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The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror

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Horror is often dismissed as mass art or lowbrow entertainment that produces only short-term thrills. Horror films can be bloody, gory, and disturbing, so some people argue that they have bad moral effects, inciting viewers to imitate cinematic violence or desensitizing them to atrocities. In The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror, Cynthia A. Freeland seek Horror is often dismissed as mass art or lowbrow entertainment that produces only short-term thrills. Horror films can be bloody, gory, and disturbing, so some people argue that they have bad moral effects, inciting viewers to imitate cinematic violence or desensitizing them to atrocities. In The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror, Cynthia A. Freeland seeks to counter both aesthetic disdain and moral condemnation by focusing on a select body of important and revealing films, demonstrating how the genre is capable of deep philosophical reflection about the existence and nature of evil—both human and cosmic. In exploring these films, the author argues against a purely psychoanalytic approach and opts for both feminist and philosophical understandings. She looks at what it is in these movies that serves to elicit specific reactions in viewers and why such responses as fear and disgust are ultimately pleasurable. The author is particularly interested in showing how gender figures into screen presentations of evil.The book is divided into three sections: Mad Scientists and Monstrous Mothers, which looks into the implications of male, rationalistic, scientific technology gone awry; The Vampire's Seduction, which explores the attraction of evil and the human ability (or inability) to distinguish active from passive, subject from object, and virtue from vice; and Sublime Spectacles of Disaster, which examines the human fascination with horror spectacle. This section concludes with a chapter on graphic horror films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Written for both students and film enthusiasts, the book examines a wide array of films including: The Silence of the Lambs, Repulsion, Frankenstein, The Fly, Dead Ringers, Alien, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Interview with the Vampire, Frenzy, The Shining, Eraserhead, Hellraiser, and many others.


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Horror is often dismissed as mass art or lowbrow entertainment that produces only short-term thrills. Horror films can be bloody, gory, and disturbing, so some people argue that they have bad moral effects, inciting viewers to imitate cinematic violence or desensitizing them to atrocities. In The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror, Cynthia A. Freeland seek Horror is often dismissed as mass art or lowbrow entertainment that produces only short-term thrills. Horror films can be bloody, gory, and disturbing, so some people argue that they have bad moral effects, inciting viewers to imitate cinematic violence or desensitizing them to atrocities. In The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror, Cynthia A. Freeland seeks to counter both aesthetic disdain and moral condemnation by focusing on a select body of important and revealing films, demonstrating how the genre is capable of deep philosophical reflection about the existence and nature of evil—both human and cosmic. In exploring these films, the author argues against a purely psychoanalytic approach and opts for both feminist and philosophical understandings. She looks at what it is in these movies that serves to elicit specific reactions in viewers and why such responses as fear and disgust are ultimately pleasurable. The author is particularly interested in showing how gender figures into screen presentations of evil.The book is divided into three sections: Mad Scientists and Monstrous Mothers, which looks into the implications of male, rationalistic, scientific technology gone awry; The Vampire's Seduction, which explores the attraction of evil and the human ability (or inability) to distinguish active from passive, subject from object, and virtue from vice; and Sublime Spectacles of Disaster, which examines the human fascination with horror spectacle. This section concludes with a chapter on graphic horror films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Written for both students and film enthusiasts, the book examines a wide array of films including: The Silence of the Lambs, Repulsion, Frankenstein, The Fly, Dead Ringers, Alien, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Interview with the Vampire, Frenzy, The Shining, Eraserhead, Hellraiser, and many others.

30 review for The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steve Wiggins

    Feminists writing on horror are particularly fascinating. As a male reading such studies it's easy to feel the impact of guilt since my gender is often on the inflicting side of the equation. Freeland, however, points out that horror isn't always as misogynistic as it's thought to be. She shares this with Carol Clover, who also analyzes horror. Both suggest there is something deeper going on here. I quite liked how Freeland laid this out. The analysis here is primarily about evil. What is evil an Feminists writing on horror are particularly fascinating. As a male reading such studies it's easy to feel the impact of guilt since my gender is often on the inflicting side of the equation. Freeland, however, points out that horror isn't always as misogynistic as it's thought to be. She shares this with Carol Clover, who also analyzes horror. Both suggest there is something deeper going on here. I quite liked how Freeland laid this out. The analysis here is primarily about evil. What is evil and how is it portrayed? The cultural answer to that question has often been both literary and cinematic horror. Freeland covers a number of these "evils" from mad scientists and bad mothers, vampires and slashers, to spectacles of disaster. As many analysts of horror have repeatedly demonstrated, the genre is wide and includes many examples of our fears of evil. A very readable account, The Naked and the Undead allows both women and men to see horror as complex and evil as something we still struggle against. I blogged about this book here as well: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World. My own reading of horror studies and my own viewing tends to confirm Freeland's outlook on the picture. A good book for a dark and stormy night.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jeremiah

    An interesting and thoughtful look at the nature of evil as portrayed in horror movies, deconstructing the oft repeated and simple-minded opinion that horror is a base, flat, and gratuitous genre devoid of any meaning, philosophical insight, or redeeming qualities beyond taking pleasure in portrayals of the macabre and grotesque.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Lucia

    Next up for Film & Philosophy class....

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bethany Hall

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    Paris

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    Normand

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    Cat Gurinsky

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  29. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Baker

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elliot

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