'A Place Of Darkness' Is An Illuminating History Of Horror

Kendall R. Phillips' new look at early American horror movies is academic, sure — but its central arguments make for great reading about how shifting cultural currents shape what scares us on screen.

"Ghosts? Are you kidding me? I'm an American."

-- The Ghost Breaker, 1922

The camera is an instrument of suspense. Given a movie frame, you want to understand what's happening in it — and what will happen next. That balance of wonder and dread is a fundamental draw of film, and a touchstone of the horror genre. The questions Kendall R. Phillips asks in are: How did we get from the nickelodeon special-effects "cinema of attractions" to understanding horror narratives as

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