Subversive Horror Cinema

Countercultural Messages of Films from Frankenstein to the Present

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About the Book

Horror cinema flourishes in times of ideological crisis and national trauma—the Great Depression, the Cold War, the Vietnam era, post–9/11—and this critical text argues that a succession of filmmakers working in horror—from James Whale to Jen and Sylvia Soska—have used the genre, and the shock value it affords, to challenge the status quo during these times. Spanning the decades from the 1930s onward it examines the work of producers and directors as varied as George A. Romero, Pete Walker, Michael Reeves, Herman Cohen, Wes Craven and Brian Yuzna and the ways in which films like Frankenstein (1931), Cat People (1942), The Woman (2011) and American Mary (2012) can be considered “subversive.”

About the Author(s)

Jon Towlson is a London-based journalist and film critic. He has written for Starburst Magazine, Paracinema, Exquisite Terror, Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies, Shadowland Magazine, Bright Lights Film Journal and Digital Film-maker Magazine.

Bibliographic Details

Jon Towlson
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 256
Bibliographic Info: 62 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7469-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1533-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Foreword by Jeff Lieberman 1
Preface 3
Introduction 5
1. Anti-Eugenics: Frankenstein (1931) and Freaks (1932) 21
2. Anti–1940s Home Front Propaganda: Cat People (1942) and The Curse of the Cat People (1944) 43
3. Anti–1950s Cold War Conformity: The Films of Herman Cohen 62
4. Anti-Establishment 1960s–1970s Britain: The Films of Michael Reeves and Pete Walker 80
5. Anti-Vietnam: Night of the Living Dead (1968), Deathdream (1972)
and The Crazies (1973) 104
6. Anti-Hollywood Violence and Dark Counterculture: Last House on
the Left (1972) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) 130
7. Counterculture Revolution: Shivers (1975), Blue Sunshine (1978) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) 151
8. Anti-“Reaganomics”: Henry—Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) and
American Psycho (2000) 163
9. Anti–1990s Materialism: Brian Yuzna and Splatstick 180
10. Anti-New Puritanism: Teeth (2007) and American Mary (2012) 197
Afterword—Subversive Horror Cinema Post–9/11 211
Chapter Notes 225
Bibliography 234
Index 239

Book Reviews & Awards

“thoroughly detailed and enjoyably written book is an important addition to the continually expanding list of studies devoted to genre film theory”—Exquisite Terror; “horror is the thinking person’s genre, and this book is brain candy for the critical horror fan. Thoroughly researched and referenced…bound to tickle your thinking bone”—Rue Morgue; “excellent addition to the shelves or tablets of any horror scholar”—Dead Reckonings; “spectacular…thoughtful…. This highly entertaining collection of essays is informative and engaging and is easily recommended”—horrortalk.com; “the best books about film have the unique quality of feeling like they’re betraying the medium upon which they’re expressing their ideas; that is, they make you want to stop reading and go watch the films they’re discussing. Of course, in most instances these books also serve as handy guides to help you discover elements concealed in the films in question, as well as open your eyes to help you rediscover films you thought you already knew. [This] is one of those books…the scholarly authority and thorough research presented…makes for a pleasurable read”—popmatters.com; “fascinating and thought-provoking book…intelligent, well written and insightful read…highly recommended”—starburstmagazine.com.