Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Monster Show

For those interested in cultural studies of horror  (a subject I am utterly fascinated by), David Skal's The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror is a great starting point. 

Horror movies and other related media have often mirrored the political and social times we live in, and Skal's book takes an in-depth look at the issues that shaped America as they were reflected in our horror films. 

AIDS, birth control, Pearl Harbor, Nazis, mind control and more are tied into Frankenstein, Rosemary's Baby, American Psycho and scores of other horror notables.  Just the link between AIDS and vampire-related horror films is fascinating in its own right. 

Far too many people dismiss horror films as nothing more than juvenile entertainment meant to desensitize impressionable youth to the affects of violence.  Anyone reading this book would be hard pressed to make that argument with a straight face.

At just around 400 pages (and there are photos), this is a little more than a light read, but it is not written like your average text book (though I could see a college class using it as such).  It's a bit more informal, which is where some of my complaint lies.  I would love to have seen the author go into an even deeper examination of things, as I think the book could have easily been four times its size.

As it is, it is still a fine read that I've gone back to reference over the years.  Good stuff for horror junkies and sociology majors whose taste runs to the dark stuff.