Click for full view of cover

The Naked and the Undead

Evil and the Appeal of Horror

A Book by Professor Cynthia Freeland
Department of Philosophy
University of Houston

Forthcoming in October 1999 from Westview Press

Ordering Information Here

About the Book

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.

Read some Selections from The Naked and the Undead.

Read the Epilogue in Advance!

About the Author

September 11, 1999
Horror Links
Cynthia Freeland's Home Page