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Labors of Fear: The Modern Horror Film Goes to Work
edited by Aviva Briefel and Jason Middleton
University of Texas Press, 2023
eISBN: 978-1-4773-2723-4 | Cloth: 978-1-4773-2721-0
Library of Congress Classification PN1995.9.H6L24 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 791.436164


How work and capitalism inspire horror in modern film.

American ideals position work as a source of pride, opportunity, and meaning. Yet the ravages of labor are constant grist for horror films. Going back decades to the mad scientists of classic cinema, the menial motel job that prepares Norman Bates for his crimes in Psycho, and the unemployed slaughterhouse workers of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, horror movies have made the case that work is not so much a point of pride as a source of monstrosity.

Editors Aviva Briefel and Jason Middleton assemble the first study of horror’s critique of labor. In the 1970s and 1980s, films such as The Shining and Dawn of the Dead responded to deindustrialization, automation, globalization, and rising numbers of women in the workforce. Labors of Fear explores these critical issues and extends them in discussions of recent works such as The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Midsommar, Survival of the Dead, It Follows, Get Out, and Us. Covering films ranging from the 1970s onward, these essays address novel and newly recognized modes and conditions of labor: reproductive labor, emotion work and emotional labor, social media and self-branding, intellectual labor, service work, precarity, and underemployment. In its singular way, horror continues to make spine-tingling sense of what is most destructive in the wider sociopolitical context of US capitalism.

See other books on: Fear | Genres | Horror | Horror films | Themes, motives
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