Friday, February 24, 2012

Constant Reading Project: history of horror

This has been a good time for me to read Stephen King's Danse Macabre. In about a month, I shall be returning to the higher education system. No, not as a teacher, thank you for saying so. I have to finish my degree.

If I were a teacher, this book would be required reading. Yes, it's specifically an examination of horror in the years 1950-1980, but it is just as much a catalog of pop culture for those three decades.

The only problem is that it's outdated. The good news is that many of the examples used in the book are just as pertinent to the field in 2012 as they were in 1980. Reading Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch and Harlan Ellison is just as important now as then. Watching "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Alien," "The Exorcist," "The Twilight Zone," and "The Outer Limits" remain staples of a horror fan's diet.

Due to the timing of the book, King didn't have to discuss "Friday the 13th," "Saw," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," or --gasp-- "Twilight."

So as important as the slasher, torture porn and found footage films that have come out since 1980, they don't register as phenomena in this book.

What could be most valuable to modern readers is the section on horror radio. Radio shows were pretty much obsolete in 1980 and practically antique now. It's important to know the evolution of the genre and radio was a huge part of it. Is there any more classic or culturally relevant horror tale as the Orson Welles broadcast of "War of the Worlds"? The answer is no.

It would be fun, too, to update King's lists of recommended books and films. Doing so, however, would require a revamp of the entire book in order to make the lists relevant.

One could easily call Danse Macabre an important book. Before it, there were not many (any?) thorough examinations of the horror genre in various media. Now, you can find entire tomes on subgenres from zombies and vampires to encyclopedic books on single franchises such as "Friday the 13th."

Just one more thing King beat the world to the punch on.

Another 421 pages down. Up next is Cujo.

1 comment:

  1. The best part of this book, is getting a sense of what motivated King. In my opinion, the reason Joe Hill will never be as good, comes down to experiences, and influences.
    EC horror comics and Lovecraft, plus let's face it, Stephen's all important years experimenting with drugs and being a poor sunuvabitch.
    Joe Hill, even though he is a good writer, just doesn't seem to have the all important life experiences to add.