Eva van Emden (she/her), freelance editor

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August 15, 2012

Stephen King’s Danse Macabre

Stephen King Danse Macabre I came to this book not as a horror fan, but because I really like Stephen King’s non-fiction writing. If nothing else, he broadened my view of horror; it’s much more than just haunting and slashing. He discusses books by Shirley Jackson and John Wyndham and goes into detail about Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, a book I’m very fond of.

King’s enthusiasm for the genre makes this book a lot of fun to read. In chapter 7, “The Horror Movie as Junk Food,” he explains, “Once you’ve seen enough horror films, you begin to get a taste for really shitty movies . . . Real fans of the genre look back on a film like The brain from Planet Arous (It Came From Another World WITH AN INSATIABLE LUST FOR EARTH WOMEN!) with something like real love.” (This chapter shows a great still from a movie called Robot Monster featuring a man in a gorilla suit wearing a diving helmet. What makes the picture even funnier is that to my Canadian eye it looks exactly like a bear in a diving helmet.)

The only drawback is that this book was written in 1979. This is great if you’re a fan of the books and movies of that era, but I’d love to hear about what King thinks of what’s come out in the last thirty years. Another book, perhaps?

On giving lectures: “I have written my belief that no one is exactly sure of what they mean on any given subject until they have written their thoughts down; I similarly believe that we have very little understanding of what we have thought until we have submitted those thoughts to others who are at least as intelligent as ourselves.”

On art versus exploitation (skating over thin ice): “Hooper works in Chainsaw Massacre, in his own queerly apt way, with taste and conscience.”

Children and scary movies: “The irony of all this is that children are better able to deal with fantasy and terror on its own terms than their elders are . . . The point is, if you put a little kid of six in the front row at a screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre along with an adult who was temporarily unable to distinguish between make-believe and ‘real things’ . . . my guess is that the kid would have maybe a week’s worth of bad dreams. The adult might spend a year or so in a rubber room, writing home with Crayolas.”

Some of the books he discusses in the text:

  • Ghost Story—Peter Straub
  • The House Next Door—Anne Rivers Siddons
  • Some of Your Blood—Theodore Sturgeon
  • The Haunting of Hill House—Shirley Jackson
  • Strange Wine—Harlan Ellison
Stephen King’s list of recommended horror books.

Reviewed from my own copy of the book.