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:


MY FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE is and it isn’t exactly what it says on the front cover. Yes, it’s a collection of 48 essays — some shorter than others — helmed by Christian Ackerman about memorable horror films from the eyes of those who are horror industry insiders.

That said: every. single. one. of these films are films they watched as youths.

These are all tales of pre-teen or teen experience, and there’s a surprising number of overlap. While HALLOWEEN, THE EXORCIST, Romero’s original DEAD trilogy, and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE are all represented multiple times, there are a handful of lesser-known films in there, such as the MST3k-featured classic DEVIL DOLL and THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Also, JAWS — not necessarily a film one thinks of as a horror classic but more of a thriller — repeatedly pops up.

These are all films that spurred an infatuation with horror in their pre-teen brains, films that would lead them towards a career in what is arguably one of the most unfairly least-respected genres.

Some essays are more astute and passionate than others, especially a paean to THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, while others feel almost perfunctory and penned out of obligation. There’s one essay that I will not name that is very obviously the author trolling the audience in a very distasteful way.

While reading this, I was wondering what my favorite horror film would be. Unlike everyone else in this collection, I didn’t latch onto modern horror until my mid/late teens, and even then they were not exactly the films you’d expect: GOTHIC, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES, GINGER SNAPS, WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE, etc. That said, I was and still am a devoted Universal horror fan, especially of James Whale’s work.

However, while I have a handful of rotating favorite dramatic films ever which include Kieslowski’s BLUE and Peter Greenaway’s THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER (arguably a horror film), I simply can’t choose a favorite horror film. Perhaps THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Maybe TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME. Possibly GREMLINS 2, or another sequel: FINAL DESTINATION 2. Tempted to note NIGHT OF THE COMET. However, none of these films — apart from perhaps FIRE WALK WITH ME — had the seismic impact that these essayists felt when watching their favorite horror movie.

Consequently, I feel like I’m missing out a bit. Even though I am a hardcore horror fan, I came about the genre late-in-life. Also? For many personal reasons, I am not a fan of slashers, which consist of most of the creatives’ selections. And that’s fine! Horror is a surprisingly personal genre — hence this collection — and the fear these works instill hit different people in different ways. (For example: see MEN, WOMEN AND CHAINSAWS as well as the collection of essays in LAURA’S GHOST.)

I will note that one major recurring theme throughout these essays is how much these horror creatives and fans appreciate humor in their works. From THE EVIL DEAD to CREEPSHOW to PUPPET MASTER, folks love laughs with their thrills. Why shouldn’t they? Every great work — horror or otherwise — leans on humor and jokes to take a bit of the sting out of all of the shit that is going on around them. It may consist of slapstick, absurd situations, or barbed quips, but every piece should make you laugh at least once.

Yes, this is a qualified recommendation. The insiders are pretty tightly-knit — there are a lot of folks who have been involved with FANGORIA and you see a lot of the same production credits as you go through the work — but almost everyone’s heart here is in the right place, and their effusive love for their favorite films is absolutely infectious. I’ll never tire of hearing people pontificate about what they love and why they love it, and MY FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE certainly exemplifies that sort of glee.

MY FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE Vol. 1 is available here, and there are two more volumes, of which I’m sure I’ll get to sooner rather than later.


At first blush, you might think that Mallory O’Mera’s GIRLY DRINKS: A WORLD HISTORY OF WOMEN AND ALCOHOL is simply a compendium of influential women brewers and distillers throughout the ages, women whose names aren’t as part of the public consciousness as say, your Sam Addams or Jim Beams.

While GIRLY DRINKS does spend a significant amount of time shining the limelight on numerous women who aren’t as well-known, women like Isabelle Beaton — author of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, a watershed book that was one of the first to detail cocktail recipies) — and Joy Spence, a master blender widely recognized as the ‘Queen of Rum’, O’Mera (who previously wrote the illuminating biography of Milicent Patrick, THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) has higher aspirations with her singular look at women’s involvement with all facets of alcohol and spirits.

GIRLY DRINKS examines thousands of years of alcohol, from the discovery of fermentation and hunter/gatherer-friendly high-calorie liquids, to Mesopotamian priestesses brewing beer, a side trip through the middle ages and Li Qingzhao who brazenly wrote about sex and inebriation, to the tectonic shift in post-WWII alcohol culture, nicely encapsulated by Sunny Sund who turned Trader Vics from a hole-in-the-wall to one of the most influential booze-based franchises, then capped off with the recent South African brewing revolution helmed by Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela.

The sheer breadth and detail of the history of alcohol that O’Mera covers is extraordinarily valuable, but she also clearly and breezily delves into the particulars of the cultivation and business of how booze is gendered, which predictable is often the byproduct of cultural constructs.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, GIRLY DRINKS also uses the history of women and alcohol to scrutinize power and gender dynamics, how history repeats itself, while also extolling the progress that has been made and also looking forward to what hopefully will be a brighter, more inclusive, more diverse future.

GIRLY DRINKS is not just an informative look at important boozy women in history, but an instructional cautionary tale. It’s a bold, insightful, fascinating text, one that merits your interest even if you’re a teetotaler.

For more info on GIRLY DRINKS, visit Mallory O’Mera’s website at:

Or you can order it directly via Bookshop!

Favorites of 2021: Books

I straddle a number of release years while reading so I rarely read as many contemporary texts as I’d like, but here are my favorite 2021 works:

DREAM GIRL – Laura Lippmann

“[DREAM GIRL] is peppered with all sorts of references to old-school noirs and detective fiction, novels like THE DAUGHTER OF TIME, references to her friend and author Megan Abbott, […] so many riffs on classic Hollywood and horror films, and even a quick moment with Tess Monaghan herself. In other words, it was tailor-made for me, but there’s also a lot to appreciate about the novel from a structural standpoint. [Laura Lippman is] exceptional at setting everything up so that, right before the reveals come, the curtains fall from your eyes, and you can’t help but appreciate the breadcrumbs she’s strewn through the prior pages.”


“THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP goes above and beyond [horror tropes], and is a surprisingly brilliant example of what the genre is capable of.”

GIRL ONE – Sara Flannery Murphy

“[A] very inventive and engrossing take on, not only, the Frankenstein tale, but also witch folklore.”


“[A] classic Hollywood tale, but not the classic Hollywood tale most want to hear.”

IT NEVER ENDS – Tom Scharpling

“[As] amusing [of a memoir] as you’d expect from Scharpling, [and] far more interesting and deeper than you’d suspect.”

NIGHTBITCH – Rachel Yoder

“Nightbitch goes through one hell of a journey and, while it’s not nearly the horrific transformation tale I expected to read, it is a very satisfying one.”


“Patricia Lockwood’s novel — which is primarily concerned with self-reflecting on being extremely online, until it isn’t — may come across as utterly obnoxious to anyone who isn’t familiar with the litany of terms, memes, and bluntness that being ‘extremely online’ entails, but I’d like to think that her artful prose and peculiar framing supersedes the need for that sort of knowledge.”


“[A] tremendous accomplishment, one that I look forward to revisiting.”

2021 pieces waiting for my attention:

GIRLY DRINKS – Mallory O’Meara



Susan Orlean’s THE ORCHID THIEF is a real-life character profile of one John Laroche, a plant dealer working for a Florida Seminole plant nursery. Laroche has a plan — a heist, really, even though it’s sanctioned by his Seminole nursery boss — to lead a few Seminole co-workers into Florida’s Fakahatchee Strand, land that Seminoles have the legal right to take wild flowers from, and leave with several ghost orchids which Laroche will then clone and he and the Seminoles will profit from. Laroche sees it as a win-win.

Unfortunately, he and the workers are caught, and then the legal rights of the Seminoles are called into question.

While it sounds more like a legal thriller, the case simply simmers in the background for the bulk of the book. Instead, it’s really Susan Orlean trying to understand the personal and zealous obsession of orchid collectors, as well as scrutinizing the growers and dealers who live as aberrant fringe elements in an inhospitable environment (mirroring the deviancy and adaptation of orchids themselves), while also spotlighting the tenacity of the Seminoles to live on their own terms.

Over the better part of a year, Orlean travels to orchid shows, swamps, nurseries, and encounters some savvy strange folk, some natural inventors and businessmen, others are oddities that eke out an existence. The line connecting all of her subjects? They all want more flowers, and they want more -interesting- and -different- flowers. It’s never enough, despite the fact that the flowers often die due to undesirable conditions or lack of knowledge as to how to sustain them. It’s not enough to see the orchids in their natural habitat — it’s a need for possession and ownership.

Orlean’s claim in this investigation is that she’s trying to understand this obsession, but I think she does. She’s there to collect stories, collect enough to make an enticing piece — not unlike some of the orchid events. It’s what she’s done as a journalist for THE NEW YORKER her entire life. She puts herself in severely unsafe situations for the sake of her collecting, not unlike Laroche.

It’s a fantastically woven and admirable work; a once-in-a-lifetime confluence of events and personas that embody themes both small and large, personal and political, beautiful and ugly.