Gender in the Modern Horror Film
Princeton University Press
On Sale: March 22, 1993
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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.
Clover, a medievalist, had written extensively on the
literature and culture of early northern Europe, especially
the Old Norse sagas. From her expertise in formulaic
narrative grew her interest in contemporary cinema, which
is, after all, yet another form of oral storytelling. Men,
Women, and Chain Saws investigated the appeal of horror
cinema, in particular the phenomenal popularity of those
"low" genres that feature female heroes and play to male
audiences: slasher, occult, and rape-revenge films. Such
genres seem to offer sadistic pleasure to their viewers, and
not much else. Clover, however, argued the reverse: that
these films are designed to align spectators not with the
male tormentor, but with the female tormented--with the
suffering, pain, and anguish that the "final girl," as
Clover calls the victim-hero, endures before rising,
finally, to vanquish her oppressor.
The book has found an avid readership from students of film
theory to major Hollywood filmmakers, and the figure of the
final girl has been taken up by a wide range of artists,
inspiring not just filmmakers but also musicians and poets.
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