There must be a heavy argument to say that IT was a turning point in the mainstream’s understanding, appreciation, and willingness to go to and see horror once again at the multiplex. Sure, when adjusted for inflation, it still lags behind The Exorcist and cannot match the ‘50s American boom in schlock or the heady days of Hammer. However, when was the last time you heard a colleague, family member etc. say something like ‘I’m not into horror, but we ARE going to see [insert horror title]’? IT did exactly that, hell, even ya mam loved it/IT.
So it seems almost untimely, in this horror-embracing epoch that Peter Laws should offer up a book on what it is to be - well - like us. Spoiler alert! Mr Laws, a respected columnist for The Fortean Times, happens to love, nay, adore horror in all its iterations. Spoiler alert! He happens to be a man of the cloth. While Laws gets this out pretty early on, don’t expect a treatise on being spiritual and how that means to cope with the spiritualistic, or indeed trying to reconcile the two (or vice versa, we’re never quite sure). It may seem in the first couple of chapters that this may be the case, framing as it does, a preacher's visit to Transylvania and the hilarity that ensues. But this not preaching to the choir, this is preaching to our choir, our church.
Laws swiftly and assuredly digs down to what it is to enjoy violence while abhorring the real world version. What it is to enjoy cruelty, while never being cruel ourselves. What it means to the modern-day audience that the strongest characters in most horror movies are female; and not as treats to tickle our peccadillos, but kick-ass bad-asses that tend to be smarter and infinitely stronger than the modern ideal of menfolk in cinema.
There has clearly been a ridiculous amount of research here, and the book is all the better for it. This is a study piece, something to learn from while smiling at the references and true-life anecdotes peppered throughout. Those anecdotes will have some wishing you had such an understanding partner and other realising quite how lucky they are to have theirs. The attention to detail is stunning, though part of this writer wishes he could have read what would have happened had the writer watched King Kong with a chimp on his lap.
Phrases like page-turner and tour-de-force are slapped on any old tome these days, but in this case, it is fully deserved. Truly the Bill Bryson of the horror think-piece, in literary terms, the highest honour this writer can bestow upon another. Buy it, for it turns out to be more timely than ever. Mr Laws, Sinister Minister, we await your next.
THE FRIGHTENERS / AUTHOR: PETER LAWS / PUBLISHER: ICON BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 22ND