Book Review: The Overlook Film Encyclopedia

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The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Horror
Edited by Phil Hardy
Published by The Overlook Press, 1994. 496 pages.

This was originally published in 1986 under the title of Encyclopedia of Horror; then revised and expanded in 1994, under the title this title. Hardy provided horror fans with a literal historical tome of reviews of films from all over the world, starting with the silent movie years through to the modern era. This book was the first one that we came across that not had only a review of the film, but also listed useful information such as alternate titles (which came in quite useful with foreign films, considering all the different titles they were being released under), country of origin, cast, crew, and running times (although those times are still debated to this day and caused grief for many collectors).

This was one of the ‘go-to’ books if you were looking up anything from Coffin Joe films, strange Japanese films of the ’60s or any of the countless other titles from Italy and Spain. The only major flaw in this book remains the editor’s oftentimes puzzling choice of what he considered horror – if a film were designated as Sci-Fi, it would then be in Hardy’s other book: The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction. There were corrections made between the first edition of the book and the one in 1994, such as adding Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, though Carpenter’s The Thing is still missing from this volume, and is in the Science Fiction one. But even with that small flaw, this is one film book that we would call essential to all horror fans. And why not pick up the Science Fiction one as a nice companion piece anyway?

Like many review books, even ones of this size, one thing that is always up for discussion is the opinions about the movies they are talking about. This is something that you have to take in stride and take their opinion for what it is….just their opinion. There are many films listed in here where they frown and sneer at, that I’ve found damn entertaining. But besides that, this book could open your eyes to so many movie worlds and make your “need to see” list seem like it would take a lifetime just to find the movies, let alone see them all.

But then again, isn’t that all part of the fun?

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