Book review: ‘Fright Favorites’ is a classic horror film treat

It took only one flip through “Fright Favorites: 31 Movies to Haunt Your Halloween and Beyond” to see we were going to be good friends.

While I love deep-dive books about film history, they often sit on the shelf after the initial reading waiting to be pulled out again for special occasions and projects. The informative “Fright Favorites,” however, is a book you’ll want to keep within easy reach.

It is the latest in the Turner Classic Movies Library series that has reimagined the coffee-table book in a compact size (roughly 7.5 by 8 inches) that’s easy to hold and read, or just flip through to look at the gorgeous photography.

Noted film historian and author David J. Skal grew up during the monster movie craze of the 1950s, becoming part of the first generation of “monster kids.”

So he dedicates “Fright Favorites” to “monster kids of all ages everywhere” as he takes us through horror movies not as a comprehensive history, but rather as a “diverse sampler of chilling, thrilling, and often laugh-provoking classic movies especially well suited to mark the thirty-one days of October.”

Horror movie historian – and fan – David J. Skal is the author of “Fright Favorites: 31 Movies to Haunt Your Halloween.” (Photo by Jonathan Eaton)

Skal succinctly explains how our celebration of Halloween has changed over the past century-plus from Hollywood’s early affection for cute and whimsical pinups of starlets posing with broomsticks, cats, pumpkins and witch hats, to what has become a growing cinematic season and part of a multibillion-dollar annual industry.

He credits John Carpenter’s original “Halloween” with contributing to “the explosive growth of Halloween as the second-biggest retail holiday in America after Christmas,” and helping fuel the urban mythology of Halloween.

“The ‘Halloween’ phenomenon reconnected the holiday to its primary, if forgotten, cultural purpose: a ceremonial acknowledgment of mortality and the never-ending cycles of life, death, and the mysteries that follow. Before John Carpenter reinvigorated the holiday with ritual human sacrifice, did anyone still make a conscious connection between a jack-o’-lantern and a grinning skull?” Skal writes.

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