Horror is fecund. A genre oft disparaged or wearing a warning label, it regularly coughs up bloody gems, from Poe and Shelley all the way to the present, despite all the naysaying. It’s the little genre that could. Its stories can take place anytime, anywhere with anyone as long as they evoke the one emotion for which it is named.
The Thrill of Repulsion is like an extremely well-informed horror blog bound as a book, in that it is comprised of lists and short essays – but these are no twizzler-snorting fangasmic “It was bitchin when her head fell off!!” ravings. Dr Burns is a literature and film professor, who lectures around the country. This book is his counter-offensive against an intellectual establishment that dismisses works of horror: “…because their subject matter has been outside the post-Enlightenment, pragmatic, humanist and scientific views of reality, these works are at best marginalized and at worst scapegoated as the wreckers of civilization.”
Because it’s in respectable but still bite-sized chunks, this is great for bathroom reading, (Sorry, Dr. Burns, but it’s true), but it’s not a random collection of goofy trivia and way-too-obvious observations. Witness:
Chapter 10: We Blew It: The Death of the ’60s on Film
Chapter 11: Fear and Head-Spinning: Kierkegaard and The Exorcist
That doesn’t mean it’s no fun though:
Chapter 16: The 13 Scariest Made-for-TV Horror Films
Chapter 22: The 13 Most Riotous Horror Bands/Musicians
He covers film, tv, music, books and comics, but spends most of his time on film. He notes his omission of horror video games, admitting he doesn’t know them well enough to do them justice. There are two chapters on Lovecraft, so he gets bonus points there.
One bone to pick: there is a chapter on movies that are better than the books, and I wish there was a chapter on books that are better than their movies… though perhaps there was too much to choose from on that count. Still, his bold assertion that Kubrick’s The Shining is not only divergent but better than Stephen King’s novel is kinda nuts – but an interesting analysis.
During this pre-Halloween season, The Thrill of Repulsion will scratch your every horror itch. You’ll feel like you’ve got an extra appendage growing out of the side of your head with spiky little claws that can reach all the forbidden areas. Yay.