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House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films
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House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  513 ratings  ·  57 reviews
House of Psychotic Women is an autobiographical exploration of female neurosis in horror and exploitation films. Cinema is full of neurotic personalities, but few things are more transfixing than a woman losing her mind onscreen. Horror as a genre provides the most welcoming platform for these histrionics: crippling paranoia, desperate loneliness, masochistic death-wishes, ...more
Paperback, 360 pages
Published 2012 by FAB Press
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Apr 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
la femme hystérique

“It all started with Possession. Zulawski’s film, formally speaking, is perfection – its deep blue hues, its labyrinthine locations, the hypnotic cinematography of Bruno Nuytten. But that’s not what drew me to return to it again and again. There was something terrible in that film, a desperation I recognized in myself, in my inability to communicate effectively, and the frustration that would lead to despair, anger and hysteria.”

this is the first paragraph of kier la-janisse’s
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: movies, horror
Kier-La Janisse has written a very singular overview of horror films, her subset being those with a focus on female neurosis, and combined it with a sort of autobiographical account of her life. Aside from some jarring transitions between the personal material and the cinematic analysis, this works remarkably well. Janisse is a Canadian film programmer and her lifelong devotion to horror is jaw-dropping in its comprehensiveness. Horror is probably my favorite genre but she has seen and absorbed ...more
Nate D
May 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is great. Film theory encompassing a swath of psychologically heightened genre cinema that I've clearly been drawn to as well over the years (given how many of the these films I've seen), all bound together by a kind of illustrative memoir the dovetails almost too well with themes. "Too well" would imply disbelief, "almost" grants this a harrowing conviction. An altogether great reference, as well, and lavishly laid out with stills, old promo art, etc.
The second I heard about this book I was intensely interested in reading it, but the hefty price tag was daunting. Then just a few weeks ago I saw that it had finally come out in a more affordable kindle version, so I was on it like the proverbial Duck on a Junebug. House of Psychotic Women is not an ideal book for digital reading—all those beautiful stills and all I have is this rudimentary B&W kindle, basically the E-reader equivalent of dial up—but then again, now that I've finished it I don' ...more
Joey Shapiro
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
amazing film criticism, amazing memoir!!!!!! One of my fave movie-related books ever
Paul Stolp
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
The always wonderful FAB Press does it again. Kier-la Janisse's book is part memoir, part examination of a number of horror and exploitation films with neurotic, often shamed female characters at their center. Having been a viewer and fan of many of these films for years, it was refreshing to read a female perspective on them. Janisse's writing is clear and easy to read, even when revealing some pretty harrowing details from a life that has clearly been, at times, a pretty rough road. The second ...more
Jan Stinchcomb
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Highly original and personal, this book combines memoir with an analysis of the horror film genre. It includes a beautiful image gallery and an excellent appendix "of horror and violent exploitation films that feature disturbed or neurotic women as primary or pivotal characters." If you grew up watching Creature Features, if you are still unable to look away when faced with representations of violence, you will want to add this book to your library.
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate enough to know and collaborate with Kier-la during her brief tenure in Austin. She is a remarkable woman, and this book is an utterly unique intermingling of her fascinating life story and her witty, scholarly and trenchant observations on the genre films she loves. Brilliant!
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My very favorite film books typically exist in two categories: Either as analysis & lists of films I've yet to discover (Film as a Subversive Art, The World of Fantastic Films, Nightmare USA, etc) or as an in-depth behind-the-scenes mixture of anecdotes and remembrances (Easy Riders Raging Bulls, Pictures at a Revolution, Cronenberg on Cronenberg) which illuminate aspects of films I love and, in their own ways, make me love them more.

House of Psychotic Women is a completely unique film book in t
Willy Boy
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: good-shit
This is a highly idiosyncratic book combining film scholarship with autobiography, in which author Kier-la Janisse uses examples from horror movies involving "crazy" women to illustrate an account of her own turbulent life, particularly her relationship with her mother. Janisse is fearless in her self-examination, and often seems determined to portray herself in the most unflattering terms possible. Her writing is strong and blunt, and the autobiographical elements are fascinating. In addition, ...more
Matthew Wilder
Feb 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It’s an idea so astonishing, so perfect and so simple it is almost unbelievable that HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN is a first in world literature: the author gives us a dysfunctional-coming-of-age memoir that is shot through with her teenage (and beyond) obsession: horror movies—particularly those with loony female leads. A work of film criticism (of the kind defined by genre, not by auteur efforts) is stitched with Bildungsroman in a way that makes them Ourobouros inseparable. Almost all the titles ...more
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Probably the one book that'll satisfy both horror/cult film fans and sociology/psychology majors... Most of the films discussed aren't the ususal suspects; there's a lot of giallo, and the work of directors like Andrezj Zulawski are prominently featured. The most shocking thing of all, is the revelation of the darker side of Canada as the author talks about her past experiences.
May 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love this book disturbing yes
But raw and truthful as we read about film reviewer, writer who writes about her life in an autobiography by dissecting it as she dissects horror films that she feels kinship to and a knowledge of using the mental illnesses of these characters as a definition to her issues and those around her in her upbringing. A brave book and endlessly fascinating. While it also serves up well known and obscure films and gives a deep definition of them as well as trivia.

I thoug
Alex Luceli Jiménez
a genuinely life-changing read that blew my mind and also precipitated a crisis where i majorly reevaluated what i want out of life and the kind of art i want to create. 5/5 stars cannot recommend it enough
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
97 stars for the sentence “Namely, the films I watch align with my personal experience in that every woman I have ever met in my entire life is completely crazy, in one way or another.”
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
essential if you’re interested in personal film writing. wholly unique and really, just caters to my interests exactly.
What a stunning book. I loved the fact that it mixed the movies and autobiographical aspect of the writer's life. It was well written and interesting. I didn't know most of the movies mentionned and I'm definitely going to check them out now.
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Do you like Thriller: A Cruel Picture? Lizard in a Woman's Skin? Possession? Then you'll love this book! Kier-La Janisse's book is a product of Andrzej Zulawski's Possession's unabashed depiction of female breakdown and plain old weirdness and through Janisse's early introduction to (Horror Express) and obsession with horror movies as a way of life in coping with a rough upbringing, In so doing, she has followed this thread through her life and from the ground up, created a great book on a new g ...more
Andrew Bishop
Dec 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: film
Despite the subtitle, this is not an academic treatise. Nor is it criticism as much as it is film appreciation. It is a personal account of her search for possible reasons for why she loves the films she loves. And they are some very interesting films which she effortlessly makes sound as fascinating to us as they are to her. There’s not a dull page here and her enthusiasm is infectious. (Indeed, it spills over to the appendix of additional films which makes up the book’s second half.) It’s also ...more
Jason Coffman
Sep 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the kind of book I've been waiting my entire life for someone to write and had no idea until it actually existed. Kier-la Janisse writes about a wide variety of female-centered horror and exploitation films, from straight horror to "Born Innocent," tying in the experiences of the women in the films with incidents in her own life that were reflected in the films. This is often sad and uncomfortable territory, and extremely personal. It's a fascinating read, and I'd wholeheartedly recommen ...more
Lydia Peever
Feb 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Both the light analysis of the films and the parallel story of the authors life were very interesting to me. Many of these films I'd either attempted to watch and lost interest or have actively avoided. Hysterical women and 70s exploitation films are my least favourite things but I can appreciate where they fit in the film history and feminist history lexicon. Janisse presents the plots and her opinion (as well as her own story) plainly, and i like that approach.
Nov 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
A remarkable examination of how one's private obsessions can drive your taste in films, and how one's obsessions with particular films can help you cope with everything life can throw at you.
laudanum at 33
Sep 16, 2018 rated it liked it
I don't quite know where to start with this book. First of all, its layout and photographs are absolutely stunning. I would definitely say that it's a must-read for any female horror/exploitation fan out there. Although I am a hopeless cinephile that isn't my niche. I learned quite a bit, but without that insider shorthand I'm sure my reading experience was quite different compared to a hardcore horror aficionado.

The idea of a film analysis spliced with autobiography is uncharted territory. It's
Jenn Coulter
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
A fantastic read. Not only did I finish the book with about 50 movies scribbled down on a Post-it to watch later, I also finished it with a sense of kinship. Though I personally have not experienced the cycles of abuse that Janisse accounts in her book, I DO find myself gravitating towards horror and generally fucked up films in an attempt to figure myself out - and in an attempt to distract myself from the fucked up shit going on in my own brain.

Even after therapy and medication, I'm still rid
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jeff told me this was a way of writing about film he had never considered before: as memoir and trauma therapy. This book is empowering: it tells me that what you think about film as refracted through the personal experience of your life is extremely important. Janisse sees it as a middle way between heavy duty horror film theory and normie film criticism she encountered writing for magazines in the 1990s. It’s an idea that rings true in our monopolized film market of today: chances are what the ...more
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To call this book an intriguing read is an understatement. Part autobiography, part film criticism, part movie guide, Janisse pulls everything together under the umbrella of showing how horror and exploitation films not only reflect on real life, but how one’s life filters the reading of such films. Janisse moves quite fluidly between her own story and discussing films from her world of knowledge and experience. Rarely have I read a book with references to so many films I’ve never seen. Her inco ...more
Lance Grabmiller
Quirky and strange little book. Part autobiography and part survey of female neurosis in horror and exploitation films, with the results of both being equally squirm inducing (in generally good ways). Heavy on some brutally honest confessional-type material might turn some away but adds to the film discussion and analysis in interesting and informative ways. Covers not only the usual genre films, but distant cousins (several Zulawski films, Altman's "Images" and "3 Women") as well as totally out ...more
I've re-read this a countless number of times (it's been in my collection for years) and with each time i do i always find myself diving deeper into something i hadn't noticed the last. Janisse has a way of writing that enraptures readers completely with every turning point. She intersects every subgenre known to neurosis in horror from a view of acknowledgement of what exactly each mean for every film that's highlighted. It takes a certain kind of voice and research in order to articulate what ...more
Mark Cain
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rather unique and interesting synthesis of personal and rather tragic autobiography and film analysis, filtered through the lens of a part-wrecked life.

I think if I were to watch all the movies talked about in this book in one long marathon it would be a mental health hazard, but I will be picking through it and dipping into the movies discussed for years to come, I have not doubt of that.
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“As my own neurosis became more subdued I found myself unconsciously drawn to female characters who exhibited signs of behaviors I had recognized in myself: repression, delusion, jealousy, paranoia, hysteria. But these issues didn’t magically disappear; they just became buried beneath business and activity, and came back to sideswipe me at inopportune moments.
We have more patience, or perhaps more empathy, for fictional characters than we do their real-life counterparts. Faced with neurosis in film and literature, we want to investigate rather than avoid. If watching horror films is cathartic because it provides a temporary feeling of control over the one unknown factor that can’t be controlled (death), then wouldn’t it make sense that a crazy person would find relief in onscreen histrionics?”
“The truth, and the threat it poses, can be too overwhelming to bear, and for many women in the aftermath of the sexual revolution, the truth was that their experiences were being dismissed by the men in their lives. Although many of the women in the films of this period are clearly meant to be schizophrenic, sociopathic or downright psychotic, the underlying implication (and there always is one in horror films) is that these ‘illnesses’ come in at the break between the woman’s experience and the man’s experience of the same situation- and what is ‘true’ or ‘right’ is often whatever the man says it is.” 0 likes
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