Cape Fear

Cape Fear

Rob Daniel

Print publication date: 2022

ISBN: 9781800857018

Publisher: Liverpool University Press


Can a film made in one genre be better understood by viewing it as another? This book investigates this question in relation to Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake of Cape Fear. Scorsese approached the film as a thriller, but Cape Fear is thematically and formally more coherent when viewed as a horror film. Across an introduction and five chapters, this book explores why this is the case. How Scorsese’s Catholicism and passion for horror has informed artistic decisions throughout his career, and the ways in which it reached an apex when he directed Cape Fear. The ways in which conventions of Gothic literature and fairy tales influenced this richly metatextual film, plus the impact of historical trends in horror cinema. How Robert De Niro’s research into antagonist Max Cady created a character who is closer to cinematic bogeymen rather than the more earthbound villains expected in thrillers. Film theory models around genre are utilised, along with interviews with key personnel on the film. Including a primary source interview with screenwriter Wesley Strick, who relates his experiences. Scorsese’s hyper-stylised directorial technique in Cape Fear is analysed for the ways in which it works to creates sensations typically associated with horror cinema, and the film’s legacy is also reviewed. Sexual politics and the controversy that surrounded Cape Fear’s depiction of sexual threat is also analysed, within the context of Scorsese’s depiction of women and accusations of misogyny that have been levelled against him during his career.