The Ethics of Horror
October 16, 2009 5:40 PM   Subscribe

Where I can find resources inquiring into the ethics of horror films?

Scholarly articles would be best, but popular publications will suffice. So no blog posts. Thank you!
posted by ageispolis to Religion & Philosophy (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Mark Kermode (British film reviewer) is beyond a horror fan to a horror specialist. Given the way he discusses horror on Simon Mayo's radio show, I'm sure much of his writing on the subject would suit. His wife is even more scholarly, and wrote The Erotic Thriller in Contemporary Cinema--not quite on point, but seemed worth a mention! Some of her articles in Sight and Sound seem likelier.
posted by clauclauclaudia at 5:49 PM on October 16, 2009

There was an article in October Journal (MIT Press) about 10 years ago on slasher films.
posted by rhizome at 6:40 PM on October 16, 2009

Is there some particular aspect of the ethics you are interested in, this is pretty broad.

Search google scholar: "horror film" ethics. There are lots of hits.


Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film
Carol J. Clover. Representations, No. 20, Special Issue: Misogyny, Misandry, and Misanthropy (Autumn, 1987), pp. 187

The horror film in neoconservative culture. (Ethical Issues in Film and Television)
Journal of Popular Film and Television | September 22, 1993| Sharrett, Christopher

The Lived Nightmare: Trauma, Anxiety, and the Ethical Aesthetics of Horror.
E Cowie - Dark Thoughts: Philosophical Reflections on Cinematic
posted by pseudonick at 6:55 PM on October 16, 2009

Best answer: There are tons of books and articles about horror movies. Here is a pretty serious bibliography. (Obviously not all related to ethics, but there is a lot of scholarly work out there.) I could probably come up with more suggestions if you had either a more specific subset of films or of what aspect of ethics you were considering.
posted by SoftRain at 7:19 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cinescare is a scholarly project on horror cinema online, which apparently tasked itself with reviewing every major piece of Western horror cinema from early 20s films through modern slashers. Check out the reviews section, especially; while it isn't exactly focused on morality, it does speak to the ethical concerns addressed by different eras of the genre.
posted by ellF at 7:43 PM on October 16, 2009

Response by poster: Is there some particular aspect of the ethics you are interested in, this is pretty broad.

In particular, I am interested in audience receptivity (or appealing to certain psychological responses of the audience).

For example – although this is not a horror film – Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds allows us to indulge in gratifying feelings of vengeance as we watch characters who Tarantino depicts in a positive light gruesomely kill Hitler and the Nazis. When the director (or the film) sets up what some would see as an immoral scenario, e.g. excessive violence, but depicts it in such a way that the audience enjoys it, then what can we say about the morality of such filmmaking?

I hope this is a little more specific. Note that I am not talking any stance one way or another on the issue. Just a research assistant starting off.
posted by ageispolis at 8:02 PM on October 16, 2009

You can probably squeeze some ethics juice out of the classic, "Men, Women and Chainsaws."
posted by rhizome at 11:31 PM on October 16, 2009

I was coming in to suggest 'the Eye of Horror', which I see is a chapter in 'Men, Women and Chainsaws', so I'd go with that. (From memory, it basically argues that the male gaze in watching horror is masochistic, not sadistic; so would provide an interesting counter to the sort of thing described in your Tarantino example).
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:48 AM on October 17, 2009

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