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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

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  404 ratings  ·  44 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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4.44  · 
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 ·  404 ratings  ·  44 reviews

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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
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
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 ...more
Paul S
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!
Willy Boy
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
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
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
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
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
James Oxyer
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Skeptical about the blend of film commentary and autobiography at first, but the way Janisse intertwines the two is incredibly effective and made me appreciate the nuance of films I wouldn't have thought had any before reading the book. Of course, now my film watchlist has thirty more movies in it that I need to catch up on (hopefully the films are as appealing as Janisse makes them out to be).
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.
Aug 30, 2018 rated it liked it
This is such a weird book I liked it but it was pretty uneven. I would have preferred more about the movies and less about the author
Apr 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
I expected to dislike the movies, but now I dislike the author and most of her analysis, too.
Kyle Burley
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strange mixture of raw, confessional, biography, and cogent analysis of the portrayal of female neurosis in horror/exploitation film.
A fascinating read.
Chelsea Klingenberg
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read.
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Love this book! A must read for any movie / horror film fan.
Sep 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Super interesting book tackling female delusions, revenge, and mental issues in horror and exploitation films. The first half of the book has the author sharing her life story, but combined with films of this category. It's a shame that she finds so much to relate to in these films (her life and family's lives are full of trauma - I'm glad that she has made a career channeling this trauma into something interesting - whether programming at the Alamo Drafthouse, curating genre film fests, teachin ...more
Apr 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
For once getting sick has served a purpose: it gave me time to read about sick minds while being sick in body.
I like House of Psychotic Women a lot because I can recognize a lot of the reasons the author has for liking horror movies. I also like it a lot because for a biography of sorts it has so much information to divulge about one of my favorite genres of film.
Not only has it left me with a new perspective on women in classical horror but also with a neat list of films to track down and wat
Sara Gray
Nov 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Two of my favorite things in one: a harrowing, well-written memoir by a strong, incredible woman and film criticism. Janisse interweaves her own story of being an adoptee cast onto the margins of society with synopses and criticism of films that focus on "crazy," neurotic women. The whole thing is accessible, feminist, powerful, and pretty damn awesome. My Netflix queue is going to be filled with 3/4ths of the films listed in her appendix.
Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Favorite thing I read this year. Kier-la is a national treasure. It's tough to find female-driven genre films evaluated in such an empathetic, comprehensive, and enthusiastic manner. Feminist film criticism mostly makes me feel uncomfortable for liking what I like, shaming me for (God forbid) enjoying exploitation films from a place of identification and understanding. Kier-la is one of us.
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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?”
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