Horror and the Horror Film

Horror and the Horror Film

By Bruce F. Kawin

Anthem Film and Culture

‘Horror and the Horror Film’ is a vivid, compelling, insightful and well-written study of the horror film and its subgenres from 1896 to the present, concentrating on the nature of horror in reality and on film.

Paperback, 268 Pages


June 2012

£25.00, $40.00

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About This Book

Horror films can be profound fables of human nature and important works of art, yet many people dismiss them out of hand. “Horror and the Horror Film” conveys a mature appreciation of horror films along with a comprehensive view of their narrative strategies, their relations to reality and fantasy, and their cinematic power. The volume covers the entire genre, considering every kind of monster in it – including the human.

After defining horror and thoroughly introducing the genre, the text offers a rich survey of all of the horror film’s subgenres, before concluding with a look at the related genres of horror comedy and horror documentary. International in scope, its survey extends from the first horror films (1896) to the present, discussing more than 350 movies. Through its comprehensive and detailed investigation of the genre, “Horror and the Horror Film” offers a compelling, insightful look at how the horror film frightens and revolts the viewer, its reasons for doing so, and the art of portraying and evoking fear, and will be a great asset to film scholars, horror enthusiasts and readers yet to be convinced of the importance of the genre.


“Bruce F. Kawin commences one of the most unusual genre studies in recent memory […He] employs the brief and precise declarative sentences traditionally found in instruction manuals to offer largely irrefutable observations about the mechanisms that horror films employ to manipulate viewers […] The result is a highly readable introduction to genre studies rendered in a style that is novel for its precision and brevity, as well as its emphasis on dispassionate observation rather than critical evaluation.” — John-Paul Checkett, “Video Watchdog”

“After defining horror and exploring significant themes, elements, and methods of interpretation, the author investigates hundreds of films via specific subgenres through the organizing principle of types of monster, whether supernatural, natural, or human. The volume is both comprehensive and thorough […] The strength […] of the volume is the sheer number of films considered, and even scholars in the field will find a few mentioned here of which they were previously unaware. Students will find it a thorough taxonomy that gives them a mean by which to approach and understand horror.” —K. J. Wetmore Jr., Loyola Marymount University, “Choice”

“Like an academic Dr. Frankenstein […Kawin] undertakes a ‘complete taxonomy’ of horror in order to show us what it is,  how it works, why it compels us, and why we need it in our lives […] It is quite clear that Kawin has done his homework and knows what he is writing about […] Even when he covers well-trodden ground, he has a way of making the territory seem fresh.” —William Costanzo, “Journal of Media Literacy Education”

“Kawin's book, divided according to a taxonomy of the monstrous (‘Monsters’, ‘Supernatural Monsters’ and, ominously, Humans’), soon settles into an astonishingly wide-ranging overview of the genre's long development, from ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ and ‘Nosferatu’ to ‘Psycho’, ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’, before culminating with such grimy twenty-first-century shockers as ‘Hostel’ and ‘The Human Centipede’. The author is especially interesting on some of the most famous big-screen bogeymen. [...] ‘Horror and the Horror Film’ is at its liveliest and most intriguing in its numerous glancing mentions of those obscure horror pictures (often, it seems, of the 1970s) which will surely be unfamiliar to all but the most gore-steeped of the cognoscenti.” —Jonathan Barnes, ‘Times Literary Supplement’


“Bruce F. Kawin’s new book is an exceptional primer on our favorite genre. While so many discussions sidestep the essence of horror to discuss its political, social, historical, and purely cinematic implications and impacts, Kawin approaches it at the most essential level… To regurgitate a much-abused cliché, Kawin’s knowledge of the horror film is genuinely encyclopedic… ‘Horror and the Horror Film’ is easy to digest. Its scope, however, is vast. I hope you film professors out there are paying attention.” — Mike Segretto, ‘Psychobabble’

“Ambitious in its scope, with serious things to say about who we are… Even more impressive than the wide range and scope of titles is how well organized they are into a taxonomy that makes sense and is richly detailed… a book full of history, organized by a true master of detail who cares deeply about the subject… ‘Horror and the Horror Film’ provides an important map to guide us through the darkness and bring illumination to the unknown.” —moviemorlocks.com

“An essential piece of study to place the history in the proper perspective.” —Rod Lott, www.bookgasm.com

“Bruce F. Kawin has added a new and refreshing twist to a topic that has been dissected more times than a corpse in Dr. Frankenstein's lab... The result is one of the most unique treatises on horror films this reviewer had read in a long time... ‘Horror and the Horror Film’ is an extremely insightful and entertaining examination of the genre. The structure is both unique and refreshing and the author is clearly an expert on the subject matter. This is one of the best surveys of the genre I've read to date and well worth purchasing if you are a student of film history or simply a horror movie fan interested in delving into some of the more cerebral aspects of the genre.” —Cary Conley, roguecinema.com

“Just when I thought everything possible had already been written on horror films, along comes ‘Horror and the Horror Film’. Kawin’s book offers something more: it undertakes a ‘complete taxonomy’ of horror in order to show us what it is, how it works, why it compels us, and why we need it in our lives.” —William Costanzo, “The Journal of Media Literacy Education”

“If you’re going to talk about horror film, well, the conversation starts here. This is the kind of book that makes you realize your horror shelves are incomplete.” —Stephen Graham Jones, author of “Demon Theory”

“There is no one alive who has seen more horror cinema, read more widely on the subject, or thought more deeply about its form, function and meaning than Bruce Kawin. And there are few scholars who can convey their ideas with such clarity and grace. Every page of this indispensable book offers exhilarating insight not only into the major modes and preoccupations of the horror genre, but also into the complex workings and undying needs of the human imagination.” —Harold Schechter, author of “Savage Pastimes: A Cultural History of Violent Entertainment”

Author Information

Bruce F. Kawin is Professor of English and Film at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His books include ‘Telling It Again and Again: Repetition in Literature and Film’, ‘Mindscreen: Bergman, Godard, and First-Person Film’, ‘The Mind of the Novel: Reflexive Fiction and the Ineffable’, ‘Faulkner’s MGM Screenplays’ and ‘How Movies Work’. He is also the co-author of ‘A Short History of the Movies’.


Anthem Film and Culture

Table of Contents

Preface; List of Figures; Part I. Approaching the Genre; 1. Horror; 2. The Monster at the Bedroom Window; 3. Fear in a Frame; Part II. Subgenres: The Book of Monsters; 4. Monsters; 5. Supernatural Monsters; 6. Humans; Part III. Related Genres; 7. Horror Comedy; 8. Horror Documentary; Notes; Films Cited; Selected Bibliography; Index


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