Having recently tried my hand at a Lovecraftian Weird Tale (which will hopefully be available to you soon), I picked up the Kindle edition of Stephen King’s “Danse Macabre,” a review of the horror genre’s recent (in 1981) history and meditation on its conventions. It’s an engrossing book, written in the signature breezy and familiar tone that makes King’s nonfiction such a quick and comfortable read, and its peppered with synopses of classic horror (and, often, sci-fi/horror) books, movies, and television programs. I wasn’t allowed to watch many scary movies as a child, so most of my early experience with movie monsters was reading anthologies of movie capsules (for example), which in hindsight was probably better for my imagination. My experience with the Venusian Ymir (one of my favorites, pictured above) came not from watching it ransack Rome in Ray Harryhausen’s splendid (but still limited) stop-motion, but from the action in my mind inspired by a still image.
In a similar way, I experienced the grotesque monster movies of the 1980s (the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the Thirteenth series, Hellraiser, Puppet Master, and all their gruesome rubber-faced kin) by studying the back of VHS tapes in the grocery store video rental section while my mother was at the checkout. Unable to view the actual movies, I was left to imagine the circumstances behind the tiny still images and sparse plot summaries. Years later I’d finally watch the movies in question and, invariably, find that they paled in comparison to the scares my mind conjured. Continue Reading