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The 1990s Teen Horror Cycle: Final Girls and a New Hollywood Formula

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Many critics and fans refer to the 1990s as the decade that horror forgot, with few notable entries in the genre. Yet horror went mainstream in the ’90s by speaking to the anxieties of American youth during one of the country’s most prosperous eras. No longer were films made on low budgets and dependent on devotees for success. Horror found its way onto magazine covers, fa Many critics and fans refer to the 1990s as the decade that horror forgot, with few notable entries in the genre. Yet horror went mainstream in the ’90s by speaking to the anxieties of American youth during one of the country’s most prosperous eras. No longer were films made on low budgets and dependent on devotees for success. Horror found its way onto magazine covers, fashion ads and CD soundtrack covers. “Girl power” feminism and a growing distaste for consumerism defined an audience that both embraced and rejected the commercial appeal of these films. This in-depth study examines the youth subculture and politics of the era, focusing on such films as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Scream (1996), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), Idle Hands (1999) and Cherry Falls (2000).


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Many critics and fans refer to the 1990s as the decade that horror forgot, with few notable entries in the genre. Yet horror went mainstream in the ’90s by speaking to the anxieties of American youth during one of the country’s most prosperous eras. No longer were films made on low budgets and dependent on devotees for success. Horror found its way onto magazine covers, fa Many critics and fans refer to the 1990s as the decade that horror forgot, with few notable entries in the genre. Yet horror went mainstream in the ’90s by speaking to the anxieties of American youth during one of the country’s most prosperous eras. No longer were films made on low budgets and dependent on devotees for success. Horror found its way onto magazine covers, fashion ads and CD soundtrack covers. “Girl power” feminism and a growing distaste for consumerism defined an audience that both embraced and rejected the commercial appeal of these films. This in-depth study examines the youth subculture and politics of the era, focusing on such films as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Scream (1996), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), Idle Hands (1999) and Cherry Falls (2000).

30 review for The 1990s Teen Horror Cycle: Final Girls and a New Hollywood Formula

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nick Spacek

    rarely do i ever scrap a planned published review of a book, but the absolute thrashing i'd have to give alexandra west's examination of the '90s teen horror movie revival would seem pedantic. basically, the book takes some interesting looks at movies, and examines them with an eye that's critical of these movies' lack of inclusion. the ready admission of tokenism and lacking intersectionality for so many of the movies west looks at is refreshing. her willingness to grant small victories to movie rarely do i ever scrap a planned published review of a book, but the absolute thrashing i'd have to give alexandra west's examination of the '90s teen horror movie revival would seem pedantic. basically, the book takes some interesting looks at movies, and examines them with an eye that's critical of these movies' lack of inclusion. the ready admission of tokenism and lacking intersectionality for so many of the movies west looks at is refreshing. her willingness to grant small victories to movies which are pretty lacking in many areas is also excellent. however ... the grammatical and spelling errors which riddle this book have me wondering if the editor was maybe overwhelmed at the time. 'grizzly' substitutes for 'grisly' multiple times, several characters' names see letters transposed ('cladicot' instead of 'caldicot' when talking about disturbing behavior, as just one example), as well as a couple of other homophones, and that's just what i noticed on the first read-through. it's a solid book, but given the lack of attention to detail before it headed off to press, i found myself frequently distracted and irritated. it's so difficult to take a book seriously when it has grammatical errors which wouldn't fly in a high school term paper.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Grace Harter

    (4.5 stars) I will be brief with my review, but will point out a flaw that held me back from giving this a five-star rating. I’m a huge fan of Alexandra West’s previous work. I enjoy her previous writing contribution and her work as one half of the wonderful podcast, The Faculty of Horror. I’m also a huge fan of horror and 90s teen thrillers (thanks nostalgia). I felt it was important for me to disclose that information first, but it is a book that can still be enjoyed even if you do not share the (4.5 stars) I will be brief with my review, but will point out a flaw that held me back from giving this a five-star rating. I’m a huge fan of Alexandra West’s previous work. I enjoy her previous writing contribution and her work as one half of the wonderful podcast, The Faculty of Horror. I’m also a huge fan of horror and 90s teen thrillers (thanks nostalgia). I felt it was important for me to disclose that information first, but it is a book that can still be enjoyed even if you do not share the same affinity for these topics. I thoroughly enjoyed her exploration through some popular, and a few forgotten 90’s teen horror flicks. It is probably important to note that I believe my familiarity with her style just may have aided in my resulting satisfaction with this book. She takes care when approaching these films, but is sure to admit their flaws and tendency to fall victim to lack of lack of inclusion. Using research, she supports her claims and even manages to shine new light on a few films. No, it is not perfect. There are grammatical errors. However, there are many books that find their way to store shelves these days that contain a higher number of far more egregious errors (many of which become extremely popular...regardless of their tragic mistakes). Overall, this is a solid, good read!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was strange. I’m surprised an academic press publishes it tbh. I liked the stage setting at the start, but I felt most of the film ‘analyses’ were just synopses. I think it was well researched but the writing read like a first draft, with all manner of spelling, word usage and grammar errors that other people have catalogued. It made me wonder if editors are being scrapped by publishers as too expensive? I like the authors other work, so this was disappointing. Comparisons to Carol Clover’s This was strange. I’m surprised an academic press publishes it tbh. I liked the stage setting at the start, but I felt most of the film ‘analyses’ were just synopses. I think it was well researched but the writing read like a first draft, with all manner of spelling, word usage and grammar errors that other people have catalogued. It made me wonder if editors are being scrapped by publishers as too expensive? I like the authors other work, so this was disappointing. Comparisons to Carol Clover’s book Men Women and Chainsaws, are baffling—I suspect some reviewers didn’t actually read this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Intelligent read on '90s horror movies. Short and sweet but lots to think about. Reads like you're chatting about your fave movies with your friend (which you are - if you listen to West's podcast "The Faculty of Horror" which I highly recommend). Insightful analysis of the films and social and political commentary of what was occurring in the US in the '90s. I grew up with these movies and have a nostalgic sweet spot for them, but was shocked at how much deeper she is able to read into them and Intelligent read on '90s horror movies. Short and sweet but lots to think about. Reads like you're chatting about your fave movies with your friend (which you are - if you listen to West's podcast "The Faculty of Horror" which I highly recommend). Insightful analysis of the films and social and political commentary of what was occurring in the US in the '90s. I grew up with these movies and have a nostalgic sweet spot for them, but was shocked at how much deeper she is able to read into them and to tie them into the culture. Very engrossing read. Highly recommend.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ken H.

    Alexandra Wests' The 1990s Teen Horror Cycle is a nice, general, overview of the eras slasher movies. She touches upon several common threads which bind these films together, and offers insight into their creation, reception, and underlying themes and motifs. Unfortunately, more often than not, it felt as if the book skewed more towards summary rather than analysis. When the analysis does come in, it's engaging and thought provoking. The discussions of feminism, trauma, and race really stood out Alexandra Wests' The 1990s Teen Horror Cycle is a nice, general, overview of the eras slasher movies. She touches upon several common threads which bind these films together, and offers insight into their creation, reception, and underlying themes and motifs. Unfortunately, more often than not, it felt as if the book skewed more towards summary rather than analysis. When the analysis does come in, it's engaging and thought provoking. The discussions of feminism, trauma, and race really stood out, and I would love to see West or another author take a deeper dive into unpacking their presence within the 90s cycle. I thought she did a really good at situating the films in their proper historical context, and really enjoyed her look at the state of the U.S. during this period. Likewise, her discussion about the transition from horror films focusing on the killer to the victim/survivor and the emphasis on generational conflict throughout several of the films was engaging and, I'm ashamed to admit, not something I had really thought about. I was also surprised, but pleasantly so, by the decision to include the Scary Movie franchise in the discussion. It's not something I would have thought to have done, but it provides West with a chance to really open up the discussion of race in ways focusing solely on the horror movies wouldn't have. While the analysis is not as academically in depth as some might hope for, it was still and engaging read, and hopefully it will spur others on to deeper analysis where they feel is necessary. All in all, a solid read that feels like the beginning of a longer reevaluation of this films!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    If you are familiar with Alexandra West’s other work, most notably her previous book on an extreme phase in French film or her five-year stint co-hosting the wonderful podcast The Faculty of Horror, you already know of her talent for digging into the time period of a movie for some of its inspiration and cultural halo. She brings that same critical eye to the period of horror that starts and ends with Scream (original to 4), a period that is touted by some as the commercialization of horror. Wes If you are familiar with Alexandra West’s other work, most notably her previous book on an extreme phase in French film or her five-year stint co-hosting the wonderful podcast The Faculty of Horror, you already know of her talent for digging into the time period of a movie for some of its inspiration and cultural halo. She brings that same critical eye to the period of horror that starts and ends with Scream (original to 4), a period that is touted by some as the commercialization of horror. West doesn’t overextend her investigation to undo such claims, but she does make a tight case for the growing feminist elements this period offered by redefining Carol Clover’s final girl away from a reaffirmation of the male gaze to women actually acting on their own traumas to resolve their storylines. While West acknowledges the need for inclusion (nicely satirized by Scary Movie), she shows how this period made strides away from the conservative ideals that inhabited the “classic” slashers of the 80s (even when these classics were revolting against them), and most importantly brought a self-awareness to horror and raised some expectations in their audiences. West shows us the groundwork that both led and spotlighted the need for the innovations of such recent masterworks like The VVitch and Get Out. Her reads of the original Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer are absolutely spot-on brilliant. Another fine contribution to the world of horror criticism.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Horror DNA

    The 1990s Teen Horror Cycle is a well-written collection of thought-provoking essays that shed new light on how the genre is a reflection of the times and how society itself influences the cinematic output. Alexandra West is well-versed in the material, but the book could use stronger editing. There are minor problems peppered throughout the narrative that easily could have been caught before going to press. Overall the book is enjoyable, if a bit dry, but comes recommended all the same. You can The 1990s Teen Horror Cycle is a well-written collection of thought-provoking essays that shed new light on how the genre is a reflection of the times and how society itself influences the cinematic output. Alexandra West is well-versed in the material, but the book could use stronger editing. There are minor problems peppered throughout the narrative that easily could have been caught before going to press. Overall the book is enjoyable, if a bit dry, but comes recommended all the same. You can read ZigZag's full review at Horror DNA by clicking here.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Robinson

    Like a lot of people who read this book, I came to it because I’m a fan of the Faculty of Horror podcast. Personally nothing about it was as interesting as listening to the podcast. I don’t hate this era of horror but the analysis felt pretty surface-level and ultimately a little pointless. The Faculty of Horror sometimes has that first problem but I never feel like the second is true, probably because the hosts have so much chemistry and genuine enthusiasm for the topic. That same enthusiasm wa Like a lot of people who read this book, I came to it because I’m a fan of the Faculty of Horror podcast. Personally nothing about it was as interesting as listening to the podcast. I don’t hate this era of horror but the analysis felt pretty surface-level and ultimately a little pointless. The Faculty of Horror sometimes has that first problem but I never feel like the second is true, probably because the hosts have so much chemistry and genuine enthusiasm for the topic. That same enthusiasm was on display here but with no one to bounce the ideas off of, it felt more like a superficial lecture. I’m not necessarily disappointed but I wish I’d enjoyed it more.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    This book by Andrea West, one half of The Faculty of Horror postcast team, is a books about the teen horror cycle of the 90’s. Written like a long 248 page research paper replete with foot notes, (not MLA or APA format mind you) discusses the horror films of the 90’s and how they differ from the slasher films of the 80’s. And there is a big difference. Andrea explores such films as the Urban Legend franchise, the Scream franchise, the Final destination franchise and a lot more. The book is fairl This book by Andrea West, one half of The Faculty of Horror postcast team, is a books about the teen horror cycle of the 90’s. Written like a long 248 page research paper replete with foot notes, (not MLA or APA format mind you) discusses the horror films of the 90’s and how they differ from the slasher films of the 80’s. And there is a big difference. Andrea explores such films as the Urban Legend franchise, the Scream franchise, the Final destination franchise and a lot more. The book is fairly interesting. I was in my 20’s in the 90’s so these movies were right up my alley as I love the horror of the 90’s (and the 80’s). I will recommend this book to fans of 90’s horror.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    A fun, academic tour of some of my favorite scary movies, this book examines films like Scream and The Faculty, grouping by theme to discuss how horror cinema handles particular tropes and what that says about the 1990s. I could give it five stars for topic and enthusiasm, but almost every page had some small error - a word left out, a word spelled wrong, a punctuation error - and after a few chapters, this became distracting. I wish someone had made one more read for grammar before sending this A fun, academic tour of some of my favorite scary movies, this book examines films like Scream and The Faculty, grouping by theme to discuss how horror cinema handles particular tropes and what that says about the 1990s. I could give it five stars for topic and enthusiasm, but almost every page had some small error - a word left out, a word spelled wrong, a punctuation error - and after a few chapters, this became distracting. I wish someone had made one more read for grammar before sending this to the printer, because West’s ideas are fun and deserve more focus.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alise

    Solid book that touches on most of the mainstream horror films from the 90s (and even a few flops). I didn't agree with all of the analysis, but they are interesting perspectives nonetheless. I do wish it looked more into the effect that continuing sequels had on the formula and horror overall. Definitely worth a read if you are a horror fan. It's in-depth but doesn't drone on and it's not overly analytical in a way that can't be understood by most. Solid book that touches on most of the mainstream horror films from the 90s (and even a few flops). I didn't agree with all of the analysis, but they are interesting perspectives nonetheless. I do wish it looked more into the effect that continuing sequels had on the formula and horror overall. Definitely worth a read if you are a horror fan. It's in-depth but doesn't drone on and it's not overly analytical in a way that can't be understood by most.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

    This is obviously a super niche book, but it is a niche that I am interested in! I really enjoyed West's analysis of the 1990s teen horror genre, especially since it largely uses a feminist lens to unpack the tropes of that decade. Definitely more academic than pop nonfiction, but worth a read if you're a horror fan. This is obviously a super niche book, but it is a niche that I am interested in! I really enjoyed West's analysis of the 1990s teen horror genre, especially since it largely uses a feminist lens to unpack the tropes of that decade. Definitely more academic than pop nonfiction, but worth a read if you're a horror fan.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paul Downey

    Great read! This is a very insightful look into the teen horror film after the success of Scream. Well researched and would have got top rating but for a host of grammatical errors throughout

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Barnett

    I enjoyed Ms. West's book very much. She respected her sources and conveyed the films' themes clearly. As with her book, Films of the New French Extremity," I learned a great deal about film and French national cinema. I enjoyed Ms. West's book very much. She respected her sources and conveyed the films' themes clearly. As with her book, Films of the New French Extremity," I learned a great deal about film and French national cinema.

  15. 5 out of 5

    B.

    This book was a fun reminder of some of the older horror movies that I grew up watching. While the analysis was somewhat amateurish, there were a couple movies that I had overlooked in building up my collection and this was a nice reminder of those that were missing. Just in time for Halloween too!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ally

    ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 1/2 - such a fun, interesting read! As a female horror lover I really enjoyed this investigation of the 90s horror zeitgeist. It touched on many of my favorite films that were the basis for my undying love of horror.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Leslie S.

    Well researched and interesting, but would have benefited greatly from a competent editor. So many homonym mixups, misspellings, and sections missing context made it more difficult to read and enjoy than it should be.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ed Dougherty

    A good short book which was academic but still readable and made me think “maybe I should watch URBAN LEGEND again”. You won’t see Tolstoy pulling off that miracle!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Matt Kindell

    This is an excellent book that gives proper due to an often overlooked horror sub genre.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Justice

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anne Donahue

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aidan Fortner

  24. 4 out of 5

    walkietalkie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kevin McCarrick

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lee Kneisz

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sheri Chapman

  28. 4 out of 5

    Corinna

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

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