Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What Halloween Means To Me Day 20: David J Skal

Today’s contributor is the foremost authority on the golden age of the horror film, historian and author David J Skal.  I first remember seeing him when I caught the great documentary Universal Horror on Turner Classic Movies one night in my late teens.  Then, when I went to film school, I discovered his written work.  The Monster Show, Hollywood Gothic, and Dark Carnival were all indispensable tomes during my studies, and they belong in ANY horror freak’s library.  Even if you haven’t read any of his books, you’re probably familiar with his work.  Remember all of those killer documentaries that came as special features on the Legacy Collection editions of the Universal horror flicks?  He wrote, directed, and appeared in most of those.  Hell, since I got that, I’ve probably watched the She’s Alive documentary almost as many times as I’ve watched Bride of Frankenstein.  He also wrote one of the definitive books on the subject of Halloween, Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween.  So, in addition to being a fixture of my Halloween viewing, he’s an authority on the holiday we’re talking about.  How could I NOT have him involved?  If you’re a fan of the monochrome macabre and haven’t discovered Skal’s wealth of knowledge, then obviously you’re doing something wrong.  I order you to, at the very least, watch The Frankenstein Files and read Hollywood Gothic immediately.  Well, read what Halloween means to David first, and then go do your homework.

“Although Halloween has its roots in Celtic tradition, it has become a relentlessly American institution, and for good reason. Unlike other holidays, which are often endurance tests requiring the wearing of one’s best false-face, Halloween operates by its own rules. Americans claim as their birthright the possibility of becoming anyone or anything they can imagine, often an impossible dream in the course of everyday life, but well within everyone’s reach very October 31. Popular culture is perpetually awash with the promises, thrills, and terrors of personal transformation, and Halloween dependably takes us out of ourselves—or lets our inner selves out. Since horror and fantasy is my business, I’m usually occupied with some book tour or promotional activity at this time of the year, so when I’m asked what I’m going to be for Halloween, my stock answer (delivered in the best Boris Karloff voice I can muster) is “Why, the most terrifying monster of them all—a talk show guest!

7 more days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  7 more days ‘til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock!

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