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

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Princeton University Press, 1993 - Performing Arts - 260 pages
6 Reviews

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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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - titania86 - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jen.e.moore - LibraryThing

Clover's thesis is that, contrary to the dominant narrative about horror, the primary appeal is masochism: the viewer identifies with the victim far more often and more completely than with the ... Read full review

Contents

Acknowledgments ix
3
Her Body Himself
21
Opening Up
65
Getting Even
114
The Eye of Horror
166
AFTERWORD
231
Works Cited
244
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About the author (1993)

Carol J. Clover is a professor in the Department of Scandinavian and the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.

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