Halloween Reading List
Handpicked horror from SUNY Press
As a kid, I loved and consumed scary stuff like it was going out of style. I grew up during the era before helicopter parents swooped down onto the scene, so seeing horror movies before I was “of age” wasn’t usually a problem. Consequently, and thanks to some very cool and permissive babysitters, I saw way too many horror movies at ages that would probably be frowned upon by most people these days. Still, early exposure to horror enlightened me on the genre's validity and importance. I firmly believe in the adage that horror helps us to process fears about the real world in safe and productive ways, which helps us regain some semblance of power and control in the face of real-world horrors. My education, in and out of school—and which is always ongoing—spans the vast spectrum of horror and its numerous subgenres, from slashers to body horror, supernatural to creature features. This is why I’ve always relished the chance to work on film studies at SUNY Press. I know the subject matter and the markets these books speak to most.
With this in mind, and as we approach my favorite holiday, Halloween, I’ve put together a short list of SUNY Press horror movie titles, each of which would make for excellent reading during the spooky season—and beyond. Like much of our list, most of these books are truly intersectional, but film criticism is what unites them all. In no way is this a comprehensive list; instead, it’s a concise, curated selection of a handful of our backlist titles that cover a range of subgenres within horror, including some from around the globe.
Recreational Terror (1997)
Published in 1997, Recreational Terror by Isabel Cristina Pinedo feels positively prescient today. At a time before this was more commonplace, Pinedo was analzying how the contemporary horror film produces recreational terror as a pleasurable encounter with violence and danger for female spectators. She challenges the conventional wisdom that violent horror films only degrade women and incite violence. Instead, she contends that the contemporary horror film speaks to the cultural need to express rage and terror during social upheaval. This all remains relevant today. Pinedo’s book makes a great companion piece to Carol J. Clover’s seminal Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (1992).
These two engaging and accessible works from Dominic Lennard explore two of the more terrifying subgenres in horror (at least they are to me!): animal horror, and when children are the monsters. Incorporating a variety of critical approaches, including cinema studies, cultural studies, gender studies, and psychoanalysis, Lennard discusses am impressive array of films in each book, including horror staples like The Exorcist, The Omen, The Howling, and An American Werewolf in London.
Blood Circuits (2018)
Argentina has long been a dominant player in Latin American film, known for its documentaries, detective films, melodramas, and auteur cinema. In the past few decades, however, the country has also emerged as a notable producer of horror films. Jonathan Risner provides an overview of horror film culture in Argentina and beyond, arguing that these films provide unprecedented ways of engaging with the consequences of authoritarianism and neoliberalism in Argentina.
If you’re unaware of the absurdly entertaining Italian film genre known as giallo, then Alexis Kannis’s book is exactly what you need to explore this fascinating, eccentric corner of horror cinema. Giallo (“yellow”), was named for the color used most often on the covers of old pulp murder mystery novels. The films take that murder mystery approach, but frequently layer in heaping helpings of other horror genres, like psychological thrillers, supernatural suspense, and, most often, slashers—in fact, giallo films actually predate the American slasher boom. With Giallo!, Kannis offers a helpful introduction for those to those taking their first, tentative steps into the wild and wonderful world of giallo, while also providing longtime fans expert analysis on many of the major (and minor) films in the genre.
Happy Halloween—and happy horror reading!