Nightmare Fuel: The Science of Horror Films
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, 2022. 294 pages
By Nina Nesseth
As in the very subtitle of this book states, the Science of Horror, has always been a fascinating subject for me to tackle because usually it consists of a lot of academics using very big words trying to explain to me why horror films scare me, or why I like them. Even better is when they give plenty of examples from movies, usually getting even the most basic plot point incorrect which then makes you wonder if they had even watched the film they’re referring to.
I’ve also found some of these types that try to explain why you are scared that seem to get lost in the woods somewhere to really have it connect with the reader. Not saying they don’t have good ideas or theories, but they just don’t connect with me personally.
What I found with Nesseth’s book, on the other hand, is just the opposite. There is a lot of science in here, discussing the different parts of the brain, what each one does and how it affects what we feel. There’s a lot of technical terms for these for these locations of the brain, most of which I’ve already forgotten, though I now know where to them up when needed. Honestly though, I was really captivated on learning how the brain works with these different types of responses as we’re experiencing different kinds of fear from watching horror films. Such as the explanation of what fear does to a person, such as the fight-or-flight idea or where you just become frozen on the spot because of the fear, and what your brain is doing to cause these reactions or effects, giving us sort of a “behind-the-scenes”.
The Nosferatu Story: The Seminal Horror Film, Its Predecessors and Its Enduring Legacy
Published by McFarland, 2019. 225 pages
By Rolf Giesen
As a horror fan, I am forever grateful to all the authors out there that decided that they were going to do all this research and study on a particular film, or a sub-genre as a whole, and then put all of that work into a book so that other film fans can learn so much more about them. Whether it is on a specific sub-genre or a certain film in particular, I know that after reading it, I will have a little bit better understanding of the subject matter upon visiting it once again. Giesen’s book on Nosferatu, as well as early German horror cinema, is just that book. You’ll read about a lot of important names that would have a huge impact on the horror genre.
Yours Cruelly, Elvira
Published by Hachette Books, 2021.284 pages.
By Cassandra Peterson
You couldn’t be a horror fan from the ‘80s until now and not know who Elvira is. Sure, while she was always great to look at, as you get past those teenage boy thoughts, you start to realize just how smart and talented the woman behind the makeup and wig is. I was a fan of her since those Thriller Video days, back when trips to the video stores were a weekly thing. I was excited when her first movie came out and laughed quite a bit at the not-so-subtle jokes in there. I’ve met her a few times at different conventions over the years, both as Elvira and as Cassandra, and was always amazed at how funny she was and connected to her fans.
So yeah, a big fan.
When her biography was announced, I quickly pre-ordered it because this was the first time we were really going to hear about the woman behind Elvira. Once I finally got it, it was one of those instances where I just picked it up browse through the photos knowing I would get to it at some point. Next thing I know, I’m 90 pages in! I finished the entire book in about 3 sittings because it was a very easy read but more importantly, we got to hear Cassandra’s story. We learn how she got her start, go-go dancing while she was still underage, going from being a rock band groupie to becoming a Vegas showgirl, to becoming the famous Mistress of the Dark, not to mention the ton of famous people she met along the way.
Confessions of a Puppet Master: A Hollywood Memoir of Ghouls, Guts, and Gonzo Filmmaking
Published by William Morrow, 2021. 288 pages
By Charles Band & Adam Felber
Whether you like Charles Band, or any of his production companies such as Full Moon or Empire, you cannot argue the fact that this man has made his career out of doing the kind of films he wants, usually picking something to exploit and make money from, which then lets him continue what he’s doing. I know that’s a broad statement, especially coming from a guy that doesn’t like a lot of stuff that Band has his fingers in. But there are more than a few of those that I have really enjoyed over the years. Not to mention the fact that Band still believes and practices the good old-fashioned ballyhoo. That alone, I have to give him credit for.
If I was going to have one complaint about this book it would be that it is only 288 pages. I would have expected from someone of his long running career, that this would have been well over 500+ pages. There are plenty of great stories in here, but figured there would be many more. Maybe that’s for volume 2? Band not one to speak truthfully about his past, the mistakes that he’s made and how he’s lost his fortune more than once, so I give him a lot of respect for that. This isn’t a bit of puff journalism on “gee look at all the great stuff I’ve done” but a really inside look of someone that wanted to work in the film business but by his terms. He may not be conventional, but his methods work.
When Dracula Met Frankenstein: My Years Making Drive-In Movies with Al Adamson
Published by Murania Press, 2021. 377 pages
By Sam Sherman
You can’t be a fan of exploitation cinema of the ‘60s and ‘70s and not know of Sam Sherman, either by name or the multitude of film titles that he had his fingers in. Sherman only has 28 credits as a producer, many of them for films directed by his good friend Al Adamson, but his mark on the film world is so much greater. He was an ad man who could come up with some of the best titles, promotional ideas, gimmicks, and all the other ballyhoo so memorable, sometimes more than the films themselves!
He is also the man that was responsible for introducing Paul Naschy to the states, when his company, Independent International, picked up Naschy’s Mark of the Wolfman when they were looking for a Frankenstein picture that they had already promised distributors. It featured two wolfmen and two vampires, but definitely no Frankenstein or his creature. But somehow, due to the creative genius of Sherman, Mark of the Wolfman now became Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror. If you don’t know the whole story already, then you’ll have to buy the book to find out!
We Are the Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale
Published by Electric Dreamhouse, 2017. 479 pages.
Edited by Neil Snowdon
I am a huge fan of the Quatermass films that Hammer Films gave us back in the late ‘50s, and the 3rd film, Quatermass and the Pit in the ‘60s. Eventually I was able to track down the original serial versions (or what was left of the first story) on an import DVD. The more I found out about its original creator, Nigel Kneale, the more I discover his other cinematic worlds that he had written, such as The Stone Tapes (1972), The Woman in Black (1989) and the Beasts series (1976). And the more I was impressed.
To say that Kneale was ahead of his time seems to be one of those comments thrown about certain Sci-Fi authors, writing about our future technology. But the difference with Kneale is that while he did do that to a degree, he also seemed to write about our future as human beings. Within those stories, he also could create some unbelievable terrors, without really showing much to the audiences. It made us think.
This book is a collection of essays that covers a wide range of subjects dealing with Kneale and his work. There is chapter by Tim Lucas that cover his lesser-known literary short stories, other ones on specific episodes of his TV shows or films that he created. Mark Chardbourn’s essay, The King of Hauntology sort of gives us a biography of Kneale, except that instead of a straight biography, it goes over different events going on around him at the time, giving possible influences that could have had on him, and his writings.
Tawdry Tales and Confessions from Horror’s Boy Next Door
Published by Dark Ink Books, 2021, 398 pages
By William Butler
Being an avid collector of horror movie reference books, when an actor from the genre publishes his autobiography, I’m going to pick it up. Now I knew who Mr. Butler was since being about the same age, I was growing up watching the horror films that he was in early on in his career. So, I knew him from TCM3 and Friday 7, and the rest. Or at least I thought I knew him. I was already reading another book when my copy of Tawdry Tales arrived, so I was going to just quickly read the intro before filing it away with the numerous other volumes that I hope to get to one day. The next thing I know, I’m 50-pages deep into this book!
This book is simply amazing. If you grew up watching horror movies in the ‘80s, then this is like a walk down memory lane, except it is from the other side of the movie screen, getting to hear stories from the making of the films we loved. I had no clue that Butler worked in the makeup field, and I’m embarrassed as hell to admit that, especially when he worked on some of my favorite films! This once again proves my point that the more you read about the business and those who work in it, the more you will discover and learn to appreciate the people involved that are sometimes more talented and more involved in it than you realized or ever give them credit for.
Taking Shape II: The Lost Halloween Sequels
Published by Harker Press, 2020. 600 pages.
By Dustin McNeill & Travis Mullins
With all the information packed in their initial book, Taking Shape, how could authors McNeill and Mullins put out yet another massive 600 page book on this series that fans have been following for over 40 years? That’s just it… it’s not about the films that were made, it is about the films that were not made. In fact, Taking Shape II: The Lost Halloween Sequels covers 24 sequels(!!!) that never got off the ground for a variety of reasons. You get to read about each of these proposed storylines, with interviews with the people directly involved, like the writers and directors. You also get a good look at inside the studio systems and just how screwed up the industry can be, and the poor creatures that have to work in there! Imagine turning in a screenplay that is exactly what was asked for only to be told that another executive hated it and you’re now off the project. Or being notified (over the PA system, no less) that the whole project itself was now cancelled just weeks before shooting was to start. It shows that with multiple bosses / executives, guiding the writers and directors in different directors, at the same time, while others not even caring about anything but the potential box office receipts, the scariest part of these films were trying to get these films made. Continue reading
Day of the Living Me: Adventures of a Cult Filmmaker from the Golden Age
Self-Published, 2020. 192 pages
By Jeff Lieberman
I’ve always said that by reading more about a filmmaker, such as in a biography or even an autobiography, you will learn so much more about that person’s life and work, usually including a ton of information you didn’t know, which will undoubtedly make you see things in a different way. This book is another perfect example to prove that point. I knew of Lieberman’s work because I was always a big fan of Squirm (1976) and had the chance to meet him a couple of times at Cinema Wasteland over the years. I knew of his other films, such as Blue Sunshine (1977) and Just Before Dawn (1981), but figured that was about it. But reading through this recently published autobiography, not only did I learn much more about him, but he gives such a great insight into the world of filmmaking, from low-budget horror flicks, to working in Hollywood with some of the major players. Continue reading
Making the 1980s Science-Fiction / Horror Monster Cult Classic The Deadly Spawn
Independently Published, 2020. 136 pages
By Ted A. Bohus
If you grew up wandering the video store aisles, you will probably always remember the first time you came across the box for The Return of the Aliens Deadly Spawn, a big box case with one of the strangest monsters on the cover, one that is basically mouths and teeth! Then looking at the back cover shows the gory delights to found within. How could any young monster fan not immediately rent this, let alone forget that moment. This title still remains to be a fun little monster movie, with plenty of gore and the red stuff, and one of the most creative and never before seen style of monster.
Ted A. Bohus was the man behind The Deadly Spawn (the actual title), producer and co-writer, he was the one that got this beast started and worked all the way through to get it released to the world. The book is packed filled with some incredible photos, from behind-the-scenes shots, a ton of different images of VHS & DVD releases, poster art, lobby cards, and plenty of art interpretations of the creature. Bohus goes very quickly through the genesis of the project, going through the people involved, and a lot of the roadblocks along the way, which are great points for up and coming low budget filmmakers. There are some great stories within these pages, some that will amaze you how great things turned out, and even more so when you read about some of those “challenges” filmmakers are hit with. Continue reading