Laughing Screaming: Modern Hollywood Horror and Comedy (Hardcover)

Laughing Screaming: Modern Hollywood Horror and Comedy (Hardcover)

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William Paul's exploration of an extremely popular box office genre - the gross-out movie - is the first book to take this lowbrow product seriously. Writing about "movies that embraced the lowest common denominator as an aesthetic principle, movies that critics constantly griped about having to sit through," Paul examines their unique place in our culture. He focuses on gross-out horror and comedy films of the seventies and eighties - film cycles set in motion by the extraordinary successes of The Exorcist and Animal House.

What links these genres together, Paul argues, is their concern with the human body - and all its scatological and sexual aspects. These "films of license, " as Paul calls them, embrace "explicitness as part of their aesthetic." Tracing both of these culturally disreputable subgenres back to older traditions of festive comedy and Grand Guignol, Paul finds their precursors in horror films like The Birds and Night of the Living Dead as well as comedies such as M*A*S*H and Blazing Saddles that were produced under Hollywood's then recently liberalized censorship code. Moving on to mass tastes, Paul asserts that American audiences are "not without powers of discrimination." He argues that gross-out movies challenge social tastes and values, but without the self-consciousness of avant-garde art.

Through interpretations of classics by Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock, blaxploitation movies, horror films by David Cronenburg and Stanley Kubrick, and comedies starring John Belushi and Bill Murray, Paul establishes gross-out as a true genre - one that "speaks in the voice of festive freedom, uncorrected and unconstrained by the reality principle... aggressive, seemingly improvised, and always ambivalent."

From School Library Journal

"An in-depth examination of two of Hollywood's most successful and enduring film genres: the horror flick and the "gross-out" comedy. The book is divided into six sections, the first of which links these genres to an entertainment tradition stretching back to the ancient Greeks. "Growing Pains" includes a chapter on sex and power. In sexually frank terms, the content of movies such as Porky's and Animal House is explored at length. Jokes are analyzed, comic scenes are dissected, and thoughtful conclusions are reached. In "Revolting Bodies," Paul explains interesting connections between upheavals prevalent in American families and other social institutions during the '70s and '80s and gross-out horror films such as Alien and Nightmare on Elm Street. Apparent throughout is the author's enjoyment of and respect for his subject. This mature and detailed analysis will serve more serious readers exploring recent film history and criticism rather than those looking for casual diversion. Two brief selections of black-and-white photographs are included. An extensive endnote section and index make the book useful as a reference tool."
  • Publisher : Columbia University Press; First Edition (May 12, 1994)
  • Language: : English
  • Hardcover : 552 pages
  • Reading age : 22 years and up
  • Item Weight : 1.95 pounds
  • Dimensions : 9.26 x 6.33 x 1.5 inches

NOTE: These are used copies of an out-of-print paperback, guaranteed good condition but with some wear-and-tear.