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THE PENGUIN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HORROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL, edited by Jack Sullivan (Viking: $35).

May 04, 1986|Pat H. Broeske

Primal fears--of the dark and things that go bump in the night--have let loose so much literature and celluloid that scholars and genre buffs alike will find this volume handy and colorfully comprehensive.

Where else can the student of such horror meisters as Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft also encounter Dr. Occult--the central character of the first horror comic book? Cineasts, likewise, will find a broad spectrum of screen scares: from Tod Browning's "Freaks" (the 1932 shocker came about after the director was given carte blanche to do a "circus picture") and the haunting legacy of Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur to such populist gross-out fare as "The Exorcist" and "Alien." Also explored are obscure titles, including "Beast From Haunted Cave," whose tentacled, cobweb-enmeshed, blood-sucking creature is hailed as "the nearest thing to a Lovecraftian monster the cinema has seen." Authoritative essays on integral "generic" subjects, from Anthologies to Zombies, provide further background to individual artists and their works.

Written clearly and concisely, the more than 700 entries attest to the enduring popularity--and importance--of a genre that literally has no boundaries. Read it with the lights on.

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