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Cynthia Freeland


Cynthia Freeland is co-editor of Philosophy and Film (Routledge, 1995) and has published on ancient tragedy, the aesthetics of the sublime, and the philosophy of horror. She has spoken on Dracula for the Houston Ballet's Dracula and has curated a horror film series for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. A long-time horror movie fan, she prefers Pinhead to Freddy, but would choose David Cronenberg as her favorite horror film director. His movie Scanners (1980) is still her favorite horror film.

Women in Horror Films [...]

Much of my thinking about women in horror films has been influenced by folklorist Carol Clover's new book, Men Women and Chainsaws (Princeton 1992). She has detailed, subtle discussions of gender in the slasher film and of the whole genre of rape revenge movies, where again, the critical point is not that a rape is depicted, but that it has increasingly become grounds in films for women to take action for themselves to exact ferocious revenge. So, as Clover would agree, better questions to ask about women in horror are not just "Does this film depict violence against women?" but "Why does it do so? From whose point of view? Creating sympathy with whom? With what final message?" --Cynthia Freeland, September 20, 1992

Her Site


The Naked and the Undead : Evil and the Appeal of Horror (1999) - Cynthia A. Freeland

The Naked and the Undead : Evil and the Appeal of Horror (1999) - Cynthia A. Freeland [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Naked and the Undead examines the fascination of horror by using methods of contemporary cognitive film theory. Cynthia Freeland argues that many horror films provide serious reflections on the nature of good and evil, and that as they do so they advance traditional kinds of artworks that dealt with the tragic or the sublime.

She also shows that horror movies, contrary to popular belief, often provide subversive views about gender roles, with strong heroines, ironic reflections about male heroism, or perverse eroticism. Along with challenges to patriarchy, horror also offers critiques of such institutions as law, medicine, the family, and religion. But horror is not all serious; in fact she argues that the graphic spectacular horror of 90's series like Nightmare on Elm Street and Hellraiser can be ironic and parodistic. Also contrary to popular belief, horror audiences are often sophisticated and highly critical in their reactions to films.

The book is divided into three sections. The first focuses on the Gothic heritage of horror in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and explores variations on the themes that novel raises about monstrous mothers and mad scientists. This section includes discussions of the Alien film series and of David Cronenberg's films like The Brood and Scanners.

The second section focuses on the legacy of Bram Stoker's Dracula, looking at various film versions of the original novel as well as the more recent popular Anne Rice novels. The author argues that vampires are alive and well in the tradition of the slasher movie by looking at films like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and The Silence of the Lambs.

The third and final section explores the nature of evil in horror by looking at several kinds of movies: films with a vague and cosmic sense of monstrousness like The Shining and Eraserhead; and then films with over-the-top graphic visual horror like Hellraiser and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. --http://www.uh.edu/~cfreelan/nakedundead.html [2004]

See also: Cynthia Freeland - horror - 1999 - ambivalence

Amazon review

Science Fiction Studies
"Critically sophisticated and exhaustive in its reference to contemporary media culture." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

"[B]rilliant ... provocative ... insightful ... precise.... Quite simply, Freeland has written a very good study of evil." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Thorough & insightful, but too academic., May 26, 2000
My favorite title of recent memory, "The Naked and the Undead" (a play on Mailer's WWII classic "The Naked and the Dead") is a much-needed review of recent horror films. Too many books on this topic are sadly out of date, incomplete, condescending, or just plain wrong. Philosophy professor Cynthia Freeland, however, dives right into the thick of things, stating that her favorite director is auteur David Cronenberg and that she has little patience for mainstream schlock like Freddy and Jason. "All right," I thought to myself, "my kind of writer."

She covers the entire "Hellraiser" series, the most recent vampire films, and classics like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Repulsion," "Them!" "Eraserhead," "Peeping Tom" and "Nosferatu." The chapters range from "Women and Bugs" (the Alien and Species films) to "Monstrous Flesh" and "The Slasher's Blood Lust." Freeland knows her stuff, and her insights are profound and interesting. She considers feminist images in contemporary horror, graphic violence and its impression upon viewers, the appeal of the seductive, aesthetic vampire, and the visionary, intellectual works of Cronenberg ("Videodrome," "Dead Ringers," "The Fly").

The major problem, however, is that she's an academic, and the book reads like a PhD. dissertation. It's not a lot of fun to read, like, say, Stephen King's "Danse Macabre" or Kim Newman's "Nightmare Movies" or the anthology "Cut!" If you're a serious reader as well as horror film buff, then this book is very worthwhile. If you've ever studied film in college this book will be right up your alley. If, however, you don't really call into either category, then this book probably isn't for you.

There is much to be learned from in this book, and I'm very glad Ms. Freeland took such care and patience. I only wish she had approached this book more as an intelligent fan rather than as an academic. So, 3 and a half stars. And kudos for the awesome cover art! --Will Errickson for amazon.com

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