Audiobooks The Monster Show: A Cultural History of HorrorAuthor David J. Skal – Schematicwiringdiagram.co

Illuminating the dark side of the American century, The Monster Show uncovers the surprising links between horror entertainment and the great social crises of our time, as well as horror s function as a pop analogue to surrealism and other artistic movementsWith penetrating analyses and revealing anecdotes, David J Skal chronicles one of our most popular and pervasive modes of cultural expression He explores the disguised form in which Hollywood s classic horror movies played out the traumas of two world wars and the Depression the nightmare visions of invasion and mind control catalyzed by the Cold War the preoccupation with demon children that took hold as thalidomide, birth control, and abortion changed the reproductive landscape the vogue in visceral, transformative special effects that paralleled the development of the plastic surgery industry the link between the AIDS epidemic and the current fascination with vampires and much Now with a new Afterword by the author that looks at horror s popular renaissance in the last decade, The Monster Show is a compulsively readable, thought provoking inquiry into America s obsession with the macabre


10 thoughts on “The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror

  1. Emm C² Emm C² says:

    Just in time for Halloween, and what better book to review You can t go too wrong with a book like The Monster Show, what with Edward Gorey covers and a healthy bit of each era, though the author does tend to favor silent and classic horror films Not that there s anything wrong with that A sharply written, well researched and intriguing look into what and who made horror films what they have become how they grew and changed with the fears, taboos and interests of the people.There are good bit Just in time for Halloween, and what better book to review You can t go too wrong with a book like The Monster Show, what with Edward Gorey covers and a healthy bit of each era, though the author does tend to favor silent and classic horror films Not that there s anything wrong with that A sharply written, well researched and intriguing look into what and who made horror films what they have become how they grew and changed with the fears, taboos and interests of the people.There are good bits also on how stories of other genres often get their roots from something horrific, as well as the strange lifelong relationship that horror and erotica have with each other, and how both tend to be heavily challenged genres If a film got picked on by censors, odds are it was one or both genres.Horror itself is one of the oldest core genres of fiction, many early horror films and novels being inspired by themes which were already ancient and immersed in society at the time through folklore, superstition and even religion Fun fact The oldest known and intact horror film is Melies s short The Haunted Castle Le Manoir du Diable The oldest surviving full length horror film is Frankenstein 1910What is thought to be the first horror novel, officially, is The Castle of Otranto, though of course there have always been elements of horror in literature, long before that.Overall, an incredibly interesting book that givesinsight into the genre s origins in film, how we have evolved or devolved, depending on what you feel about modern horror from the dreamlike surrealism of early horror movies, to the occultish and symbolic mid century films, into the visceral, discomfortingly realistic films of today In my own opinion, a good horror film should be unassuming, to catch one off guard The filmmaker shouldn t be concerned with being edgy or shocking , but rather creating a nightmare to be experienced onscreen as if it were happening in your mind s eye.This andnightmares on Blood Red Velvet


  2. Duke Haney Duke Haney says:

    Wow I just noticed another review of this book somewhere below Reads a lot like a history book Couldn t get interested in it Yes, I imagine a work subtitled A Cultural History would read a lot like a history book, wouldn t it Horror fans, in my experience, too often write like perennial adolescents, and it s certainly rare to encounter one who can authoritatively call upon Freud, Fiedler, Fussell, Sontag, and Pound, among others, as does David J Skal Some of the detours in The Monste Wow I just noticed another review of this book somewhere below Reads a lot like a history book Couldn t get interested in it Yes, I imagine a work subtitled A Cultural History would read a lot like a history book, wouldn t it Horror fans, in my experience, too often write like perennial adolescents, and it s certainly rare to encounter one who can authoritatively call upon Freud, Fiedler, Fussell, Sontag, and Pound, among others, as does David J Skal Some of the detours in The Monster Show seem irrelevant why, for instance, do we get an account of Clara Bow s affair with Bela Lugosi America s queen and king of eros and thanatos or of James Dean s friendship with TV horror hostess Vampira yet, even so, we re rewarded with wonderful passages like this Death and sensuality had always had a deep affinity, but never before had they been so pointedly merged in a popular icon Vampira s body was a landscape of cultural contradictions simultaneously buxom and gaunt, well fed yet skeletal, a paradoxical evocation of insatiable consumerism She was especially well suited to low resolution television no amount of fiddling with the contrast button could mitigate the stark planes and shadows that composed her Her eyebrows were streamlined, jet propelled parabolas Gothic arches in orbit Drawing energy from the quintessentially fifties nexus of automotive styling and the female form, Vampire was a souped up hearse with headlights Breast like projections on American cars had been introduced in 1953 their juxtaposition with aggressively toothy grillwork already in fashion yielded a technological update on vampire related images of ravenous womanhood Vampira s daring d colletage effortlessly evoked vampirism as a kind of monstrous suckling and the public, it appeared, was ready to feed


  3. Peter Landau Peter Landau says:

    Friends have been telling me to read this book for years It s an insightful cultural history of the genre and how it dialogs with the greater world, each influencing and reflecting the other But it s also inspirational My sketchbook is now thick with the famous and not so famous monsters of filmdom that ushered me into adulthood.


  4. Baal Of Baal Of says:

    I occasionally question why I love horror movies so much, and books like this help clarify, and maybe even justify that love Skal favors early horror and much of the book is focused on the a few of the foundational movies such as The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari, Frankenstein, Nosferatu, and Dracula He seems to have a particular affinity for Tod Browning s Freaks and spends a lot of time on the history of that film and director There is much less emphasis on the films that most deeply affected me I occasionally question why I love horror movies so much, and books like this help clarify, and maybe even justify that love Skal favors early horror and much of the book is focused on the a few of the foundational movies such as The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari, Frankenstein, Nosferatu, and Dracula He seems to have a particular affinity for Tod Browning s Freaks and spends a lot of time on the history of that film and director There is much less emphasis on the films that most deeply affected me personally, but then that does make some amount of sense given it is difficult to tell what will become historically important when one is too close in time In some cases Skal spends too much time on what I would consider irrelevant details around some of the films, for example James Dean s involvement with Elvira Maila Nurni He barely even mentions The Shining which for me is one the pivotal horror movies, and gives both Night Of The Living Dead and Alien very little credit Despite those minor complaints, I enjoyed this book tremendously, and I liked learning about the history of horror film I found the information about conflicts with censorship especially illuminating.One major complaint I have about this edition of the book is the incredible poor quality of the pictures, many of which were so dark as to be be barely discernible.Addendum Something I forgot to write about in my original review, is Skal s very peculiar, ill informed, and backward stance that sex reassignment therapy is in his words vivisection , he rejects the reality that transsexual people experience a gender identity that is inconsistent with their assigned sex, and he claims that there is no biological basis for transgender realities He buys into the stunningly hate filled position outlined by Janice G Raymond in her book The Transsexual Empire I am seriously considering dropping the rating on this book another point for this alone The dozens of transgender people that have crossed my path, and touched my life in such positive ways, don t deserve propagation of this kind of bullshit attitude


  5. Jim Jim says:

    This is a very readable, information packed study of the culture behind horror in film and print from the 20 s to the 90 s Fans of horror films, especially the Universal Monsters, will enjoy this Highlights for me were coverage of Lugosi, Karlof, Chaney and Stephan King My only negatives were the inexplicable omission of any mention of John Carpenter s Halloween, and occasional over reaching analysis.


  6. Carla Remy Carla Remy says:

    Going through the 20th century, looking at horror movies as important folkloric symbols Connecting this mythology to world events and shifting culture Things we can t face, we create monsters to personify.I think everyone knows that Godzilla represents post nuclear anxiety in Japan But a lot of this stuff I hadn t thought much about before I read this the first time less than a decade ago, but never mind that Of course the modern iteration of vampires is about AIDS.Of course 1970s horror w Going through the 20th century, looking at horror movies as important folkloric symbols Connecting this mythology to world events and shifting culture Things we can t face, we create monsters to personify.I think everyone knows that Godzilla represents post nuclear anxiety in Japan But a lot of this stuff I hadn t thought much about before I read this the first time less than a decade ago, but never mind that Of course the modern iteration of vampires is about AIDS.Of course 1970s horror was responding to the pill, the women s movement and Roe v Wade As Skall writes After Rosemary had her baby, virtually all births in the popular media would be monstrous or demonic


  7. Jay Jay says:

    No one can deny that horror movies played a significant role in 20th century popular culture It was a century plagued by wars, genocide, cultural upheavals, drug addiction and so on It was also the century when the movie camera became a central part of our lives It was an age of anxiety and the masses coped with their fears by confronting them in the form of monsters flickering on a movie or a television screen In The Monster Show A Cultural History of Horror, David J Skal argues that mon No one can deny that horror movies played a significant role in 20th century popular culture It was a century plagued by wars, genocide, cultural upheavals, drug addiction and so on It was also the century when the movie camera became a central part of our lives It was an age of anxiety and the masses coped with their fears by confronting them in the form of monsters flickering on a movie or a television screen In The Monster Show A Cultural History of Horror, David J Skal argues that monsters symbolize fears that people can not face directly His concept mostly succeeds but it falls apart in the latter sections of this book Without saying as much, Skal takes a semiotic approach to the concepts of monsters and horror These concepts are fields with fluid boundaries and shifting definitions that encode symbolic representations of collective cultural fears These signs are displayed to the general public in films, books, and other media like comics or Halloween costumes for the purpose of containing and controlling anxiety Such participation in horror is a ritualistic act that summons demonic signs, confronts them, contains them, and controls them This systematic action of processing horror signs is largely done unconsciously but by consciously analyzing the characteristics of monsters, we can gain a deeper understanding of what was collectively bothering people at any given time and place Therefore, understanding the psycho social framework in which horror culture is consumed is important In our time it may be a mystery to some why the hokey monster movies of the 1930s were so terrifying to audiences they do not terrify us now because the social conditions of our society have gone through transformations and our cultural reference points have shifted David J Skal writes from a Freudian psychoanalytic perspective He uses the underlying theme of sexual anxiety as an explanation for horror He also claims that war is the beginning of all horror So, for example, the sight of soldiers returning from World War I with bodily injuries and mutilated faces evoked the feeling of being sexually undesirable in the viewer Therefore, movies depicting monsters with physical and facial deformities became popular, particularly in the 1920s and 1930s Skal also identifies four horror archetypes that he uses as a framework for interpreting manifestations of horror culture that came later He starts off with circus freaks as portrayed by Tod Browning in his landmark film Freaks The predatory vampire , the sleek and elegant symbol of sexual domination and fear of death gets introduced and paired with the polar opposite of Frankenstein s monster, the composite man made by technology, the plodding symbol of the working class proletariat unable to comprehend his relationship to his creator The dark and light sides of the human psyche are signified in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde All the monsters that came after these were variations on those themes But Sigmund Freud believed he was teaching the world about the functioning of the human mind but really he was mistakenly explaining his own mind instead and the same can be said for David Skal Some of his claims about the symbolism of monsters are not easy to swallow but there are times when he is genuinely insightful To be fair, movie directors after World War I were familiar with Freud and psychoanalytic themes were deliberately incorporated into their art so there is some merit in understanding horror from that point of view This psychoanalytic method of interpretation in The Monster Show works well, or at least it does for the parts of the book most distant from the lifetime of the author Horror as a reaction to the fear induced by the two world wars, changing gender roles, the Cold War, the atomic bomb, and advances in medical science gets a thorough and lucid treatment Along the way we learn about controversies involving censorship as regulated by the Hays Production Code as the Catholic church and women s activists groups did what they could to prevent film makers from having freedom of speech Personal details about industry figures like Bela Lugosi, Tod Browning, and Vampira, all unique characters in their own rights, add a human face to the narrative The most insightful part of the book comes with the chapter on horror films dealing with anxiety over pregnancy, birth, and child rearing and also a section on how the Goth counter culture has embraced the vampire as a signifier of a rebellious social identity Then The Monster Show crashes and burns Vampires drink blood and AIDS can be transmitted through blood therefore vampires signify a fear of AIDS Stephen King wrote horror novels during the 1980s and that was a time when people felt economic anxiety so Stephen King s books express fears about economic instability Towards the end, Skal s argument becomes less coherent and he arbitrarily makes connections between things that do not appear to be connected He may have been on to something but he does not give enough details to make his conclusions sound Just because two things occur at the same time that does not mean they caused each other to happen Instead of insight into the collective fears of the 1980s and 1990s, Skal gives us some angry tirades about Reagan era economics, the politics of the medical industry during the AIDS crisis, and the increasing problem of anorexia He even makes the bizarre claim that plastic surgeons are no different than the Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele without acknowledging that plastic surgery is done on voluntary subjects who, nonetheless, are not put to death after the surgery is over You can argue about the stupidity of nose jobs and breast implamnts all you want but there is no way you can honestly say that a plastic surgeon s operating room is the same as Auschwitz Like Freud, Skal ends up revealingabout himself than he does the culture of horror Overall thought, The Monster Show is an interesting history The majority of the book is historical narrative and the analysis part is there to provide context Even when disagreeing with these ideas, a lot can be learned about the horror industry and the fascinating people who have kept it alive It also makes you think about what kind of monsters we will be remembered for in our time We are faced with the existential threat of global warming, Donald Trump and the possible end of American democracy, the forced politicization of every aspect of our lives, the worst era for music ever, and the hordes of cell phone users who resemble lobotomized zombies if this is not a great time for the creation of new monsters, then I can not conceive of when it would be better.https grimhistory.blogspot.com


  8. Edward Taylor Edward Taylor says:

    To me Hollywood Gothic The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen definitely was an eye opener in regard to how hard it was to adapt let alone sell the idea of Dracula on the silver screen In The Monster Show, David Skal digs deep into the recesses of the archives to give us a view into the history of horror movies, stories, and tales A majority is dedicated to the 1900s to 1950s movie scene with some time spent with the slasher genre and the phenomenon that was is the early d To me Hollywood Gothic The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen definitely was an eye opener in regard to how hard it was to adapt let alone sell the idea of Dracula on the silver screen In The Monster Show, David Skal digs deep into the recesses of the archives to give us a view into the history of horror movies, stories, and tales A majority is dedicated to the 1900s to 1950s movie scene with some time spent with the slasher genre and the phenomenon that was is the early days of Stephen King s book collection Tod Browning, James Whale, George Romero, and others are given their rightful due but some, such as Argento, Fulci, and Carpenter mentioned, but not as much as the first two above This also shows the main issue I found with the stories of yesteryear this is primarily a book about US movies and directors Gone are many of the great directors of Europe, Asia, and such We also see almost none of the Hammer Horror movies that revitalized the industry and put names like Cushing, Lee, and Reed small mention for Oliver Jess Franco, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Mario Bavia deserve something, even in passing


  9. Lewis Manalo Lewis Manalo says:

    I have tempered enthusiasm for this critical text on horror films Simply due to how extensive it is, this book is essential reading for the horror film enthusiast however, Skal relies too heavily on the research of his predecessors and he never voices any disagreement with what they ve said The result is a hodge podge of theoretical paradigms that are often contradictory, and in the case of the Freudian readings, arguably outmoded.If Skal had updated the theoretical basis for his analysis an I have tempered enthusiasm for this critical text on horror films Simply due to how extensive it is, this book is essential reading for the horror film enthusiast however, Skal relies too heavily on the research of his predecessors and he never voices any disagreement with what they ve said The result is a hodge podge of theoretical paradigms that are often contradictory, and in the case of the Freudian readings, arguably outmoded.If Skal had updated the theoretical basis for his analysis and included some of his own insights, his criticism would have done justice to his excellent, expansive research


  10. Fraser Sherman Fraser Sherman says:

    Skal starts out with the archetypes of horror in the 19th century Frankenstein, Dracula, and to a lesser extent Jekyll Hyde , follows them through Universal s 1930s Dark Universe and then on to the present 1993, for this book Unfortunately the book gets weaker as it goes along There s almost nothing on slasher films which repellent though they were a major 1980s subgenre And I m not sure I buy that AIDS became the template for 1980s horror if it did, then I d like Skal to discuss the rol Skal starts out with the archetypes of horror in the 19th century Frankenstein, Dracula, and to a lesser extent Jekyll Hyde , follows them through Universal s 1930s Dark Universe and then on to the present 1993, for this book Unfortunately the book gets weaker as it goes along There s almost nothing on slasher films which repellent though they were a major 1980s subgenre And I m not sure I buy that AIDS became the template for 1980s horror if it did, then I d like Skal to discuss the role of say the Spanish flu or polio absolutely terrifying in the 1940s and 1950s or why they didn t have the same impact.Good, but not as good as it could have been