Monday, April 19, 2021

Lost in the Dark: A World History of Horror Film

It seems naive to think anyone can cover 125 years of horror cinema in a mere 200-page book, but Brad Weismann gets the job done extraordinarily well despite such limitations with his new book Lost in the Dark: A World History of Horror Film. Beginning in the silent era and moving through horror's various subgenres right up to 2020's The Invisible Man (the most recent movie he mentions), Weismann touches on everything from the Universal monster movies of the thirties, Val Lewton's subtle scares of the forties, kaiju, giallo, slasher movies, J- and K- horrors, torture porn, zombies, and horror comedies. He references more than 1,500 movies produced across the globe.

Because the topic is so rich and Weismann's map is so wide, most of the hundreds of films he covers receives little more than a name-drop but he slows down to study the most essential horror films, stars, and filmmakers with greater thoroughness. He keeps his tone conversational and loves to crack wise. Weismann sometimes lets his fandom get the better of himself (is Frank Darabont's adaptation of Stephen King's The Mist really "brilliant"?), but it's hard to begrudge him that when he drops so much valuable information on us and is such an amiable tour guide. Weismann is well aware of the social, cultural, political, and artistic merits and implications of the films he discusses, but he also clearly realizes that even an academic text about a genre as fun as horror deserves better than a strictly academic analysis.

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