At the Edge of Existence

Liminality in Horror Cinema Since the 1970s

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About the Book

Few scary stories begin with a disclaimer that they are fictional. Instead, they claim to be true even when they are not. Such stories blur the line between fiction and reality, pushing audiences to consider where fiction ends and reality begins. These kinds of horror stories comprise the understudied subgenre of liminal horror.

As the first book on this subject, this volume surveys a variety of liminal horror films. It discusses the different variations within liminal horror’s sub-genres and considers why horror films are obsessed with the natures of, and borders between, fiction and reality. After first laying out the basic traits of the horror genre in the context of liminality, this book then dives into film more specifically and how the medium is uniquely situated to explore the movement between the fictional and the real. Through lenses such as dreaming, memory, and perception, the following chapters explore the role liminal horror plays in the the human psyche’s subconscious/unconscious, and the various functions of the human mind in perceiving, or misperceiving, reality.

About the Author(s)

Brandon West is a PhD student at the University of Kentucky, where he studies horror in literature and film.

Bibliographic Details

Brandon West
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 259
Bibliographic Info: 14 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8140-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4419-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
Introduction 4
One—United in Darkness: The Nature of Liminal Horror 9
Two—Shattered Screens and Punctured Skin: When the Fictional Becomes Real 16
Three—Emblazoned in Our Memories: When the Real Becomes Fictional 65
Four—Harsh Realities: Truth Is Scarier Than Fiction 94
Five—Was It All a: Dream(s) and the Liminal Horror Film 125
Six—The Mind’s Power: This Is Not Reality 158
Seven—Powers of Belief: How the Mind Writes Reality 206
Afterword 224
Chapter Notes 227
Bibliography 241
Index 249