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Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  704 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Do the pleasures of horror movies really begin and end in sadism? So the public discussion of film assumes, and so film theory claims. Carol Clover argues, however, that these films work mainly to engage the viewer in the plight of the victim-hero, who suffers fright but rises to vanquish the forces of oppression.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 11th 1993 by Princeton University Press (first published April 15th 1992)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,865)
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Dirk
Aug 06, 2007 Dirk rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: any film buff
If you see only one movie this year, read this book.
Lauryl
Nov 07, 2007 Lauryl rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone, provided they like non-fiction feminist discourse or horror films
Okay, so at the moment, I'm actually halfway through it, but I'm enjoying it immensely, not least because it combines my love of horror movies with my love of analyzing the crap out of everything for its feminist implications. The writing is crisp and succinct and a bit less dry than reading, say, Laura Mulvey, but still dense with ideas and academic enough to satisfy the snob in me. Not too facile, I guess is what I mean to say. I also enjoy Clover's willingness to ask more questions than she h ...more
Blake
If, as their detractors would have it, horror films offer satisfaction of sadistic desires then they offer as much to the masochistic ones or more. Put pithily as it is, this is a crucial point from Clover that tears apart a prevailing view of horror. You are thereafter in possession of a fine thread and, though this book can at a cursory glance seem a haystack, it’s a worthwhile task to search for the needle: Clover does the sewing and leaves you with a tidy stitch.

Though they will be familiar
...more
Anna  (Bananas!)
Jan 10, 2013 Anna (Bananas!) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: horror movie fans...obviously
Shelves: favorites
This book is responsible for igniting my horror obsession.

Various genres are covered (slasher, possession, haunting, revenge-I Spit On Your Grave gets a lot of attention), as well as films that influenced horror, like the Alien movies, Deliverance, and even The Accused.

The "last girl" trope, male gaze, and other common elements are discussed, their place in the history of horror cinema, their origin and purpose. The book also delves into why we enjoy being frightened. Why are we so attracted to
...more
Felix
Carol J. Clover in this book sets out to refute the thesis that horror films cater to sadistic impulses and that their viewers are identifying with the perpetrators of on-screen atrocities. This refusal to join the chorus of horror's condemnators alone makes me partial to her arguments. But its not just a question of personal taste. Clover's arguments in support of her own thesis (that male viewers cross-gender identify with female victims) are sound and convincing, supported by detailed analyse ...more
Dfordoom
In Men, Women and Chainsaws, written in 1992, Carol J. Clover looks at the horror movies of the preceding two decades, focusing particularly on low-budget films and even more particularly on that most despised of all sub-genres, the slasher film. Clover disputes the traditional interpretation of such movies as being driven purely by male sadism towards women. She asks pertinent questions about why a form that appeals mostly to young men should feature almost exclusively female heroes, and should ...more
Cory Gaskins
I really enjoyed this book. I recommend it to anyone who is intrigued by horror films and sociological/gender studies aspect of the genre.

After the intro, where the author describes how horror films mainly targets teen male audiences but have a strong female protagonists, this book discusses:

Part 1: Slasher films and why such films have strong female lead despite the genre being popular among teen males.

Part 2: Possession films. How the ones that are being possessed are females but such films ar
...more
Tracey
i liked this book... it got me thinking and reading more into the horror movies i know and love and even introduced me to some i now want to see. the end kinda goes off on a tangent i think but i love most of it... she has put a lot of thought into it.
Stasi
i think sometimes, pig blood is just pig blood. some things are just things, and not a sexual reference.
Stas
Apr 23, 2010 Stas marked it as to-read
written by Joshua Clover's mom.
Melody
I’ve increasingly avoided this book for many years, despite its title clearly being increasingly more relevant to my interests, for a couple of reasons (other than the fact that it’s been out of print for so long and hard to find for a decent price - if that’s stopping you, let me tell you now: just buy it!).

Firstly, I’ve read, listened to or otherwise consumed the work of so many others influenced by its contents (Mark Kermode has often talked about it, Kim Newman mentions it too in his monumen
...more
Seán Hudson
An important book for film studies, horror studies, and gender theory; for each in turn and as an intersection between the three. The idea of cross-gender identification in films is so evident that it's shocking that no one had treated it seriously until this book. Clover writes in a coherent, easy-to-follow style that would benefit more academics – unfortunately, she also repeats herself to the point that it seems a quick editing job would have worked wonders on the final product. Sometimes, th ...more
Mike
Aug 17, 2009 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mike by: murderers, hill people, troglodytes, ghouls
Written almost two decades ago, back in ’92, Men, Women, and Chain Saws confronts the (then) prevailing consensus that horror movies were about guys watching girls get brutalized. The author argues that there is often a "final girl" who by the end of the movie fights back against the oppressor, and that the audience identifies with both sides of the pain equation. Not myself terribly versed in the genre I found her arguments compelling but also unverifiable. I'm not even sure if criticism like t ...more
eq
I browsed through this book for academic purposes and not for a leisurely read. I wasn't a film major but having lived with one, I became interested in film studies by proxy and this book often comes up in discussions.

My main problem was with the footnotes. Take note: Anything that needs a half page of writing material in the footnotes should probably be incorporated into the actual text. Otherwise, you might as well call your book The House of Leaves.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting that ge
...more
Seth
Although later critics have taken exception to a number of Clovers' perceptions, I find them to be quite prescient to this day. In fact, I would wager that those critics didn't really read the book, a number of the points they bring up are directly addressed by the author throughout the book.
As a longstanding fan of the very sub-genres that Clover analyses I can see many of the things she explicates surfacing in similar films 25 years later.
Although Clover relies heavily on Freudian psychoanalis
...more
Pembroke Sinclair
I read this book while working on my thesis, which then evolved in my nonfiction book, Life Lessons from Slasher Films. I really enjoyed the insight that Ms. Clover brought forth, although I didn't always agree with her argument. However, this book really helped me develop my own ideas and gave me great insight into the slasher genre.
Chris Puzak
A little dry, but it was interesting to read a feminist defense of movies like I Spit on Your Grave
Emily
If you like B-grade horror flicks and have a hankerin' for feminist theory, you'll love this book . . . Clover looks at a huge spectrum of horror films, from the lowest of the low ("I Spit On Your Grave," "Ms. 45,") to big budget successes ("Halloween," "Carrie"), examining the role of gender, specifically the curious fact that although horror audiences appear to consist mostly of young white men, the characters these men identify with are overwhelmingly vulnerable females-- the sole survivors o ...more
Carrie
If you are at all interested in feminist film analysis, this book is a must-read. Though I wish Clover had spent more time explicitly exploring the queer subtext of her arguments, I learned a lot from reading this book and appreciated her insights. Like Laura Mulvey, Clover's work has been clearly influential on feminist film theory -- whether or not you agree with everything she says, the text is groundbreaking and set the stage for the conversations we're having today. Really interesting read.
Jayne Lamb
Super-dense critical theory, unfortunately quite dated now (originally published in 1990.) Thus, some of the films Clover focuses on are a little arbitary (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre II? Witchboard?) Having said that I would love to see her feminist take on the meta-horror of the 90's, and I also noted with great pleasure that towards the end she thought it was possible that vampires were going to get another go-round. Would love to know what she makes of Twilight, True Blood et al.
Kirsty
Interesting theories, but holy hell it's difficult to read. Academics, try to help readers out a little.
Emily
One of the most original, readable, and persuasive works of film scholarship out there, and, unlike so much academic writing, it's both complex *and* refreshingly clear. Clover's concept of "The Final Girl" -- like Laurie in "Halloween" or the screaming blonde in the cut-offs in the last half-hour of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" -- upturns all that tired male-gaze theory that cropped up in the wake of Laura Mulvey. (Her close reading of "Peeping Tom" is terrific, too.)
Ren
I wanted to like this book more than I did. The psychoanalytic method of film criticism forms the basis for her critique which she uses to present an interesting if problematic perspective on the slasher and other horror films. I didn't agree with everything she had to say but her perspective was certainly unique. She was a little obsessed with Texas Chainsaw 2 though. I felt there were more important films in the horror genre that she could have covered.
Angora Fedora
Feb 05, 2008 Angora Fedora rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in gender/queer/feminist studies and/or film.
Recommended to Angora Fedora by: Heather Walker
Shelves: film
Whether you like horror and slasher movies or not, Carol J. Clover's book is a landmark in queer/gender/feminist film criticism. I haven't seen most of the films she discusses and it still blew my mind. The way I read and interpret movies has completely changed because of this book. The writing is pretty academic, building complex, sophisticated arguements (frankly, she lost me in the last chapter), but the fist chapter alone is worth the price of admission.
Ruqaiyah
Clover's book argues that exploitation and disreputable genre movies are capable of expressing a purer empathy for oppressed people - women, mostly, but really any marginalized group - than more serious films about prejudice. She made an extremely provocative case, and at this point, I agree with her premise. Great thesis starting point for any director making a film.
Steven Savona
Clover's analysis is thorough and I think she is on the ball with most of her ideas. I just couldn't fully immerse myself in it because of its academic language. It's as though writing this book was a chore for her. It would be interesting to see a similar book written by someone who grew up loving horror films and is naturally interested in the genre.
Steve
Deeply interesting, but also deeply arguable. Clover's perspectives on Alien/Ripley are illuminating and, I feel, spot on. On the other hand, does I Spit on Your Grave realy deserve such a reading?

Having said this, it's a great book to read in a public space - realy gets attention, if that's what you're into!
Zach
What can you say really. A bedrock of genre criticism and totally entertaining in its own right. Clover's take on rape-revenge film still seems out-of-the-box. Her lessons haven't been learned by mainstream scolds (your mom, film theory teachers) but it's their loss - you know the deal, right?
Shona
While I may not agree with everything that Clover writes, and find that she takes her ideas a few steps beyond their logical end, this was a fascinating read. I am not a horror fan by any definition, but reading this book may be enough to make me give the genre another chance.
Whitney
Fantastic critique of male/female spectatorship in horror film. "Her Body Himself" being the most famous/helpful chapter, I found the chapter on rape-revenge films to be fascinating. Plus, Clover is so funny. She makes the funniest jokes in a dry, chain-saw-humor kind of way.
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