The contemporary horror film
This thesis approaches the contemporary horror film from a number of directions. Firstly, it is considered in relation to the historical roots of horror fiction, the tradition of the literary Gothic which stretches back as far as the late eighteenth century. The same chapter elaborates the broad outline of a methodology, drawing upon an established body of genre theory in both literary and film studies, which is then applied to the gradual diffusion of the Gothic legacy into the related genres of detective stories/thrillers, horror, and science-fiction, the inter-relatedness of these three genres forming part of the cultural context for modern horror. Chapter 3 considers Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) in relation to the structures and iconography of the original Gothic, and in the light of its fusion of conventions drawn from the horror film and the thriller. Chapter 4 compares this film with a similarly influential movie - Halloween - made almost two decades later, assessing some of the changes which the genre has undergone in the intervening period. The following five chapters (5-9) discuss a number of films of the period 1968 - 80, paying particular attention to works that have figured prominently in the established critical literarure around the genre, both as an appraisal of existing approaches and as an indication of the immediate context for developments over the last decade. The remaining four chapters (10 - 13) consider some developments of the 1980's, disputing the critical construction of the "body horror" category and providing an account of the horror-comedies which have generally been neglected by critics. The conclusion involves a synthesis of the material covered and a return to the Gothic tradition in order to conceptually situate the findings. There is an extensive biblography involving a variety of material ranging from popular magazines and newspapers to influential academic works, drawn more or less equally from the fields of literary criticism and film studies.