Film critics of the 1990s contend that gender is central to understanding horror movies. As editor Barry Keith Grant writes, "Today gender roles are being tested, challenged, and redefined everywhere, and until such time as difference is no longer dreaded, this crucial aspect of the horror film will remain very important for us." The Dread of Difference is a solid starting place for exploring the idea of gender in horror cinema. It's a fat book with 21 scholarly (and reasonably lucid) essays, and plenty of black-and-white movie stills. The authors use a variety of theories to survey the history of horror/slasher movies and the work of individual directors, and offer "close readings" of a number of movies.
Related title: Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film by Carol Clover
An undying procession of sons of Dracula and daughters of darkness has animated the horror film genre from the beginning. Indeed, in this pioneering exploration of the cinema of fear, Barry Keith Grant and twenty other film critics posit that horror is always rooted in gender, particularly in anxieties about sexual difference and gender politics.
The book opens with the influential theoretical works of Linda Williams, Carol J. Clover, and Barbara Creed. Subsequent essays explore the history of the genre, from classic horror such as King Kong and Bride of Frankenstein to the more recent Fatal Attraction and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Other topics covered include the work of horror auteurs David Cronenberg, Dario Argento, and George Romero; the Aliens trilogy; and the importance of gender in relation to horror marketing and reception.
Other contributors include Vera Dika, Thomas Doherty, Lucy Fischer, Christopher Sharrett, Vivian Sobchack, Tony Williams, and Robin Wood. Writing across a full range of critical methods from classic psychoanalysis to feminism and postmodernism, they balance theoretical generalizations with close readings of films and discussions of figures associated with the genre.
The Dread of Difference demonstrates that horror is hardly a uniformly masculine discourse. As these essays persuasively show, not only are horror movies about patriarchy and its fear of the feminine, but they also offer feminist critique and pleasure.
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