Writer David J. Skal is one of the best writers that the horror genre has. His books Hollywood Gothic and V is for Vampire are some of the best books out there. His book The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror is one of the very best on horror’s significance to film culture and our understanding of the horror genre.
Although this book is mainly concerned with classic horror cinema and its significance to film and culture, readers of all generations can appreciate the depth to which Skal has gone to show his love and appreciation of classic cinema (so that others can as well). His chapters “Tod Browning’s America” and “Dread And Circuses” take a look at some of the horror genre’s more misinterpreted moments in history, whereas his chapter “’I Used to Know Your Daddy’: The Horrors of War, Part Two” delve into the war’s effect on the genre and what audiences were interested in. He also delves into drive-in culture (“Drive-Ins Are a Ghoul’s Best Friend: Horror in the Fifties”) and even the phenomena that is Stephen King (“The Dance of Dearth”). Skal leaves no stone unturned as he delves into some film, moment, or incident that helped defined that time in history and culture and how it affected the films being made and the people’s tastes.
The great thing about Skal’s writing is that he is very detailed with his research and writing but he has a great way of presenting his “academic” material for the regular reader. He may at times touch upon things that other writers already has but in this book he not only touches upon each moment or decade in history but also lets you look at the whole picture in order to understand and comprehend just how important the horror genre has had an effect on our culture. The horror genre is more than just scares and monsters and horrifying stories; it’s a way in which people’s fears and anxieties are reflected back at them in a safe manner. Skal’s book takes a hard look at this and he succeeds in spades.