Sex Roles

, Volume 42, Issue 1–2, pp 39–56 | Cite as

Fear and Loathing at the Cineplex: Gender Differences in Descriptions and Perceptions of Slasher Films

  • Justin M. Nolan
  • Gery W. Ryan


This study investigates gender-specific descriptions and perceptions of slasher films. Sixty Euro-American university students (30 males and 30 females) were asked to recount in a written survey the details of the most memorable slasher film they remember watching and describe the emotional reactions evoked by that film. A text analysis approach was used to examine and interpret informant responses. Males recall a high percentage of descriptive images associated with what is called rural terror, a concept tied to fear of strangers and rural landscapes, whereas females display a greater fear of family terror, which includes themes of betrayed intimacy, stalkings, and spiritual possession. It is found that females report a higher level and a greater number of fear reactions than males, who report more anger and frustration responses. Gender-specific fears as personalized through slasher film recall are discussed with relation to socialization practices and power-control theory.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre scared me to death. It was intensely unpleasant, even though it's a cheap splatter flick about some teenagers who get slaughtered by some deranged lunatics in rural Texas somewhere. I guess the most freaky thing about the movie is all the screaming. The one girl who barely escapes the chainsaw guy screams all throughout the movie. She is terrorized unrelentlessly, and after a series of close calls with the chainsaw she is finally rescued by a trucker. I was drained after seeing that film. The gore and graphic violence made me feel awful—almost guilty—for watching it.

—Participant No. 102, male undergraduate


Gender Difference Social Psychology Analysis Approach Text Analysis Emotional Reaction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justin M. Nolan
    • 1
  • Gery W. Ryan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Missouri–Columbia

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