[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below it’s probably ad-blocker settings]
[This is the most recent cover for the book and honestly it’s pretty boring]
“From its first publication in 1992, Men, Women, and Chain Saws has offered a groundbreaking perspective on the creativity and influence of horror cinema since the mid-1970s. Investigating the popularity of the low-budget tradition, Carol Clover looks in particular at slasher, occult, and rape-revenge films. Although such movies have been traditionally understood as offering only sadistic pleasures to their mostly male audiences, Clover demonstrates that they align spectators not with the male tormentor, but with the females tormented―notably the slasher movie’s “final girls”―as they endure fear and degradation before rising to save themselves. The lesson was not lost on the mainstream industry, which was soon turning out the formula in well-made thrillers.“
I really battled myself as to if I was going to give this a full review or just a blurb on my GoodReads about this book.
I decided to give it some level of review, but mostly a rant. I’m going to start out with the most top-rated comment about this book on GoodReads which made me cackle because I agree with it whole-heartedly: [CW for sex, rape, genitals for the rest of this review]
This book would absolutely be Freud’s wet dream. Mostly because this book strokes Freud literally the entire way through.
The. Entire. Book.
So I knew that when I originally found this book that it was fairly old. But as immediately explained by the author, she started to write this in the 70’s, kept it going throughout the 80’s and published in the early 90’s. So that’s the block of horror films she bases this book off of and her frame of reference.
She has a little blurb at the beginning of the most recent re-print of her book [from and you’d think the author would have discussed how far horror has come, especially with female-led and feminist horror movies, but no. All she talked about was the difference in the covers over the years.
The author herself is essentially a female Freud. She regularly sites him as her sources for psychology, as well as uses his theories as a launching pad for her own. It’s especially confusing as by the time she would have started writing her book, Freud’s credibility and concepts had well been exposed and discredited/dropped in legitimacy as there had been actual studies and tests done to prove him wrong. But she came on strong with her Freudian concepts regardless.
This is not a complete list by any means, but this is a quick rundown of the concepts of her books as well as some highlights:
– Every weapon is a phallus, every wound is penetration by said phallus [This includes the bird beaks by the birds from… The Birds. Dick Beaks, the lot of them]
– Don’t have a weapon? That’s fine too. Men’s eyeballs when staring at women are phallic too
– Every spooky hiding place, haunted mansion, villain lair – is yonic
– ‘anal menstruation’ [this is in regards to a single-sex theory]
– All trans women are just men wanting to trap/confuse/scare/lure people [this one made me especially nauseous]
– Men don’t see the ‘final girl’ as a woman, but just in fact a beta male they can identify with
– Men aren’t able to comprehend anything feminine or female-based, view only in masculine
– Men aren’t able to comprehend much outside of inner violence
– Possession movies are scary to men because it’s a rape analogy and nothing else
– Men’s fear of castration literally rules their lives, because it would be like having a vagina
– A lot of men who watch horror movies are fetishizing violence in a voyeur sense to live out their own fantasies of committing violence
Notice any trends here? I went into this also expecting that with it’s age and general scope of a subject, there would probably be some misandry. I was not prepared for how much there was in reality.
And everything, and I mean everything, was dicks. I started to wonder if she had her own sort of Freudian penis envy. What wasn’t dicks, was vaginas. Everything was psychosexual, even when in the movies or villains she was discussing had little to no sexuality at all. She also didn’t at all seem to believe in the power of revenge by any female protagonist, which was a really weird view. [This whole book could be described as a ‘really weird view.’]
I only agreed on her on a few things, one of those was a lot of the really alarming themes that comes with the rape revenge horror sub-genre. [Definitely my least favorite horror sub-genre].
She does dabble into some racial and homo/bi/pansexual concepts within horror as well… but it’s also just… not okay.
I honestly didn’t enjoy this book. Like at all. The only entertainment I got out of it was being so weirded out and so confused by her viewpoints that I would have the same reaction of ‘Wait, what? WHAT? Ma’am. Ma’am, no. Ma’am, absolutely not’ over and over or showing/reading out parts to my SO [who has a psyche degree] for us to both either freak out together over, cackle at, or just stare at each other in horror at what she was saying, and discuss it at length and then be so upset about it [especially the rape stuff] that we just kinda had to hug each other because it was so upsetting.
I really wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt because the concept of feminism/gender in the horror genre is absolutely something I am fascinated by/into, and I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt that it was just going to be ‘dated,’ but absolutely not. I don’t understand how this book has so many positive reviews, besides the fact that most of the positive reviews are 15ish years old.
Also something of note, I was reading along both with a physical copy of the book as well as listening along to the audiobook. I could not stand the narrator of the audiobook. It was like listening to Daria, without the wit and humor.
All I can say is fuckin YIKES.
I give Men, Women, and Chainsaws 1/5 Final Girls