specifically to the Slasher film, the Possession film, and the Rape-Revenge film, is that the masculine and the feminine in horror is surprisingly interchangeable. Starting with the slasher film and a deep discussion of the Final Girl, Clover points out that many of the slasher killers are coded as feminine (not female, although that does happen on rare occasion, but feminine) through the psychology of the killer, while the Final Girl herself is coded masculine (male sounding name, tomboyish, "not like other girls," etc.). From there Clover looks to both the possession film (identifying the supernatural as feminine and "open," forcing any male involved to accept the feminine into their lives in order to win) and the rape-revenge film (where, if the victim is male, he is already put in the feminine role as the victim and must reclaim the masculine through the act of revenge, while the female must move towards the masculine and become the vicious killer to enact her revenge) to further the point that male and female don't matter as much in horror as the accepted definitions of masculine and feminine attributes, which Clover suggests are easily altered. Finally, Clover discusses the use of the open eye in horror, both to investigate the gaze of victim and killer as well as showing that the eye works as an opening (both to the world of horror before us and the victim). While it does trend heavily on the Freud, mainly because the psychoanalysis Clover is citing does, she is also very critical of Freud and those who don't look beyond his idea of masculine and feminine. This book sits comfortably within both horror studies and gender studies. Clover is also very critical of the... ahem... critical reception to low budget horror, while higher budget productions seem to be doted upon while sharing the same general plots (specifically, in the chapter on the rape-revenge film, Clover is clearly annoyed by the general dislike over I Spit on Your Grave, while Deliverance is almost entirely well-received while sharing almost the exact same plot outline. The main difference? The victim and the brutality of the revenge; which, if you've seen the film, is clearly well deserved). This book is a fascinating look at the cross-gender appeal of horror, how the killer/victim relationship is coded, and the general treatment of the male and the female within the genre. More than likely, it will give you a whole new appreciation of horror films.

  23. 5 out of 5

    michael audet

    everyone should have to read this before they can call themselves horror fans. sometimes Carol relies on the same movies over n over again in her essays (eg. most of her slasher essay is focused on Halloween, Friday the 13th, & The Texas Chain Saw Massacre which is mostly fair because those are the genre biggies, but extremely subversive stuff like the fascinating Slumber Party Massacre (half feminist polemic, half very typical slasher movie, as well as one of the only movies where scenario everyone should have to read this before they can call themselves horror fans. sometimes Carol relies on the same movies over n over again in her essays (eg. most of her slasher essay is focused on Halloween, Friday the 13th, & The Texas Chain Saw Massacre which is mostly fair because those are the genre biggies, but extremely subversive stuff like the fascinating Slumber Party Massacre (half feminist polemic, half very typical slasher movie, as well as one of the only movies where scenario A (final girl gets rescued) and scenario B (final girl defeats the killer) both do not occur, instead resulting in the far more empowering scenario C (multiple final girls work together to bring down the killer through teamwork)) gets written off to a few mentions and she doesn't even talk about Black Christmas, a movie that spends almost the entire run-time equating the anonymous killer with a literal personification of the male gaze) but overall this is fascinating stuff & a lot of horror fans, especially male ones, need to spend more time thinking about how the genre interacts with womanhood.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lee Ann

    This was certainly an interesting book, if a little dated (especially in its use of transphobic terms). It was definitely fascinating to read feminist criticism of horror and all its subgenres, though I wish it wasn't so overly focused on Freud, who I find to be kind of a hack. I was most interested in the chapter on possession films, as it's super relevant to a short story I've been writing, and I found a lot of great quotes in that chapter. I appreciate that this book put into words so many of This was certainly an interesting book, if a little dated (especially in its use of transphobic terms). It was definitely fascinating to read feminist criticism of horror and all its subgenres, though I wish it wasn't so overly focused on Freud, who I find to be kind of a hack. I was most interested in the chapter on possession films, as it's super relevant to a short story I've been writing, and I found a lot of great quotes in that chapter. I appreciate that this book put into words so many of my conflicted feelings regarding horror as a genre, especially in regards to using women as vehicles for men's stories (i.e. The Exorcist is more about the priest than the poor possessed girl), or the way it turns femininity itself into horror (a la Carrie). I also appreciate that Clover points out homoeroticism where she sees it. Overall, 3/5 stars. The language was a little pedantic, and I think the author used a lot of words to basically say, "Horror can be sexist and homophobic, but it also has its feminist moments." Still, I learned a lot!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Well written and explored set of essays on gender and it's relevance in the horror genre. Clover does a wonderful job of interacting with a large number of films (the movies sited is vast), but generally focuses on 2-4 in each of the essays as her primary talking partner. While all the essays are worth looking at, her take on the slasher subgenre is the most interesting and lasting. Even 20+ years after it's original publication it offers a fair amount of insight into what it is going on with th Well written and explored set of essays on gender and it's relevance in the horror genre. Clover does a wonderful job of interacting with a large number of films (the movies sited is vast), but generally focuses on 2-4 in each of the essays as her primary talking partner. While all the essays are worth looking at, her take on the slasher subgenre is the most interesting and lasting. Even 20+ years after it's original publication it offers a fair amount of insight into what it is going on with those who are watching whats on the screen. I am not entirely convinced by all of her arguments, but as a fan of the horror genre (I used the text as a dialogue partner for a lecture I gave on the subject) she does get a lot of the beats right. If you are a fan of horror and interested in a different take on how we think about genre tropes, this is well worth consideration.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mark Palermo

    Fantastic. People who spend any time with me tend to learn of my annoyance toward most new politically-angled film crit on the grounds that it has A) a very limited understanding of how movies work, B) a myopic view of political reality, or C) some combination of both. Clover blows the doors off in her gender-study of horror movies, finding the subversive, and at times only subconsciously progressive elements in derided low-art. This is ultimately a book about cross-gender identification, and of Fantastic. People who spend any time with me tend to learn of my annoyance toward most new politically-angled film crit on the grounds that it has A) a very limited understanding of how movies work, B) a myopic view of political reality, or C) some combination of both. Clover blows the doors off in her gender-study of horror movies, finding the subversive, and at times only subconsciously progressive elements in derided low-art. This is ultimately a book about cross-gender identification, and of the cultural confusion about the line separating sadistic and masochistic audience tendencies. "Thelma & Louise is being hailed as a turning point of this score, and although one cannot quarrel with mainstream breakthroughs, the fact is that horror broke through on that point over a decade [earlier]." Revolution always starts in the underground.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Here is a critical study of horror movies from the 1970s and 80s that is more interesting than the films themselves. Clover, a professor of literature at Berkeley, digs below the surface of a number of these sleazy flicks to try and get at what emotions and cultural realities exist there. There is a fair amount of feminist discussion re the portrayal and violation of the female body and what gender-related roles are being acted out onscreen and experienced by the audience, but this is no simplis Here is a critical study of horror movies from the 1970s and 80s that is more interesting than the films themselves. Clover, a professor of literature at Berkeley, digs below the surface of a number of these sleazy flicks to try and get at what emotions and cultural realities exist there. There is a fair amount of feminist discussion re the portrayal and violation of the female body and what gender-related roles are being acted out onscreen and experienced by the audience, but this is no simplistic list of complaints about male sadism. Mulvey goes over the plots of a number of weird, disturbing, mostly low budget flicks and picks them apart. How many critics have taken a serious look at this kind of film? This is a classic work of film criticism.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kike Ramos

    This was a very interesting book, in which the author discusses horror tropes and themes in slashers, possession stories and rape revenge films, using gender theory and psychoanalysis. Clover proposes that horror can be a movie genre in which the gender lines are blurred and characters must be interpreted by their actions and not by their sex. Although I am not a fan of psychoanalitic theory, the author uses it in a smart way to analize the movies and the people who like to watch them. In the en This was a very interesting book, in which the author discusses horror tropes and themes in slashers, possession stories and rape revenge films, using gender theory and psychoanalysis. Clover proposes that horror can be a movie genre in which the gender lines are blurred and characters must be interpreted by their actions and not by their sex. Although I am not a fan of psychoanalitic theory, the author uses it in a smart way to analize the movies and the people who like to watch them. In the end, it's a really interesting book for anyone who like horror stories and want to get really academic about it. Just have in mind that although she uses a lot of examples, the text is really dense with quotations and academic writing.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christian

    This was an incredibly complex book looking into gender in horror films that took me almost a year to read and contemplate. It is as ostentatious and nearly impenetrable as anything Gayatri Spivak wrote. Acknowledging the challenge in reading it, the book supports my own theories about men, women and violence in horror movies as well as putting into words what were heretofore unhypostasized impressions. This book is no joke. It’s not light reading and it’s not for people without a deep experienc This was an incredibly complex book looking into gender in horror films that took me almost a year to read and contemplate. It is as ostentatious and nearly impenetrable as anything Gayatri Spivak wrote. Acknowledging the challenge in reading it, the book supports my own theories about men, women and violence in horror movies as well as putting into words what were heretofore unhypostasized impressions. This book is no joke. It’s not light reading and it’s not for people without a deep experience of horror films. It builds extremely complex and often circuitous models that are hard to follow let alone understand BUT it is a very very rewarding read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Glynis Neely

    This book was incredibly fun to read - for me - despite having read some of it in college already. I wish I had read the whole book in school, because there was so much in here about Videodrome - which i wrote my senior thesis on - and I would've loved to have that information. However, the book itself it quite dated in terms of horror. Clover's analysis stops just short of the release of Scream, which of course revamped the entire slasher genre. I would love a new updated version of this book a This book was incredibly fun to read - for me - despite having read some of it in college already. I wish I had read the whole book in school, because there was so much in here about Videodrome - which i wrote my senior thesis on - and I would've loved to have that information. However, the book itself it quite dated in terms of horror. Clover's analysis stops just short of the release of Scream, which of course revamped the entire slasher genre. I would love a new updated version of this book as I think it's still incredibly relevant.

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