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Body Genre - Anatomy of the Horror Film

Body Genre

Anatomy of the Horror Film

By David Scott Diffrient
Series: Horror and Monstrosity Studies Series

Hardcover : 9781496847966, 328 pages, 80 b&w illustrations, November 2023
Paperback : 9781496847973, 328 pages, 80 b&w illustrations, November 2023

A first-of-its-kind study of the relationship between human anatomy and horror


In this groundbreaking work, author David Scott Diffrient explores largely understudied facets of cinematic horror, from the various odors permeating classic and contemporary films to the wetness, sliminess, and stickiness of these productions, which, he argues, practically scream out for a tactile mode of textural analysis as much as they call for more traditional forms of textual analysis. Dating back to Carol Clover’s and Linda Williams’s pioneering work on horror cinema, film scholars have long conceptualized this once-disreputable category of cultural production as a “body genre.” However, despite the growing recognition that horror serves important biological and social functions in our lives, scholars have only scratched the surface of this genre with regard to its affective, corporeal, and sensorial appeals.

Diffrient anatomizes horror films in much the same way that a mad scientist might handle the body, separating and recombining constitutive parts into a new analytical whole. Further, he challenges the tendency of scholars to privilege human over nonhuman beings and calls into question ableist assumptions about the centrality to horror films of sight and sound to the near exclusion of other forms of sense experience. In addition to examining the role that animals—living or dead, real or fake—play in human-centered fictions, this volume asks what it means for audiences to consume motion pictures in which actors, stunt performers, and other creative personnel have put their own bodies and lives at risk for our amusement. Historically grounded and theoretically expansive, Body Genre: Anatomy of the Horror Film moves the study of cinematic horror into previously unchartered waters and breathes life into a subject that, not coincidentally, is intimately connected to breathing as our most cherished dividing line between life and death.


"Body Genre is a stomach-churning, skin-crawling, electric shock of a book."

- Alison Peirse, professor of film studies, University of Leeds, United Kingdom

"Whether Diffrient wonders what a horror film would smell like or what might be at stake when an actor playing a corpse is visibly breathing, the angle of approach, invariably, is as surprising as it is revealing. This is what makes Body Genre such an invaluable piece of scholarship—at many turns, readers will ask themselves why no one else has yet asked the questions about the horror film that Diffrient is asking."

- Steffen Hantke, author of Cloverfield: Creatures and Catastrophes in Post-9/11 Cinema