Carol J. Clover’s MEN, WOMEN, AND CHAIN SAWS is a extraordinarily influential collection of feminist academic essays centered around cinematic horror. It cannot be overstated how it clarifies so much of the subtext of horror films and how men and women relate to the horror genre, especially the slasher genre. Hell, she coined the term ‘Final Girl’, crystalizing that trope.
First, it’s worth noting that the essays were penned in the early 90s, so this is very second-wave feminism in that there is a definite line drawn in the sand as to biological gender. It’s also worth noting that author Clover did not believe she’d get this amount of attention, and the recent editions of the collection include an introduction stating as much.
Nonetheless, MEN, WOMEN, AND CHAIN SAWS is not only one of the most insightful looks on the more lurid modern horror works, but also for an array of academic essays, it’s immensely readable.
Clover focuses mostly on the major slasher films: HALLOWEEN, the FRIDAY THE 13th series, the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series (although she skims over the extremely gay barely subtext of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2) and TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. She also rightly spends a lot of words on THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, which — as I’ve previously detailed — was penned by respected feminist Rita Mae Brown.
While I said it’s very readable and accessible to those outside of the academic world, it is extraordinarily dense, and I know this write-up does not do it justice. All I can say is that, if you consider film as a serious medium, and/or you are a fan of horror, this will be an eye-opening read that will imbue depths into these works that you may have not otherwise considered.
You can — and should — purchase it via Matt Zoller Seitz’s excellent book store: