Screaming for Pleasure: How Horror Makes You Happy and Healthy
Coal Cracker Press (2018)
Reviewed by Jill Rey for Reader Views (9/2022)
“Horror is about emotion first” (p. 2). Horror movies tell a story while eliciting intense emotions such as shock, terror, fear, repulsion, and dread. Something about horror films and that “first kiss” with the emotions they elicit causes viewers to form lifelong opinions of the genre, either in favor of horror or in avoidance of it. With author S.A. Bradley, the movie Don’t Look Now (1973) sealed his fate of forever loving the horror genre.
Unlike Bradley, my “first kiss” with horror had the opposite effect. I have successfully navigated my movie obsessions away from this genre in favor of restful nights of sleep and maintaining my ability to keep all the lights effectively off when the sun goes down. However, that doesn’t prohibit me from recognizing the unique history and cinematic architecture that horror films have provided in the movie industry, both at large movie studios and in the independent film space. In fact, my respect for the genre I so fear started long before cracking open this book. During my undergrad I completed a course solely dedicated to monsters in film, which ironically ended up being one of my favorite general education courses offered over the course of my studies. A college course Bradley himself could have written and taught with his eyes closed!
“Screaming for Pleasure” is an enjoyable read, despite the scary nature of the films discussed within. Each chapter is well thought out and executed, ranging from how horror does or doesn’t hook you, to the music and the phobias within. Furthermore, women in horror and sex in horror have chapters dedicated to them as well, showcasing Bradley’s in-depth knowledge and passion for the topic. Self-described as having watched more than one thousand horror movies and attending horror conventions, there may be few as qualified as Bradley to craft such a well-rounded manifesto of horror.
Included within “Screaming for Pleasure” is a plethora of references to various horror movies, from the good, the bad, and the utterly terrifying. Bradley holds nothing back as he traverses many decades of cinematic horrors. Listing movies by phobia, award wins, director, or decade, his encyclopedic knowledge is extremely impressive and on full display throughout the read. Whether you enjoy the horror genre or not, “Screaming for Pleasure” is a wholly enjoyable read, garnering one’s complete respect for the love it or hate it genre that is horror.