Terror from Beyond the Daves is pleased to welcome guest writer, and winner of our “Hidden Horror Contest,” Mark Spangler!
Book Review: “The Monster Show”
By Mark Spangler
“All monsters are expressions or symbols of some kind of birth process, however distorted or bizarre.” So says David J. Skal in the opening sentence of chapter ten in his book “The Monster Show” (W.W. Norton & Company). Don’t let the name fool you. Like many a horror film (“I Married A Monster From Outer Space” comes to mind), there’s much more substance lurking behind the exploitative title than the name – or any name – could possibly indicate. The subtitle, “A cultural history of horror” is a much more accurate depiction of what the reader will find in these well-researched and analyzed 432 pages. From a fun-filled exploration of teen-oriented films on the 50’s drive-in circuit to an examination of the role that horror film escapism played in helping to digest the real-life calamities of 20th century war, this book runs the gambit from the terrific terrors of the silver screen to a common-sense analysis of why these motion pictures are not only fun, but of vital importance to the culture. No stop is ignored in this horrific journey and we joyfully ride along with Mr. Skal as he explores the brilliance and tragedy of director Tod Browning’s early film work, the European influence on early-American horror cinema, freakshow biographies, , monster-comedy, and two monster kid classics; “Famous Monsters of Filmland” and Aurora model monster kits (I had the Mummy). We also visit the artistry of make-up professionals throughout the history of the film industry, reflect upon the horror-inspired artwork of Diane Arbus, visit the late and beloved Forrest J. Ackerman in his “Ackermansion”, examine technical tidbits of films old and new and finally end up with the real-life terrors of HIV, the Gulf War and Oprah.