The Art of Pulp Horror is a beautiful book, collecting the art of horror and contextualizing it with a series of essays. It’s also an important book, demonstrating that as editor extraordinaire Stephen Jones puts it, “Whereas the public has always been eager to consume gratuitous and gory tales as a form of escapist entertainment, there have always been those who believed themselves to be morally superior to the masses and have done their best to curtail or ban such things.”
The most resonant effect of those trying to block horror, which has happened again and again with the Motion Picture Production Code, the Comics Code Authority, and the British NVALA, is a lack of respect for the genre. It’s something obvious in award shows (Toni Collette really did deserve at least a nomination for her performance in Hereditary) and mainstream reception of horror media. It has tangible effects as well: lost films, magazines, and comics. Essayist Richard Harland Smith writes that at one point, Robert “Florey [who was originally slated to direct Frankenstein] shot a (now presumed lost) 20-minute test for his vision of Frankenstein… [starring] a reportedly grumpy Bela Lugosi as the Monster.” It’s tantalizing footage that might still exist today if horror wasn’t constantly denigrated.
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