Recreational Terror

Women and the Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing

By Isabel Cristina Pinedo

Subjects: Cultural Studies
Series: SUNY series, INTERRUPTIONS: Border Testimony(ies) and Critical Discourse/s
Paperback : 9780791434420, 177 pages, July 1997
Hardcover : 9780791434413, 177 pages, July 1997

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations



1. Recreational Terror and the Postmodern Elements of the Contemporary Horror Film

2. The Pleasure of Seeing/Not Seeing the Spectacle of the Wet Death

3. . . . And Then She Killed Him: Women and Violence in the Slasher FIlm

4. The Culture Politics of the Postmodern Horror Film

5. Race Horror




Films Cited


Challenges the conventional wisdom that violent horror films can only degrade women and incite violence.


In Recreational Terror, Isabel Cristina Pinedo analyzes 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 can only degrade women and incite violence, and contends instead that the contemporary horror film speaks to the cultural need to express rage and terror in the midst of social upheaval.

Isabel Cristina Pinedo is Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies in the Department of Communications at Hunter College of the City University of New York.


"Isabel Pinedo's Recreational Terror provides a superb analysis not only of women's greater agency within and outside the horror genre, but also of why people enjoy horror films in general. Her excellent book is remarkably readable and yet sophisticated, written well enough to satisfy both general readers and film theory aficionados. " — Lynn S. Chancer, Sociology, Barnard College, Columbia University

"For those who are disgusted by and afraid to look at this 'disreputable' genre, Pinedo explains why, and for fans, she provides critical attention to the fears we bring to this bloody spectacle. In an original contribution to genre/audience study, the author focuses on an important shift in narrative structure and devices within the postmodern horror film. With enthusiastic attention to detail, her work uncovers an irrational world where the mutilated female body is the site of a collapsed social order that viewers recognize and fear. Pinedo also persuades us to look at how subversive elements of female subjectivity–within specific films and within contemporary audiences–have informed the genre and its reception. Through an examination of this contradictory and complex dynamic we are persuaded to look again at the horror film and ourselves. " —Serafina K. Bathrick, Professor Emeritus, Hunter College

"Pinedo has seen some 600 films, and the wealth of this experience is reflected in the book. She makes distinctions that are neither obvious nor trivial, and 'reads' these films as texts with the sophistication of someone whose interdisciplinary background includes film studies, sociology, and psychoanalysis. Her insistence on contextualizing both the films and what has been said about them by reviewers and film critics and theorists is consistent with the best work now being done by social scientists, historians, literary scholars, and students of film. " — Michael E. Brown, Northeastern University