Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A History of Horror

Back in my wayward youth, the BBC did a series called Clive Barker's A to Z of Horror; I don't remember much about the series at all, but I liked it enough to pick up the accompanying book, which seemed to have been written mainly by Stephen Jones rather than Barker himself. I read that book cover to cover umpteen times, although I've long since lost my copy.

Anyway, I was reminded of Barker's series -- or rather the book -- as I watched Mark Gatiss' A History of Horror over the past couple of weeks, although I think I will likely remember more of Gatiss' series in years to come. Part of this is because he's an engaging host, and I could watch him talk about his favourite films and talk to their directors for hours. Part of it is because Gatiss and I seem to share much of the same likes and dislikes when it comes to horror cinema, but I think the best thing about the series is the honest enthusiasm Gatiss brings to the subject. While Barker was little more than a host, there is a definite sense that the project is more personal for Gatiss, as we see him travel to the locations of the films, speak in person with the directors, and so on. While he does wander into dry theory now and then, for the most part A History of Horror is about Mark Gatiss telling the viewer why he loves these films, and a number of times throughout the series he reminds us that it's not an exhaustive and scholarly list -- it's A, not The -- but simply him explaining to us why he owns the DVDs he does.

At only three episodes -- Barker got six back in 1997 -- it could have been longer, and one wonders just how long Gatiss spent in conversation with John Carpenter or Tobe Hooper and why we didn't get to see more. The third and final episode seemed rushed, more or less stopping at Halloween, missing out stuff like American Werewolf in London and skipping over the wave of Japanese horror, the subsequent wave of Spanish horror, and so on. All in all though, A History of Horror was a brilliant bit of telly, and I eagerly await news of an accompanying book...


  1. I'm disappointed I missed this, it's had rave reviews.

  2. All three episodes are on the iPlayer, and will be available until the 1st of November.