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Hello Darkness ...,
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This review is from: Danse Macabre (Paperback)
My original copy of Stephen King's Danse Macabre fell apart due to continual re-reading. I read the book cover-to-cover more than once but certain chapters - in particular those on the modern American horror movie and the horror novel - I must have read a dozen or so times. I owe this book a debt of gratitude because it was reading through King's analysis and comments on novels such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House that taught me to love the study of literature, rather than to find it a purely dry and academic chore: I discovered how a good teacher can be informative and entertaining, the former quality need not exclude the latter. King is a passionate and entertaining guide and reading Danse Macabre is rather like being in a pub with a much-loved uncle as he tells you stories of ghosts and monsters.
Danse Macabre is King's personal trawl through the world of horror: horror films and fiction in the main, but also the world of 1950s sci-fi radio, the murky world of E.C comics and, well, pretty much anything else he finds relevant and of interest. As someone who grew up in the 80s King's love for the old black and white horror films, and the early Hammer movies struck me as a little quaint at the time but his fascination with them sent me back to the video shops and the DVD stores to see them for myself and, guess what, he's right - those early films are beauties. It's true of many things but to appreciate what is going on in the present it's worth doing your research into the past. To get the full measure of today's vampire films go back to the Hammer movies of the 50s and 60s, go back to Bela Lugosi in the 30s and F.W Murnow's Nosferatu from the 20s. Go back to Stoker's novel and Sheridan Le Fanu's 'Carmilla'. The modern films and novels, the best of them anyway, pay hommage to their illustrious predecessors. As King shows knowing about the past versions helps you understand and appreciate their present counterparts.
I usually try to keep my reviews quite impersonal but it's rather difficult in this case. I don't always agree with King's comments - at one point he discusses the novels Frankenstein, Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde and announces that Frankenstein is, for him, the best written. Well, personally I'd say Jekyll and Hyde was the most beautifully written of the three by a country mile but that's part of the fun. You don't have to agree with King's comments to find them fascinating and arguing with his conclusions can only help improve your own understanding of the horror genre. Reading Danse Macabre, searching out the films King loves (and those he frankly finds rather wretched) and searching out the novels and old radio shows he discusses, set me off on a journey of discovery and gave me an affection for the off-kilter, the haunted and the frightening that lasts to this day. Danse Macabre is a fascinating and personal account of the horror genre and, whether your preference be for the old black and white films of the 30s or the more visceral flicks of the 80s; the classic novels of the late Victorian era or the horror comics of 50s America there will be something here for you. Splendid stuff, and if you have ever enjoyed a vampire film or a good ghost story you really should treat yourself and buy a copy. Superb.