A History of Horror
Wheeler Winston Dixon
Named an Outstanding Academic Title 2010 (Choice)
Narrated by Aaron Henkin
Approximately 9 hours
Book published by Rutgers University Press
Ever since horror leapt from popular fiction to the silver screen in the late 1890s, viewers have experienced fear and pleasure in exquisite combination. Wheeler Winston Dixon’s A History of Horror is the only book to offer a comprehensive survey of this ever-popular film genre.
Arranged by decades, with outliers and franchise films overlapping some years, this one-stop sourcebook unearths the historical origins of characters such as Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman and their various incarnations in film from the silent era to comedic sequels. A History of Horror explores how the horror film fits into the Hollywood studio system and how its enormous success in American and European culture expanded globally over time.
Dixon examines key periods in the horror film—in which the basic precepts of the genre were established, then burnished into conveniently reliable and malleable forms, and then, after collapsing into parody, rose again and again to create new levels of intensity and menace. A History of Horror, supported by rare stills from classic films, brings over fifty timeless horror films into frightfully clear focus, zooms in on today’s top horror Web sites, and champions the stars, directors, and subgenres that make the horror film so exciting and popular with contemporary audiences.
Wheeler Winston Dixon is the James Ryan Endowed Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including A Short History of Film, available as an audiobook from University Press Audiobooks.
“Dixon is recognized as an eminent film scholar and the current title is an impressive addition to his oeuvre. This book certainly has solid scholarship, but it is also a book that once picked up is hard to put down. Essential.”
“This is an excellent survey of horror movies. The author, a veteran film historian, takes the reader back to the beginning, when, in the first three decades of the twentieth century, such directors as Georges Melies, F. W. Murnau, and Paul Wegener were defining not only the look of a genre but also cinema itself. The period between 1930 and the late 1940s saw the rise of the classic Universal Studios characters—Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy—and the actors who played them: Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney Jr. By the end of the 1940s, horror was dying, 'killed by a plethora of poorly made sequels.' But never fear: the period between the late ‘40s and 1970 saw a massive resurgence, due in part to gimmicks (such as 3-D); low-budget quickies from the likes of Roger Corman, the wizard of the B movie; and the stylish resurrection of the classic Universal monsters by Britain’s Hammer Film Productions. This survey, which takes the reader right up to the present, is full of fascinating information and is delivered in an accessible manner. Required reading for horror fans. ”
“Dixon surveys the development of the horror genre from the earliest Frankenstein and Dracula films through the decades of classics by Hammer studios, William Castle, Roger Corman, and Val Lewton. Dixon covers movies seldom found in other histories and more modern, international titles such as Wolf Creek, Black Water, and Grudge. The endurance of horror, trends like remakes and sequels, and such popular franchises as Child's Play and Halloween are also discussed. In the final chapter, Dixon analyzes the decline of modern horror owing to desensitized audiences, graphic gore, violence, and lack of solid plot lines or character development. This concise overview is an informative and entertaining read. Recommended.”
“Well written and well researched and offering an enjoyable overview of more than one hundred years of cinema, A History of Horror is a quick, delightful read. ”
—Seattle Post Intelligencer
“[Dixon's] book is a page-turner! It is a fabulous piece of work. A breathtaking panorama, written with wit and candor, showing how the horror film has shaped cinema from its the origins of the genre until now. I am really thrilled by the way A History of Horror refuses to fetishize the horror film at the same time it brings into view the complexities of history informing the genre. The very critical assessment of recent films in the final pages is a reminder to readers and filmmakers that, as the author has done himself, they would do well to take keen note of its rich and variegated past in view of its reinvention.”
—Tom Conley, Harvard University
“...this book will appeal to fans of horror as well as film students and scholars interested in a readable overview of the history of the genre.”
—Rebecca Bell-Metereau, author of Hollywood Androgyny
“There is a wealth of research material here for anyone willing to follow Dixon’s many threads.”
—Martin A. David, New York Journal of Books