Adrian McKinty

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Adrian McKinty

Sleep­ing With the Lights On: The Un­set­tling Story of Hor­ror By Dar­ryl Jones Ox­ford Univer­sity Press, 208pp, $22.95 (HB) Jones is par­tic­u­larly good on how Bram Stoker, Anne Rice and Stephen King use the vam­pire idea for very dif­fer­ent ends. Twi­light I sup­pose needs some cul­tural un­pack­ing, but I wish there had been space too for my favourite vam­pire film, the bleakly creepy Swedish clas­sic Let the Right One In.

The mon­sters sec­tion con­cludes with zom­bies and rightly, there is a lengthy anal­y­sis of Ge­orge Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which the au­thor con­sid­ers to be “some­where be­tween a Swif­tian satire and a Frank­furt School trea­tise”.

The oc­cult sec­tion be­gins with Max We­ber’s “dis­en­chanted world” and cov­ers ghosts, The Ex­or­cist and The Blair Witch Project in a chap­ter that zips along too quickly. Hor­ror and the body is pri­mar­ily about were­wolves and there’s a won­der­ful bit on An­gela Carter, whose ge­nius is sadly over­looked th­ese days. David Naughton’s trans­for­ma­tion to wolf is praised in An Amer­i­can Were­wolf in Lon­don and this brings Jones some­what obliquely to tor­ture porn. He finds a para­graph to talk about The Hu­man Cen­tipede but, amaz­ingly, not here or any­where in the book do we get a men­tion of Alien, one of the best and most in­flu­en­tial hor­ror/science fic­tion films of the past 50 years.

Hor­ror and the mind brings us to HP Love- craft, Edgar Al­lan Poe and good sec­tions on dop­pel­gangers, madness and se­rial killers. Love­craft’s prose drives Jones to dis­trac­tion al­though he has nice things to say about Poe, Roald Dahl and Robert Louis Steven­son.

The science and hor­ror chap­ter cov­ers Mary Shel­ley’s Franken­stein in its many in­car­na­tions, and this leads Jones rather nicely into one of his best sec­tions on techno­pho­bia in books and movies. We race through all those ra­dioac­tive gi­ant in­sect films of the 1950s and later years, get a few para­graphs on the mas­ter­piece The Day the Earth Stood Still and an ex­tended look at James Cameron’s bril­liant The Ter­mi­na­tor and Ter­mi­na­tor 2. For some rea­son this is the place where Jones also looks at comic books.

The con­cise af­ter­word takes us to the be­gin­ning of 2017. The print dead­line al­lowed Jones to wax lyri­cal about Get Out and its ob­vi­ous Step­ford an­tecedents, but alas Guillermo del Toro’s mar­itime mon­ster movie mas­ter­piece The Shape of Water did not make the cut.

This is a good lit­tle book and will de­light some­one who is new to all this. But hard­core fans will prob­a­bly find them­selves, like the doomed David Naughton, seek­ing meatier fare. is a nov­el­ist.

A scene from 1978’s Dawn of the Dead

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