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Projected Fears: Horror Films and American Culture [Paperback]

by Kendall R. Phillips
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 30, 2005 0313361827 978-0313361821

Movie audiences seem drawn, almost compelled, toward tales of the horrific and the repulsive. Partly because horror continues to evolve radically—every time the genre is deemed dead, it seems to come up with another twist—it has been one of the most often-dissected genres. Here, author Kendall Phillips selects ten of the most popular and influential horror films—including Dracula, Night of the Living Dead, Halloween, The Silence of the LambS≪/i>, and Scream</i>, each of which has become a film landmark and spawned countless imitators, and all having implications that transcend their cinematic influence and achievement. By tracing the production history, contemporary audience response, and lasting cultural influence of each picture, Phillips offers a unique new approach to thinking about the popular attraction to horror films, and the ways in which they reflect both cultural and individual fears. Though stylistically and thematically very different, all of these movies have scared millions of eager moviegoers. This book tries to figure out why.

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Projected Fears: Horror Films and American Culture + Celebrity Culture and the American Dream: Stardom and Social Mobility + American Film: A History
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Editorial Reviews


"Phillips analyzes ten landmark horror films, including Dracula, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Silence of the LambS≪/i> and The Sixth Sense, to discover the ways horror films reflect their cultural contexts and the audiences' fears. In addition to his analyses, Phillips provides a synopsis of each film and describes its production history, contemporary audience response and cultural influence. Although Phillips incorporates the work of other film and cultural critics, he writes for a general audience."


Reference & Research Book News

"The book is sensible, highly readable, and concise….[t]his book will best serve as an introduction to the horror genre. Recommended. Lower-/upper-division undergraduates; general readers."



"Fans of horror and horror movies who wish an intellectual examination of links between horror films and American culture will find professor Kendall R. Phillips' Projected Fears: Horror Films and American Culture to be most intriguing."


MBR Bookwatch

"[E]xplores the relationship between 10 classic horror films and the cultures they reflect."


US States News


"Kendall Phillips explores the cultural resonances and rhetorical form of American horror films of the 20th century. He takes us from Dracula (1931) through Psycho (1960), The Exorcist (1973), The Silence of the LambS≪/i> (1991), and other films that have shocked and horrified us, in a lucid account of the cultural contexts that gave them birth and influenced their reception. His lively and wide ranging account will certainly send readers back to the films for another look."


Thomas W. Benson, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Rhetoric, Penn State University


Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger (April 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0313361827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0313361821
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #382,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kendall Phillips is professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University where he teaches courses in rhetorical theory, film studies and public memory. His work focuses on theories of democratic culture, the rhetoric of film, and aspects of public remembrance. He has published several books including, Dark Directions: Romero, Craven, Carpenter and the Modern Horror Film, Projected Fears: Horror Films and American Culture, Framing Public Memory, and Controversial Cinema: The Films that Outraged America and his essays have appeared in such journals as Communication Monographs, Literature/Film Quarterly, and Philosophy & Rhetoric.

He was born and raised in Texas and currently lives in Syracuse, New York with his wife and their soft-coated wheaten terrier.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Text Fleshes Out Horror March 30, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book to augment my research for a film course I took. This book affords a concise, in-depth examination of the horror film genre and aims to identify its relevance in a historical context, psychological context, and social context. Horror films were long denied by critics as a substantial and intellectual genre worthy of scholarly research, but Kendall R. Phillips proves that they couldn't be more wrong. The films discussed in the text follow a chronological sequence, dating back to the 1920s with The Phantom of the Opera, and goes all the way up to the 90s with Scream.

Excellent book for anyone interested in horror films, film history, or with an appreciation for the much broader history of American culture.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read May 18, 2005
By Renee
A brilliant book - full of concrete examples and interesting history combined with insightful analysis. Intelligent without being "overly academic." A must-read for anyone interested in films, horror, or American cultural history.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Using this for a course I'm teaching on horror films March 17, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've used parts of this book for a course on sex, gender, race and horror films. It's not specifically about those areas, but provides useful analysis and contextualization for the films discussed. It's a great book for someone who's new to thinking politically/sociologically about horror films, and great for a course that is getting students to think about films in different ways. The analysis is not overly complex or jargon-heavy, nor does it require extensive knowledge of other film theory.

The subsections of the chapters (which varies depending on the film) are clear and helpful: Politics/Nationalism; Economic Conditions; Cultural Knowledge; Sexual Norms; Family Home; Violation, and more.

I recommend this book for horror fans, folks new to thinking about film in socio-cultural and historical ways, and students/teachers who want to augment a course.
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3.0 out of 5 stars It was okay March 15, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book wasn't awful, but the class that I had to buy it for WAS awful. Just a bad association I guess, but an interesting book for sure.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but too academically written, in my opinion November 4, 2013
I'm 80% done with this book and there is some incredible analysis in here, but I find the tone of the book to be overly academic. It's written and reads like a textbook, which is a shame because the author is discussing some incredible subjects and I feel as though a more conversational tone could help make for a smoother read. Having said that, read this book if you're at all curious about the evolution of horror movies over the past 100 years. Very informative.
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