Terror in the Desert
Published by McFarland, 2018. 312 pages
By Brad Sykes
In an age of internet reviews, when anybody with a computer can be a critic (me being one of them), sometimes we might read a negative review of a movie and brush it off without any inclination to visit it, or in some cases, re-visit it. And I think that is a big mistake on the part of all of us fans.
In his introduction in this book, author Sykes writes, “I honestly believe that most of the films profiled in these pages – flaws and all – have something to offer the viewer.” After reading that, it reminded me once again that even if a movie might only be a 2 or 2 1/2 stars out of 5, that doesn’t mean that it is a total waste of time, but that it still might have some merit and might just be worth watching. Might be a great special effect or stunt in there. Or just a great performance by one particular actor. We just never know. So I just wanted to throw that out there, giving a little credit to Sykes for reminding us fans something that we shouldn’t forget.
One thing that I was amazed of right off the bat was the fact that “Desert Terror” movies could actually be a sub-genre! Sure, we can all name a few titles like Duel and Hills Have Eyes, but were there really that many to constitute a whole sub-genre? As Sykes points out in this book, yes. Yes, there are. A lot of them, in fact. Sure, some of these titles may not be considered straight up horror films, like the 1997 film Breakdown, but there is terror involved in the story, so pick your poison on pigeonholing. I loved the fact that these films take a setting that is completely opposite of what we usually consider a scary setting. Instead of the usual tropes like an old dark house, being in the woods at night, with fog rolling in on the ground, you compare it to what you get in one of these titles, with the hot sun, wide open landscapes with potentially nothing around for miles. A very nice change of pace for horror fans.
Sykes starts off with a nice history of films that are included in this sub-genre, but really is just setting the stage for what is to come. The coverage on The Sadist (1963) is just awesome. Not only is Sykes putting the spotlight on a very important film in our horror history, but shows just how good this one is, with Arch Hall Jr. giving an incredible performance as the title terror.
So many movies are covered in this book that you’ll want to have a notepad close by to write down them on your “Need to See” list. I know I added a few to mine! He also covers plenty of made-for-TV movies, like Dying Room Only (1973) which I think is another avenue that is mainly forgotten these day unless it is released on a spiffy new Blu-ray. He covers everything from big theatrical releases, straight-to-video/DVD titles, a plethora of sequels and their sequels, such as in the Tremors series, and so much more.
This book is another prime example of showing you that there are plenty of “new” titles for fans to seek out, no matter what year they were released and what format. I guarantee you that no matter how big a fan of films you are, there are going to be quite a few you’ll read across that you’re going to want to find. Sykes is honest in his opinions, while still giving each and every film a little credit somewhere. Yes, there are films that are just poorly made, but kudos for this author for trying to put a spotlight on even the littlest glimmer of talent in there. Sometimes that is easy to forget and miss.
You can order this from McFarland from their website (www.mcfarlandpub.com) or through their order line here: 800-253-2187.