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Subversive Horror Cinema: Countercultural Messages of Films from Frankenstein to the Present
 
 

Subversive Horror Cinema: Countercultural Messages of Films from Frankenstein to the Present [Kindle Edition]

Jon Towlson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

Horror cinema flourishes in times of ideological crisis and national trauma--the Great Depression, the Cold War, the Vietnam era, post-9/11; this book argues that a succession of filmmakers working in horror--from James Whale to Jen and Sylvia Soska--have used the genre, and the shock value it affords, to challenge the status quo during these times. Spanning the decades from the 1930s onwards this critical text examines the work of producers and directors as varied as George A. Romero, Pete Walker, Michael Reeves, Herman Cohen, Wes Craven and Brian Yuzna--and the ways in which films like Frankenstein (1931), Cat People (1942), The Woman (2011) and American Mary (2012) can be considered "subversive."

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 17494 KB
  • Print Length: 431 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (10 Mar 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00IXWVRAO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #604,583 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Jon Towlson is a journalist and critic. He has written for Starburst Magazine, Paracinema, Exquisite Terror, Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies, Shadowland Magazine, Bright Lights Film Journal and Digital Film-maker Magazine. He lives in the UK.

REVIEWS OF SUBVERSIVE HORROR CINEMA

"Brain candy for the critical horror fan...strikes a perfect balance between rigorous and readable."
- RUE MORGUE

"Never less than enjoyable and provocative...an impressive, well written and incisive look at genre theory. It is certain to make you look at some movies afresh."
- STRANGE THINGS ARE HAPPENING

"A fascinating and thought-provoking book, not only from a film history viewpoint, but as a work of social record too... intelligent, well written and insightful...highly recommended."
- STARBURST

"This thoroughly detailed and enjoyably written book is an important addition to the continually expanding list of studies devoted to genre film theory."
- EXQUISITE TERROR

"Towlson's terror trip through history yields plenty of fascinating examples..learn and enjoy."
-BOOKGASM

"The research is thorough. The organization is brilliantly methodical. The writing is precise, almost surgical. If you're a serious horror fan, you need to read this book."
- MOVIES MADE ME (JOSEPH MADDREY)

"Opens your eyes to films you thought you knew."
- POPMATTERS.COM

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Kindle Edition
While it might be tempting to dismiss horror movies as only frivolous entertainment, Jon Towlson makes an excellent case for regarding the genre as a reflection of society's mores and values at the time. Directors may turn to horror because it is easier to explore subversive themes using the constructs and tropes of the genre. And the subtexts of the writers' original intentions can be hidden in plain sight under the gore and goo.

Entertaining, informative and beautifully written, “Subversive Horror Cinema: Countercultural Messages of Films from Frankenstein to the Present” is an essential guide to the inner workings of the mind of the horror filmmaker. Towlson begins at the aforementioned Frankenstein (1931) and then examines films through the decades up to American Mary (2012), with many fascinating stops along the way. Towlson also puts directors such as James Whale, Tod Browning, Michael Reeves, George Romero, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Tobe Hooper, Brian Yuzna, Mary Harron and Jen & Sylvia Soska under the microscope.

Each chapter begins with an “Anti”: Anti-Eugenics for Frankenstein (1931) and Freaks (1932), Anti-Vietnam for Night of the Living Dead (1968) and The Crazies (1973), Anti-“Reaganomics” for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) and American Psycho (2000). Although the countdown of horror marches through the decades from the 1930s to the present day, the 1970s gets special treatment (and quite rightly so) with nearly four chapters devoted to various examples of the 1970s horror genre.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Shocks to the System... 12 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
"History.... James Joyce once wrote, "is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake". History and nightmares both figure prominently in Jon Towlson's new book, Subversive Horror Cinema, in which the author examines a selection of Horror films from Frankenstein (1931) to American Mary (2012) and uncovers a secret undercurrent of fear, anxiety and discontent lurking below their surface. Unlike the sci-fi films of the sixties which slyly reflected the dangers of communism and the emergence of nuclear power, Towlson argues that film makers like James Whale, Tod Browning, Michael Reeves, George Romero, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg and Jen and Sylvia Soska used disturbing themes and violent imagery not merely to comment on the dominant traditional ideologies of the time, but to shake audiences out of their apathy and lead them to a higher state of awareness.

Subversive Horror Cinema is a consistently rewarding read, and Towlson's writing is elegant and focused, his viewpoints are presented with clarity and intelligence - a chapter devoted to The Crazies (1973) and the film's critique of the highly suspect, even dangerous policies and behavior of the Nixon administration is especially thought-provoking (and interestingly positions the film as a link between Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead). The book also includes an excellent selection of stills throughout and comes with a fine introduction by Squirm director Jeff Lieberman.

For readers looking beyond the usual trashy books on Horror films, Subversive Horror Cinema comes highly recommended and is one of the first truly essential genre studies to emerge this year.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy to read if you’re a fan of horror who is interested not only in the splatter, but in the cause and effect of the genre. 27 April 2014
By Madame Noir - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
While it might be tempting to dismiss horror movies as only frivolous entertainment, Jon Towlson makes an excellent case for regarding the genre as a reflection of society's mores and values at the time. Directors may turn to horror because it is easier to explore subversive themes using the constructs and tropes of the genre. And the subtexts of the writers' original intentions can be hidden in plain sight under the gore and goo.

Entertaining, informative and beautifully written, “Subversive Horror Cinema: Countercultural Messages of Films from Frankenstein to the Present” is an essential guide to the inner workings of the mind of the horror filmmaker. Towlson begins at the aforementioned Frankenstein (1931) and then examines films through the decades up to American Mary (2012), with many fascinating stops along the way. Towlson also puts directors such as James Whale, Tod Browning, Michael Reeves, George Romero, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Tobe Hooper, Brian Yuzna, Mary Harron and Jen & Sylvia Soska under the microscope.

Each chapter begins with an “Anti”: Anti-Eugenics for Frankenstein (1931) and Freaks (1932), Anti-Vietnam for Night of the Living Dead (1968) and The Crazies (1973), Anti-“Reaganomics” for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) and American Psycho (2000). Although the countdown of horror marches through the decades from the 1930s to the present day, the 1970s gets special treatment (and quite rightly so) with nearly four chapters devoted to various examples of the 1970s horror genre.

However, I was a bit surprised by one omission from this book: the lack of any analysis of Clive Barker and his first two Hellraiser films, which to my mind were the perfect sexually trangressive antidotes to the “New Victorianism” of the 1980s: Anti-“Thatcherism”, if you like.

And while I may not completely agree with some of his premises -- IMHO, sometimes a monster IS just a monster, Mr Towlson! :-) -- I certainly enjoyed reading this revealing, comprehensively researched and generously illustrated book.

Highly recommended.

"We all are brothers and sisters together in fear. Horror crosses international boundaries in terms of an audience. Sometimes comedy doesn't travel. Sometimes other dramas don't travel, they don't translate. But horror, fear does." – John Carpenter
5.0 out of 5 stars Shocks to the system... 13 April 2014
By A Horror fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
"History.... James Joyce once wrote, "is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake". History and nightmares both figure prominently in Jon Towlson's new book, Subversive Horror Cinema, in which the author examines a selection of Horror films from Frankenstein (1931) to American Mary (2012) and uncovers a secret undercurrent of fear, anxiety and discontent lurking below their surface. Unlike the sci-fi films of the sixties which slyly reflected the dangers of communism and the emergence of nuclear power, Towlson argues that film makers like James Whale, Tod Browning, Michael Reeves, George Romero, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg and Jen and Sylvia Soska used disturbing themes and violent imagery not merely to comment on the dominant traditional ideologies of the time, but to shake audiences out of their apathy and lead them to a higher state of awareness.

Subversive Horror Cinema is a consistently rewarding read, and Towlson's writing is elegant and focused, his viewpoints are presented with clarity and intelligence - a chapter devoted to The Crazies (1973) and the film's critique of the highly suspect, even dangerous policies and behavior of the Nixon administration is especially thought-provoking (and interestingly positions the film as a link between Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead). The book also includes an excellent selection of stills throughout and comes with a fine introduction by Squirm director Jeff Lieberman.

For readers looking beyond the usual trashy books on Horror films, Subversive Horror Cinema comes highly recommended and is one of the first truly essential genre studies to emerge this year.
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