History of Horror, A by Winston Wheeler Dixon

This is a reasonably complete list of horror movies that have been made, I’ll give it that much. However, that really doesn’t make it a history of horror so much as it makes it a catalog with random descriptions and, annoying, spoilers peppered throughout (such as the one about the reasonably recent movie The Orphan… I’m more-or-less ok with spoiling a classic Universal horror movie that’s over 80 years old but maybe not reveal the secret ending to the 5 year old movie). It felt like I was reading someone’s journey through Wikipedia articles and following links rather than reading a history. I was hoping for more analysis and fewer lists.

The early history is, perhaps understandably, nothing but a list of movies. Hey, these early movies probably don’t exist any longer, are hard to come by, or just aren’t long enough to have much to say about. That movies into the discussion of classic Universal horror movies and Hammer Studios was the only semi-meaty part of the book… the only area where I kind of learned something… even though it also devolved into list making.

The discussion of modern horror movies showed the writer’s disinterest in anything but what had been done in the past (or in Korea/Japan). Granted, I’m not a defender of torture porn or splatter movies, but someone loves those movies and that someone might be reading this book. It’s not that he shouldn’t have an opinion but, rather, that the interjection of opinion in a book that is, essentially, a long list of movies with synopsis/spoilers, is out of place. If the book had been more theory, essays, and actual historical context, it’d have been perfectly fine. That’s what I was looking for, but that’s not what this book is.

Perhaps that’s my mistake in expecting a book called “The History of Horror” to be something other than what it turned out to be.

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