House of Psychotic Women by Kier-La Janisse
March 20, 2023 7:51 AM - Subscribe

House of Psychotic Women is an autobiographical exploration of female neurosis in horror and exploitation films. Anecdotes and memories interweave with film history, criticism, trivia and confrontational imagery to create a reflective personal history and examination of female madness, both onscreen and off.

"House of Psychotic Women is for the horror aficionado as well as the horror curious. Janisse weaves her own life into an intensely personal exploration of the genre, challenging the reader to reconsider the films in all of their complexity. I devoured this compelling, surprising, and moving book."
- Molly Ringwald, actress, singer and author.

"High Priestess of Horror Kier-La Janisse has crafted the definitive encyclopedia of female neurosis as depicted in horror cinema and the many ways it paralleled her own trauma zones. Beautifully written, extremely well researched and lush with gorgeous film stills and posters – a masterpiece."
- Lydia Lunch, musician, poet, author & No Wave icon

Cinema is full of neurotic personalities, but few things are more transfixing than a woman losing her mind onscreen. Horror as a genre provides the most welcoming platform for these histrionics: crippling paranoia, desperate loneliness, masochistic death-wishes, dangerous obsessiveness, apocalyptic hysteria. Unlike her male counterpart - 'the eccentric' - the female neurotic lives a shamed existence, making these films those rare places where her destructive emotions get to play.

Named after the U.S.-retitling of Carlos Aured's Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll, HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN is an examination of these characters through a daringly personal autobiographical lens.

“People love this book. Why? It talks about life and art in an unusual, provocative way. Kier-La Janisse doesn’t kid around. For her, movies are a matter of life and death. House of Psychotic Women is an original, singular creation. Nothing like it existed before and certainly nothing since. Cherish this book, argue with it, throw it against the wall. But let it get under your skin... invade your bloodstream. It may change you.”
— Jimmy McDonough, author of The Ghastly One: The 42nd Street Netherworld of Director Andy Milligan

[description and blurbs from publisher's website]
posted by quatsch (4 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I just finished/was blown away by this! It was on my TBR list for years, but I never got around to reading it because, as not a particular fan of the "psychotic women" strain of horror, I was preemptively exhausted by the idea of a deep dive. Which is ironic because the book was truly invigorating, and I now have a new framework for many movies I do in fact love, or am at least pretty into! As a reader of surveys of genres, this feels unique in how well it pulls off the balance of memoir and guide to the genre. The closest analogue to the reading experience I can think of is Samuel Delany's Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, which has a similar mix of personal history and solid theoretical/critical work.
posted by quatsch at 8:28 AM on March 20

This looks fantastic! I put it on my to-read list.
posted by whir at 11:54 AM on March 20

I just went to add this to my book list, but its already on there!! thanks for brining it to the top of my attention, quatsch!
posted by supermedusa at 12:23 PM on March 20

I got around to reading this finally, and I like it a great deal. (I did skip past some sections on specific films that I haven't seen and want to go in fresh for, though.) I'm a fan of horror in general, but like quatsch, I don't usually enjoy the specific brand of horror that Janisse talks about most here (chiefly 70's exploitation films, though there are also a lot of movies that I already knew and liked in her catalog). The book definitely gave me more of an interest in examining these from a more psychological perspective, and I thought her analyses of them were usually compelling; among other things, I thought she gave maybe the clearest analysis of Antichrist that I've read.

There were some things about the book that I'm still ruminating over. I feel like there's kind of a blurry line in it between the memoir parts and the film criticism parts, where at times she seems to take the films as providing psychological insights to how people work without necessarily acknowledging them as created fictional works that reflect their creators' viewpoints, versus viewing them almost as reportage. Other times she frames the analysis more in terms of traditional film criticism, teasing out meaning embedded in the films and then relating it back to her own life. I'm not sure if I'm expressing this distinction clearly, and I didn't feel like it was a flaw or anything, just something that has stuck with me.

Anyways, this was a super interesting book, thanks for recommending it!
posted by whir at 9:41 AM on April 13

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