The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror

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9780140240023: The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror

Americans love horror. The evolution of our favorite horror icons mirrors the great social crises of our times. Author David Skal shows how Cold War paranoia, nuclear fears, and now AIDS led to films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Fly, Dracula and other horror hits.

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Review:

This study of the visual horror genre from Dr. Caligari to Dr. Hannibal Lecter starts with a discussion of Diane Arbus's photographs of freaks. David Skal then suggests that he will seek to "explain why the images resonated in the culture ... [and] why so much of our imaginative life in the 20th century has been devoted to peeling back the masks and scabs of civilization, to finding, cultivating, and projecting nightmare images of the secret self." Whether or not you agree with his thesis that horror is a symptom of society's ills (war, disease, poverty), you will find much of value in this thorough, highly readable history--especially the detailed accounts of the work of filmmaker Tod Browning, and of how Frankenstein and Dracula made their way from books to plays to films. The book is handsomely designed (hardcover has dust jacket by Edward Gorey), with illustrations, footnotes, and index.

About the Author:

David J. Skal is the author several critically acclaimed books on fantastic literature and genre cinema, including Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen; Screams of Reason; Mad Science and Modern Culture; V Is for Vampire: The A to Z Guide to Everything Undead; and, with Elias Savada, Dark Carnival: The Secret World of Tod Browning. With Nina Auerbach, he is co-editor of the Norton Critical Edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula. His writing has appeared in a variety of publications, ranging from The New York Times to Cinefantastique, and for television, on the A&E series Biography. He has written, produced, and directed a dozen original DVD documentaries, including features on the Universal Studios' classic monster movies, and a behind-the-scenes chronicle of the Academy Award-winning film Gods and Monsters. He currently lives and writes in Los Angeles.

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