Rhetoric of Modern Death in American Living Dead Films (Book)

Zombies, vampires, and mummies are frequent stars of American horror films. But what does their cinematic omnipresence and audiences’ hunger for such films tell us about American views of death? Here, Outi Hakola investigates the ways in which American living-dead films have addressed death through different narrative and rhetorical solutions during the twentieth century.  She focuses on films from the 1930s, including Dracula, The Mummy, and White Zombie, films of the 1950s and 1960s such as Night of the Living Dead and The Return of Dracula, and more recent fare like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Mummy, and Resident Evil. Ultimately, the book succeeds in framing the tradition of living dead films, discussing the cinematic processes of addressing the films’ viewers, and analyzing the films’ socio-cultural negotiation with death in this specific genre. 

Edition

Zombies, vampires and mummies are frequent stars of American horror films. But what does their cinematic omnipresence and audiences’ hunger for such films tell us about American views of death? Here, Outi Hakola investigates the ways in which American living-dead films have addressed death through different narrative and rhetorical solutions during the twentieth century. She focuses on films from the 1930s, including DraculaThe Mummy and White Zombie, films of the 1950s and 1960s such as Night of the Living Dead and The Return of Dracula, as well as more recent fare like Bram Stoker’s DraculaThe Mummy and Resident Evil.

Outi Hakola is Lecturer in North American Studies in the Area and Cultural Studies Programme at the University of Helsinki.

Chapter 1: Introduction 

1.1. Cultural Context: Change of Death-Related Attitudes

1.2. The Material: Living Dead Films

1.3. Theoretical Departure Points: Understanding Textual and Generic Addressing

Chapter 2: Modality of Living Death

2.1. Embodying Death

2.2. Narrating Death

2.3. Symbolizing Death

Chapter 3: Classical Living Dead Films

3.1. Dracula – Horrifying and Unnatural Death

3.2. White Zombie – Distancing and Alienating Death

3.3. The Mummy and Scientific Death

3.4. Idealization of Modern Death

Chapter 4: Undead of the Transitional Era 

4.1. Familial and Americanized Vampires

4.2. Mummy – Scientific Control of Natural Death

4.3. Getting Out of Control – Zombies, Violence and Death

4.4. Challenging the Ideals of Modern Death

Chapter 5: Post-Classical Undead 

5.1. Mummies and Body Horror

5.2. Mistreatment of Dead – Zombies and Death Industries

5.3. Desire for Self-Expressive Vampires

5.4. Ambiguous Return of Ordinary Death 

Chapter 6: Digitalized Living Dead 

6.1. The Mummy and Aesthetics of Trivial Death 

6.2. Discomforting Position of the Viewer in Zombie Apocalypses 

6.3. Vampires and Death as Part of Personal Identity 

6.4. Obsessive Interest in Death 

Chapter 7: Transforming Traditions of Rhetoric of Death 

Filmography 

Bibliography 

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