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REVIEW INDEX

SLEEPING WITH THE LIGHTS ON ***

Written by Daryll Jones. RRP: £10.99 208pp

Out 11th October from Oxford University Press.

 

In his lengthy introduction Daryll Jones sets out his claim to study the horror genre in all its forms and how it has always been intrinsically linked with culture, both high and popular, since its inception. Although this volume of his findings is quite slim, Jones makes a convincing case, especially for newcomers and students making their first steps into the genre in an academic capacity. For long-term horror junkies, however, there is a lot that may come across as already familiar.

 

    To describe the book as academic may put some off but it is actually a pleasant, quick and entertaining read. The introduction is the lengthiest section and driest. The author explains the differences between “horror” and “terror”, and how both sub-genres aim to achieve different feelings within their respective audiences. At times it feels like Jones is trying to cram too much information into this opening section in too academic a fashion but once this is dealt with his writing becomes more relaxed, informative and digestible.

 

    The five chapters and afterword, dealing with such subjects as Monsters, The Occult and the Supernatural and closing with an afterword tackling Horror Since the Millennium, do an excellent job of using historical examples of horrors cultural importance and how such mainstays of the genre like vampires, zombies and werewolves came into being. Indeed, it is these historical lessons that show real authority on the writer’s part.  He quickly yet concisely breaks down the details of how one of the first pieces of vampire fiction, John Polidori’s The Vampyre, came from the same gathering and evening of storytelling that Mary Shelley’s creation of Frankenstein came. These brief history lessons continue throughout, particularly in the chapters dealing with the occult and lycanthropy and how Freud’s dealings with the latter in his own patients have leaked into popular werewolf fiction.

 

    Interestingly Freud is not the only figure from psychiatry who appears in the book. Scottish psychiatrist, R.D. Laing, who practised mainly in the field of psychosis in the 1960’s with some controversy, is compared to Halloween’s gun-toting Dr Loomis in the following chapter. It is an interesting and amusing assessment, and often Jones shows some genuine wit elsewhere in the book with some subtle asides; remarking at one point on common traits shared by some of horror’s more flamboyant madmen including “… raging egomania, theatrical gestures, and grandiloquent rhetoric, and a particular fondness for organ playing.”

 

    The book loses focus slightly when dealing with the scientific aspects of horror fiction, concentrating more on sci-fi techno shockers such as the Terminator films, Marvel Comics and scientist Carl Sagan’s views on lack of faith in the scientific community. Jones quickly gets things back on track with his closing afterword examining the state of horror today. Again, like he did at the start of the book, he tries to cram a lot in here but makes an impressive number of points; how horror has commodified to such a point that it could be losing its power to terrify in the current climate and how the internet could influence what comes to be within the genre.

 

    Sleeping With The Lights On is hardly an essential read, but it is an entertaining one. It works best as a primer to newcomers to the genre, but there is nothing really new or challenging for longtime genre aficionados within these pages.

 

Iain MacLeod

 

This web site is owned and published by London FrightFest Limited.

FrightFest is the registered trade mark of London FrightFest Limited.  © 2000 - 2018

SLEEPING WITH THE LIGHTS ON ***

Written by Daryll Jones. RRP: £10.99 208pp

Out 11th October from Oxford University Press.

 

In his lengthy introduction Daryll Jones sets out his claim to study the horror genre in all its forms and how it has always been intrinsically linked with culture, both high and popular, since its inception. Although this volume of his findings is quite slim, Jones makes a convincing case, especially for newcomers and students making their first steps into the genre in an academic capacity. For long-term horror junkies, however, there is a lot that may come across as already familiar.

 

    To describe the book as academic may put some off but it is actually a pleasant, quick and entertaining read. The introduction is the lengthiest section and driest. The author explains the differences between “horror” and “terror”, and how both sub-genres aim to achieve different feelings within their respective audiences. At times it feels like Jones is trying to cram too much information into this opening section in too academic a fashion but once this is dealt with his writing becomes more relaxed, informative and digestible.

 

    The five chapters and afterword, dealing with such subjects as Monsters, The Occult and the Supernatural and closing with an afterword tackling Horror Since the Millennium, do an excellent job of using historical examples of horrors cultural importance and how such mainstays of the genre like vampires, zombies and werewolves came into being. Indeed, it is these historical lessons that show real authority on the writer’s part.  He quickly yet concisely breaks down the details of how one of the first pieces of vampire fiction, John Polidori’s The Vampyre, came from the same gathering and evening of storytelling that Mary Shelley’s creation of Frankenstein came. These brief history lessons continue throughout, particularly in the chapters dealing with the occult and lycanthropy and how Freud’s dealings with the latter in his own patients have leaked into popular werewolf fiction.

 

    Interestingly Freud is not the only figure from psychiatry who appears in the book. Scottish psychiatrist, R.D. Laing, who practised mainly in the field of psychosis in the 1960’s with some controversy, is compared to Halloween’s gun-toting Dr Loomis in the following chapter. It is an interesting and amusing assessment, and often Jones shows some genuine wit elsewhere in the book with some subtle asides; remarking at one point on common traits shared by some of horror’s more flamboyant madmen including “… raging egomania, theatrical gestures, and grandiloquent rhetoric, and a particular fondness for organ playing.”

 

    The book loses focus slightly when dealing with the scientific aspects of horror fiction, concentrating more on sci-fi techno shockers such as the Terminator films, Marvel Comics and scientist Carl Sagan’s views on lack of faith in the scientific community. Jones quickly gets things back on track with his closing afterword examining the state of horror today. Again, like he did at the start of the book, he tries to cram a lot in here but makes an impressive number of points; how horror has commodified to such a point that it could be losing its power to terrify in the current climate and how the internet could influence what comes to be within the genre.

 

    Sleeping With The Lights On is hardly an essential read, but it is an entertaining one. It works best as a primer to newcomers to the genre, but there is nothing really new or challenging for longtime genre aficionados within these pages.

 

Iain MacLeod

 

This web site is owned and published by London FrightFest Limited.

FrightFest is the registered trade mark of London FrightFest Limited.
 © 2000 - 2018