Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Books That Shaped This Blog

Jon T posted a nice list of horror film books at Shocks to the System - Subversive Horror Films. It's made me think about the books that influenced my own horror film book, Deformed and Destructive Beings: The Purpose of Horror Films, as well as this blog.

The most influential books were not horror film books at all: The Complete Works of Aristotle and the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. From Aristotle the philosopher and Aquinas the theologian I derived the basic ideas about form and deformity, being and beauty that underlie my concept of deformed destructive beings (DDBs). A line of Aquinas' that I find particularly applicable to horror films is: "an image is said to be beautiful, if it perfectly represents even an ugly thing."

Also influential is a book I no longer have: Focus on the Horror Film, edited by Roy Huss and T.J. Ross. I found this book in my high school library back in the early '70s. A compilation of essays on the horror film, it was my first glimpse of the possibility that you could write serious, scholarly prose on something as seemingly flimsy as horror movies.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the video guide The Horror Film: Over 700 Films on Video Cassette was useful in directing me to horror movies I had overlooked. David J. Skal's Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen showed me that a horror film writer could combine expert story-telling with scholarly acumen. This talent was even more evident in Skal's masterful The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror.

Once I decided to write philosophically about horror, Noël Carroll's The Philosophy of Horror, or Paradoxes of the Heart was a helpful model. I didn't agree with his entire framework, but I liked how he talked. Although not a horror film writer, Richard Rorty was another philosopher whose way of talking I liked, particularly in his book Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. I thought Rorty was instructive about the process of changing people's minds on any subject, even if the subject is monsters.

Rick Worland's The Horror Film: An Introduction was a concise, thorough primer on the genre that helped me fill in gaps in my knowledge. William K. Everson's Classics of the Horror Genre only went up through The Exorcist, but it discussed the older films with erudition and taste. Carol J. Clover's Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, which introduced the world to the term final girl, was a fascinating take on horror films from a woman's point of view.

Also influential were Horror Film Reader, a collection of essays on the genre edited by Alain Silver and James Ursini; Walter Kendrick's The Thrill of Fear: 250 Years of Scary Entertainment, which positions the horror film in the broader context of horror entertainment; and a marvelous reference book on the Universal horror films of the 1930s and 1940s, Universal Horrors: The Studio's Classic Films, 1931-1946, by Michael Brunas, John Brunas, and Tom Weaver. There were many other books too, of course, but these were the main ones behind my book and this blog.

George Ochoa
Deformed and Destructive Beings: The Purpose of Horror Films


Jon T said...

Some interesting (and rare) books, George. Thanks for the link!

George Ochoa said...

You're welcome.