Synopses & Reviews
An engrossing examination of a popular box office genre--the gross-out movie-- "Laughing Screaming" is the first study to take this lowbrow product seriously.
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, seeminglyimprovised, and always ambivalent".
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Includes bibliographical references (p. -496) and index.