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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 - the figure, often a female, who suffers pain and fright but eventually 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 - the figure, often a female, who suffers pain and fright but eventually rises to vanquish the forces of oppression.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    finally i can wake up from the psychosexual freudian nightmare that is this book

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dirk

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

  3. 4 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.

  4. 4 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stasi

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

  6. 5 out of 5

    Grehgarious

    This book was hard to understand. I expected to learn much more than I did. The author was more focused on sounding smart and reciting plots than explaining their logic.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kaila

    4/5 stars I never know what to rate nonfiction, and I feel especially torn up about this one. This book offered so many interesting insights into gender in horror films, the final girl phenomena and the tale-revenge sub genre of horror. I loved learning more about the genre, the author is obviously a very distinguished scholar in her own right and this is a foundational book to read on the subject. On the other side of the coin, this is also a bit of an outdated read and far too much time was spe 4/5 stars I never know what to rate nonfiction, and I feel especially torn up about this one. This book offered so many interesting insights into gender in horror films, the final girl phenomena and the tale-revenge sub genre of horror. I loved learning more about the genre, the author is obviously a very distinguished scholar in her own right and this is a foundational book to read on the subject. On the other side of the coin, this is also a bit of an outdated read and far too much time was spent on Freud for comfort. I am also far too dumb and know nothing about film studies, so I don’t think I fully understand everything that was discussed. Nonetheless, I keep thinking about this book even over a week after I finished it. I don’t think I’ll be able to watch another horror film the same, and it has definitely ignited a passion in me about the subject.

  8. 5 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 5 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    BucketOfEntrails

    Not everything is about castration anxiety Carol.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    rating: strong 3/weak 4 men, women, and chainsaws is an incisive piece of psychoanalytic film scholarship that codifies and interprets three sub-genres of "low" horror: slasher, possession, and rape-revenge movies. clover also uses her interpretation of these three sub-genres to push back against the dominant feminist ideology of the time (late 80s/early 90s) that exploitation horror is categorically offensive schlock produced by and for male sadistic pleasure. while i like clover for challenging rating: strong 3/weak 4 men, women, and chainsaws is an incisive piece of psychoanalytic film scholarship that codifies and interprets three sub-genres of "low" horror: slasher, possession, and rape-revenge movies. clover also uses her interpretation of these three sub-genres to push back against the dominant feminist ideology of the time (late 80s/early 90s) that exploitation horror is categorically offensive schlock produced by and for male sadistic pleasure. while i like clover for challenging this assumption, the way she goes about it is at times iffy due to an over-reliance on freud. for me, the strongest aspect of the book is the way she traces the origins of these sub-genres and their influence on later "high-brow" films that garnered more critical acclaim. however, clover's argument about what audiences get out of horror--the main project of the book, according to her--ultimately falters. the gist of clover's argument is this: critics and feminists assume that young men like slasher and rape revenge movies because they get sadistic pleasure from watching women suffer, when in reality they get a masochistic pleasure from identifying with the woman (final girl of the slasher or victim/hero of the rape revenge). if you're willing to suspend your disbelief and accept that freudian theory is descriptive of the way the human brain works, clover does an excellent job supporting this argument. however if you are, like most people nowadays, skeptical of the accuracy of freudian theory, this idea just comes across as a very intricate hypothetical. i actually don't mind clover using a psychoanalytic lens to discuss popular symbolism in horror films because there's definitely a lot there, but IMO she should have quit while she was ahead and provided her analysis of these films without trying to argue that the young men who flock to horror movies do so to experience some kind of oedipal transference. this over-reach, and the fact that clover is herself not a fan of horror cinema, makes her ideas about their audiences seem slightly tone-deaf and hollow. (not to mention that she establishes young, heterosexual men as the primary audience for low-brow horror through anecdotal evidence from movie-theatre employees and video store clerks, which is weirdly weak evidence on which to support such an academic book. but we'll keep it pushing.) that being said though there's a lot of stuff worth getting into in this book. obviously the coining of the term final girl is iconic, and i also enjoyed the rape-revenge chapter's argument that the genre was a natural progression from the westerns of the 30s and 40s. very cool! and finally, it seems like she was on the cutting-edge of celebrating the literary merit of exploitation films that went on to become critically-acclaimed classics. so good for her! but i would only recommend this book to people that have serious interest in psychoanalytic film theory and horror, because otherwise it's pretty dense and a little dated.

  13. 4 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    An incredibly interesting, if dated, read. Some elements of this analysis are probably fairly timeless (the Freudian readings of slasher movies, the inevitable gendering of characters based on their function in a film, etc.) though I'd be interested to see an updated version of this. It was published in 1992, right before horror films were relegated to direct-to-video sequels of 80's hits and Scream's reinvigoration of the genre later in the decade. Since then I think there's been a lot of shift An incredibly interesting, if dated, read. Some elements of this analysis are probably fairly timeless (the Freudian readings of slasher movies, the inevitable gendering of characters based on their function in a film, etc.) though I'd be interested to see an updated version of this. It was published in 1992, right before horror films were relegated to direct-to-video sequels of 80's hits and Scream's reinvigoration of the genre later in the decade. Since then I think there's been a lot of shift in the role gender plays in horror. On top of that, Clover keeps to a binary gender reading (and uses some outdated words for transgender folks). I'd be interested to see takes dealing with genders outside men and women and the role transgender and other queer readings play into films. But, overall, a very insightful and very informative set of essays that definitely have me even looking at contemporary horror a bit differently.

  16. 5 out of 5

    nad

    research for my thesis but also something that I am personally very interested in since I spend a large portion of my year constantly confronting the role of gender in horror films because of the sheer amount I watch. Clover has a very engaging essay style, and thankfully I was also familiar with the majority of her primary references. awesome read, chock-full with slasher knowledge and backed with a lot of film theory (especially affect and audience/spectator theories). 4/5

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hugo

    Couldn't finish. Very little practical insight, an over-reliance on outdated gender norms and Freudian examination, and a wholly dry refusal to explain academic terms, which obfuscates the work for the lay reader. Watching and analysing horror films should be more fun than this. Couldn't finish. Very little practical insight, an over-reliance on outdated gender norms and Freudian examination, and a wholly dry refusal to explain academic terms, which obfuscates the work for the lay reader. Watching and analysing horror films should be more fun than this.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aran

    Fascinating. Some language feels outdated. As a new appreciator of horror movies, this was incredibly interesting. Interesting, too, to think about how the genre has changed since this was written.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I may have seriously overestimated my appetite for Freudian psychoanalysis! Some real mixed feelings about this thing. I’m thankful that this book gave us the term “Final Girl” and made a serious attempt at analyzing the tropes of the genre. But it’s weighed down by dated views on gender, some truly baffling takes, and just way too much Freud. I have no idea how harshly to judge a 28-year-old book when it comes to our modern understanding of gender. I’ll be generous and chalk most of these issue I may have seriously overestimated my appetite for Freudian psychoanalysis! Some real mixed feelings about this thing. I’m thankful that this book gave us the term “Final Girl” and made a serious attempt at analyzing the tropes of the genre. But it’s weighed down by dated views on gender, some truly baffling takes, and just way too much Freud. I have no idea how harshly to judge a 28-year-old book when it comes to our modern understanding of gender. I’ll be generous and chalk most of these issues up to it just being dated. But regardless, most of it is from a bio-essentialist perspective, which severely tainted my experience and made me wish for a modern, more progressive version. The analysis and criticism itself is also a mixed bag. There are several good points that I had never considered, but there are probably just as many Bad Takes. And a lot of times, even the Good Takes become Bad Takes by sliding down a subconscious slippery slope. For a quick example of the Good, there’s a segment about how critics would find it disturbing when theater audiences cheer on Jason Voorhees as he kills his victims. But those same critics would often fail to acknowledge the even-louder uproar of support for the Final Girl during the climactic confrontation. This unique turning of the tables is something that outsiders to the genre don’t always understand or even consider. The fact that horror deals with sensitive and disturbing subjects, while also often being pretty fun, is one of the most unique and compelling aspects of the genre. The exploration of this apparent contradiction make up my favorite pieces of this book. But an example of a Good Take going Bad is the analysis of Ms. 45, a rape revenge movie. The story follows a woman who, after being raped multiple times, enacts her revenge with a gun. Her killings escalate from would-be attackers to casually-sexist men, eventually culminating in a massacre of men of all kinds. It’s a complicated movie, in a complicated genre — all extremely ripe for analysis. And Clover makes some good points about the story and its themes, before abruptly going off the rails. Her criticism culminates in a claim that the message of Ms. 45 is that if women would just arm themselves, they would no longer be victimized by men. Essentially letting the potential rapists in the audience off the hook by moving the blame from the rapist to the victim for not “manning up” and protecting herself. There are a lot of valid criticisms to be made of Ms. 45. It’s an imperfect and abrasive movie about one of the most sensitive subjects. But the conclusion reached above is absolutely bonkers and is completely at odds with the climax (and honestly, most) of the movie. I won’t spoil it for you, but getting a gun definitely does not protect the character or make her ending a happy one. There’s a lot about the movie that’s open to interpretation, but who should be blamed for a rape is not a question that it poses. And yeah, the Freudian stuff is completely exhausting. Of course there’s a lot to be said about the sexual subtext of many horror films. But wow, I never knew there were so many ways to subconsciously symbolize genitalia. Penises and vaginas and metaphorical sex as far as they eye can see! And this focus on phalluses really brings the bio-essentialist pesrpective to the forefront, which makes it all even worse. So yeah, it was an interesting read. I’m glad to have read it — as it’s an iconic book — but I’m definitely more happy to be finished with it. I’ll repeat my praise for it taking the genre seriously and diving very deep, but I just want better takes from a better perspective. Recommendations welcome!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Crystal O'Leary-Davidson

    In this book Carol J. Clover coins The Final Girl and expands Laura Mulvey’s ideas of The Male Gaze in film. But there’s so much more here about women and men and elevating the experience and study of the horror film. I used this with great success in my class on women in slasher and horror films. Even with dated references to video stores (that made me so nostalgic!) this book is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in horror films and their scholarship. A foundational work!

  21. 4 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))

  22. 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.

  23. 4 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!

  24. 4 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. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 5 out of 5

    ~Cyanide Latte~

    Quotations from this book were showing up constantly in various fan works and discussions surrounding the idea of the "Final Girl" in horror media, specifically in regards to the fact that the author of this book of essays was the one responsible for coining the term, and my curiosity was piqued to the point I wanted to check this out and see what she had to say in this book. For what it's worth, I enjoyed this book for the most part. It certainly gave me a lot to think about and analyze, and whi Quotations from this book were showing up constantly in various fan works and discussions surrounding the idea of the "Final Girl" in horror media, specifically in regards to the fact that the author of this book of essays was the one responsible for coining the term, and my curiosity was piqued to the point I wanted to check this out and see what she had to say in this book. For what it's worth, I enjoyed this book for the most part. It certainly gave me a lot to think about and analyze, and while it did take me quite some time to read, I attribute that more to my own desire to take my time digesting the topics in this book. There was a lot to take in and think about, especially when accounting for the fact that this book is dated and it prompts a lot of questions about the understanding of gender, coming from a decades-older viewpoint. The one thing that majorly bothered me was the essay-chapter "The Eye of Horror." I felt like Clover got rather repetitive and beat her points in that chapter over and over again. Additionally, I took issue with a lot of her analysis of Carrie and Firestarter. My issues with her approach to Carrie started in chapter two, but she grossly misunderstood and skewed the knowledge of Firestarter to the point I felt like she was really reaching for an excuse to include it and force it like a square peg into a round hole for the "Eye of Horror" chapter. Even knowing she didn't read any of the books any of these films she watched were based on, with the exception of The Exorcist, I still don't understand how it is she so horribly misunderstood Firestarter and tried to force it to fit the point of her essay. But my complaints aside, I still enjoyed this book, I appreciated that it gave me things to think about, and I'd make the argument that it's something anyone interested in horror media should really consider reading and using for points of discussion.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Paolantonio

    I did not read this entire book for two reasons. The subject matter grabbed me but by the time I made my way through the first chapter I realized I already understand the theory discussed in the text simply by watching and discussing horror. It's helpful that I've seen a lot of the classic horror films Clover discusses but there are even more I haven't seen. (The films cited page is a great to-watch list!) Clover describes all of them in detail, essentially spoiling them. It did not motivate me I did not read this entire book for two reasons. The subject matter grabbed me but by the time I made my way through the first chapter I realized I already understand the theory discussed in the text simply by watching and discussing horror. It's helpful that I've seen a lot of the classic horror films Clover discusses but there are even more I haven't seen. (The films cited page is a great to-watch list!) Clover describes all of them in detail, essentially spoiling them. It did not motivate me to read on. The second factor is how dated this book is. Originally published in 1992, the gender roles are entirely binary and hard to see as relevant in today's culture. The theories rely entirely on two genders and their distinct representations as being one thing and one thing only. This doesn't sit well with me and makes the subject less interesting the further Clover goes into detail. Since its publication there is so much more to explore in gender representations in horror, not just with more movies but with extended gender theory. I might return to this book later but for now I shelved it. I'd love to see an updated version of this book. I have the 2015 re-issue and am surprised Clover did not supply any updated annotation. A great book for anyone interested in horror, and in gender. Although if you are already familiar with the genre it will become immediately repetitive. Clover is an excellent scholar and definitely knows what she's talking about. Personally I felt let down by this book and should've seen it coming based on its publication date. Onward!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Clover presents, in four long chapters, four analyses of ways in which gender operates in horror films (from roughly the mid-70s through the mid-80s, though she ventures beyond those bounds in either direction). There's a chapter on slasher films, the occult, rape-revenge, and the feminist perspective of horror films. Some of her analysis has since become almost cliché. There's the Final Girl in films like Texas Chainsaw, for example, that has become a term of reference for horror and other film Clover presents, in four long chapters, four analyses of ways in which gender operates in horror films (from roughly the mid-70s through the mid-80s, though she ventures beyond those bounds in either direction). There's a chapter on slasher films, the occult, rape-revenge, and the feminist perspective of horror films. Some of her analysis has since become almost cliché. There's the Final Girl in films like Texas Chainsaw, for example, that has become a term of reference for horror and other films/shows/video games. Her chapter on the occult was perhaps the most interesting to me, even though those movies tend to be the least engaging. The rape-revenge chapter was also interesting because she pulled other films, like Deliverance, that don't seem to work within the horror (sub-)genre but do share some thematic elements. As far as her arguments go, I wasn't fully on board with everything, but Clover does an excellent job pulling in from a wide variety of sources. For that alone it was worth the read because she gives the reader a long reading list. Some might be titles that are well-known (Texas Chainsaw, Psycho, Halloween, etc.), others might be more obscure. One of these days I'll finally get to I Spit On Your Grave.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Piers

    I originally bought this as a gift for my movie-mad brother, and he subsequently lent it to me. I'm nowhere near as much of a film buff, and I also can't count horror amongst my favourite genre. This is an academic text, definitely not for the casual observer. In that context it is clearly very good. Thoroughly researched, well reasoned and in depth. Clover clearly knows the subject inside out and makes a series of interesting points. However, as a non-academic reader, it is very dense, with a lot I originally bought this as a gift for my movie-mad brother, and he subsequently lent it to me. I'm nowhere near as much of a film buff, and I also can't count horror amongst my favourite genre. This is an academic text, definitely not for the casual observer. In that context it is clearly very good. Thoroughly researched, well reasoned and in depth. Clover clearly knows the subject inside out and makes a series of interesting points. However, as a non-academic reader, it is very dense, with a lot of technical terms that make it quite hard to follow in places without a dictionary to hand. Also, and I get that this is the point of the book, it's difficult not to at some points feel a bit exasperated that seemingly everything is about penises and vaginas. I also carried in my own prejudices about Freud and how basically one guy with no organised evidential backing became the most influential psychologist of all time for seemingly no reason other than being fashionable. If you're a film studies student, or particularly interested in the psychoanalytical side of gender criticism, absolutely this is one for you. If not, then probably give it a miss.

  30. 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.

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