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Dark Directions

Dark Directions

Romero, Craven, Carpenter, and the Modern Horror Film

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Kendall R. Phillips


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
232 pages, 6 x 9, 15 illustrations


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About the Book

A Nightmare on Elm Street. Halloween. Night of the Living Dead. These films have been indelibly stamped on moviegoers’ psyches and are now considered seminal works of horror. Guiding readers along the twisted paths between audience, auteur, and cultural history, author Kendall R. Phillips reveals the macabre visions of these films’ directors in Dark Directions: Romero, Craven, Carpenter, and the Modern Horror Film.

Phillips begins by analyzing the works of George Romero, focusing on how the body is used cinematically to reflect the duality between society and chaos, concluding that the unconstrained bodies of the Living Dead films act as a critical intervention into social norms. Phillips then explores the shadowy worlds of director Wes Craven. In his study of the films The Serpent and the Rainbow, Deadly Friend, Swamp Thing, Red Eye, and Shocker, Phillips reveals Craven’s vision of technology as inherently dangerous in its ability to cross the gossamer thresholds of the gothic. Finally, the volume traverses the desolate frontiers of iconic director John Carpenter. Through an exploration of such works as Halloween, The Fog, and In the Mouth of Madness, Phillips delves into the director’s representations of boundaries—and the haunting consequences for those who cross them.

The first volume ever to address these three artists together, Dark Directions is a spine-tingling and thought-provoking study of the horror genre. In analyzing the individual works of Romero, Craven, and Carpenter, Phillips illuminates some of the darkest minds in horror cinema.


Kendall R. Phillips is associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts and a professor in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University. His book publications include Controversial Cinema: The Films That Outraged America, Projected Fears: Horror Films and American Culture, and Framing Public Memory.


“Despite the powerful influence a number of their remarkable films continue to exercise, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and George Romero do not often receive the sort of auteurist analysis provided by Dark Directions. This book will be especially eye-opening for those relatively unfamiliar with the careers of these underappreciated directors, as Kendall Phillips describes their work in ways that encourage the reader to seek out the films for a closer look.”—Adam Lowenstein, University of Pittsburgh, author of Shocking Representation: Historical Trauma, National Cinema, and the Modern Horror Film

“In Dark Directions, Kendall Phillips offers scrupulous readings of the film rhetorics of auteurs George Romero, Wes Craven, and John Carpenter, showing how they engage the anxieties of contemporary culture in thematic explorations of the body (Romero), the Gothic (Craven), and the frontier (Carpenter).”—Thomas W. Benson, Penn State University