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Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film Paperback – March 22, 1993


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Frequently Bought Together

Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film + The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film (Texas Film and Media Studies Series) + The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis (Popular Fictions Series)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 22, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691006202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691006208
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Before Men, Women, and Chain Saws, most film critics assumed that horror (especially slasher) films entail a male viewer sadistically watching the plight of a female victim. Carol Clover argues convincingly that both male and female viewers not only identify with the victim, but experience, through the actions of the "final girl," a climactic moment of female power. As the Boston Globe writes, Men, Women, and Chain Saws "challenges simplistic assumptions about the relationship between gender and culture... [Clover] suggests that the 'low tradition' in horror movies possesses positive subversive potential, a space to explore gender ambiguity and transgress traditional boundaries of masculinity and femininity." Be forewarned, though: Clover addresses an academic audience, so her language can be heavy going.

Related title: The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film by Barry Keith Grant

From Publishers Weekly

Clover contends that contemporary horror films are not simply the misogynist fantasies that critics have made them out to be. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Bacon on April 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
I was lucky to have a film teacher recommend this book to me. It articulated a view that I have long held- that audience members identify with victims, not killers, in horror films. Although alot of the writing depends on existing psych and film theory, I found the book very accessible as she explained relevant past theories succinctly and in a way that even a novice like me could understand. This book is not just for academics and should be required reading for horror fans. "Andrew says check it out."
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By David Tepper on May 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Horror films have always been one of my guilty pleasures, but it's not until I read this book that I truly started to understand the inner workings of fright flicks-- and of film in general.
When people find out this is a "feminist critique", they immediately think "politically correct man bashing". Nothing is further from the truth. The author seems genuinely more interested in understanding horror and its audience tham in making any kind of political point. She even raises the stakes in the discussion when she, for example, equates the Oscar-winning "The Accused" with "I Spit On Your Grave", noting that they are high and low forms of the exact same story.
The lit-crit jargon can be daunting to those unfamiliar with film analysis, but stick with it. The insights in this book will color your appreciation for all movies.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Chris Stoner on December 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
Carol Clover's book is an entertaining and readable look at gender constructions in horror films that goes far beyond the typical assumptions about the roles of men and women in this genre. I think Clover might have something different to say about some of the new sub-genres of horror, especially those focused more on torture (Hostel and the like) than on horror found in a situation or particular personality, but this volume covers many of the great horror classics of the 70s and 80s in a way that attempts to reimagine the audience members and their many (sometimes conflicting) investments in these films.

I found the chapter on slasher films ("Her Body, Himself") to be particularly useful, going beyond the typical "man kills woman because man hates woman" type of ideaology that you often see with this sort of criticism. Instead, Clover focuses on how the heroine (or "final girl") and the killer can be seen in relationship to one another, both serving as examples of incomplete or improper gender socialization. In other words, the killer is acting out because he is somehow impotent as a man; the final girl is able to survive because she is also not exactly "appropriately" gendered and is somewhat distanced from the "civilized" society which the killer invades and attempts to destroy. This relationship gives the slasher film an added depth, and helps explain the continued popularity of this type of film.

If you are interested in horror film and like getting new insights into the genre you enjoy, this is a good book for you. If you are a student of gender studies or film studies, then this is an excellent book to add to your knowledge of these subjects. While it is geared toward a more academic audience, it is not nearly as hard to engage with for general audiences as some academic offerings.
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19 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
...and all other "feminists" who think a work of art/entertainment featuring violence and women is automatically violently anti-woman. This is the book you want in your corner when someone (sometimes male, too) starts gassing off about how those bad, bad horror films demean women. Um, I would say a schlockfest like "Hanging Up" or "You've Got Mail" demeans women a hell of a lot more than your average slasher film that doesn't star Meg Ryan.
Carol Clover makes the convincing point that most of the better-known slasher films are narratives of women empowering themselves over a (usually male) antagonist. In this respect, the much-reviled "I Spit on Your Grave" could be seen as the forerunner of "Thelma & Louise." I have to admit for the record that I'm not a fan of "I Spit on Your Grave," which I feel is ineptly made and contains far more grossness than it absolutely needs to make its point (rape = bad; violence = bad); Clover, however, devotes an entire appreciative chapter to it, which indicates she's seen it numerous times and thought about it at length, which at least is better than the usual knee-jerk hatred of it you tend to see. It's refreshing and fascinating to find a woman defending -- at length -- a film many of us had thought to be indefensibly misogynistic.
Not the only academic defense of drive-in cinema, but one of the best-known, and probably the best -- after eight years, it's still in print in an affordable mass-market paperback, which should tell you something. Namely, it should tell you to buy it if you're at all interested in horror movies and what makes them tick. Horror movies don't have to be GUILTY pleasures!
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Format: Paperback
Gender and psych focused litcrit on my absolute favorite subject, Horror! Again much like The Dread of Difference, this is not a book geared toward the casual horror fiction reader. While not out of the question, I would imagine without a specific interest in sociology, gender studies, or film critique the book may seem a bit dry to the casual reader. Carol does her due diligence and sites some great films and other litcrit/writers. It's the sort of book I found myself taking notes/highlighting for further study. It's absolutely worth the read, and it's a book I have found I've referenced more than once in reviews and essays.
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