My Favorite Horror Movie
Published by Black Vortex Cinema, 2018. 223 pages.
Edited by Christian Ackerman
I had picked a copy of this up some a little while ago, but like a lot of the books I have, sometimes they get filed away and I forget about them. But after a little discussion with a friend about it, and that I’m working on a similar project myself, I decided to dive into it. For those looking for a quick and fun read, look no further.
This is a collection of 48 essays by people in the horror business, either actors, makeup artists, producers, writers, bloggers, or countless other positions, that were given the task to write an essay about their favorite horror film. Some of these people you might have heard of, some not, while some you might have heard of some of the projects they have worked on. The best part of this volume is it is all about passion, no matter who they are. With every single film being discussed, you can feel the author’s passion and love just seeping through the pages. There are plenty of childhood memories of being scared (in a good way) for life, with many of them having their destiny being changed at that very moment. Continue reading
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life
Published by Liveright Publishing, 2016. 624 pages.
By Ruth Franklin
I have been an admirer of Shirley Jackson since my very first viewing of The Haunting (1963). When I started to really delve into reading, her novel that film was based on, The Haunting of Hill House, was one that I immediately sought out. The more I discovered about Jackson’s work, the more I discovered that I had already knew of some of it, such as The Lottery and the tale of the boy who has a troublemaker classmate that always seemed to get into trouble. But I had never really known that much about Jackson herself, until now.
I’ve read a few biographies on different actors and directors that I’ve admired but I think this is the first one where I was really given a open book, so to speak, to that person’s life. While at times it was depressing what Jackson had to deal with in her life, it showed me just how human she was, thankful we were fortunate enough that she had the talent to take her life and transform it into incredible personal and beautifully written literary works for others to enjoy and be inspired by. Granted, there were a few that would resonate with the readers, haunting them to their core! Continue reading
American International Pictures: A Comprehensive Filmography
Published by McFarland, 2019. 451 pages.
By Rob Craig
I was a little apprehensive on tackling this book for review, mainly because I had already reviewed two previous volumes of Craig’s work and found them written a little above the subject. By that I mean he seemed to find a lot of subtext in some low budget features that I personally don’t think were ever there. But that is just a difference of opinion, and I hoped with his latest book on AIP films, it would be a little different. And it was. For the most part.
If you are a fan of American International Pictures, then simply put, this book is a must. It covers over 800 feature films, television series, and TV specials that were from AIP or under one of their many partners. It is an A to Z filmography, covering titles that are very familiar to ones that you might never of heard of. One of the things I really liked about this volume is that each film has a brief synopsis, usually taken from a pressbook, and that’s it when it comes to the plot. This leaves the story left open for the viewer to really discover instead of the author laying it out play-by-play style when that can lead the reader not even to bother with it! The beauty lies in everything the author writes about after the synopsis, with plenty of little informational tidbits and trivia. Continue reading
Terrifying Texts: Essays on Books of Good and Evil in Horror Cinema
Published McFarland, 2018. 268 pages.
Edited by Cynthia J. Miller & A. Bowdoin Van Riper
When I came across this title, I was immediately intrigued by it because, strangely enough, I didn’t know of anybody else who had tackled this subject matter before. In fact, the more I read through it, I was amazed at that fact because there are more movies that deal with this subject that I had thought. It’s one of those that as you’re reading and they mention another movie, you immediately think “Oh yeah… I forgot about that one!” Needless today, I really enjoyed this one!
As a book person myself, this had me right from the opening Introduction, where it reads, “Books are revered – and feared – for their ability to affect the minds and hearts of humankind. We collect them, pore over them, commit their passages to memory, censor them, and even attempt to banish them from our midst, lest they lead us to ruin.” Any book lover is going to be nodding their head while reading that, knowing and agreeing with exactly what the authors are saying… or writing, technically. Continue reading
The Science of Women in Horror: The Special Effects, Stunts, and True Stories Behind Your Favorite Fright Flicks
Published by Skyhorse Publishing, 2020, 247 pages
By Meg Hafdahl & Kelly Florence
The funny thing about this book is that I had no intention of diving into it right away. I saw it on Amazon, I didn’t have it in my library, it was a pretty decent price, so I figured I would order a copy. I was already in the middle of another book so when it came, I just picked it up browse through it quickly before it was put away on the shelf. Then I started reading the intro. Then the first chapter. Next thing I know I’m 25 pages into it!
There are several things that I really enjoyed about this book. The first, which is right in the introduction, authors Hafdahl & Florence remind us all that one of the greatest monster tales of all time was created by a young woman, Mary Shelley. You would think that would have made the road for other female creators to continue that path equally alongside their male counterparts. Unfortunately, we all know that isn’t the case. But this book shows that there are many names out there in the genre that are working very hard and keeping that path open, maybe making it even easier for the next female talent to find and start their journey. Continue reading
Fecund Horror: Slashers, Rape/Revenge, Women in Prison, Zombies and Other Exploitation Dreck
Self-Published in 2016, 158 pages.
By Noah Berlatsky
This was a tough one. I had a feeling that this might fit into one of my Psycho-Babble categories, and boy, was I right. Granted, when you have the word “dreck” in your title, after naming a few sub-genres, it kind of gives you the feeling that these are not spoken with any fondness. Which is even stranger because it does seem like Berlatsky likes a lot of the films he’s writing about.
As with many of these types of books, the authors are very smart, educated, and like to quote a lot of different material, giving credibility to their speculations and theories. But once again, I feel a lot of what is read into these films is just pure Freudian fiddle-faddle, trying to point out anything that could remotely be taken for or looked at in a sexual manner. Therefore, anything that is long and hard is always going to be taken as phallic symbolism. I’m sure it might be in there in some cases, but for the most part… I still call bullshit. Continue reading
Taking Shape: Developing Halloween from Script to Scream
Published by Harker Press, 2019. 439 pages.
By Dustin McNeill & Travis Mullins
The Halloween series, as a whole, is not one that I would say I’m a huge fan of. I love the original and really like its sequel. This might have something to do with it playing at the theater I worked at upon the sequel’s initial release, where I would get to see parts of it over and over and over again, seeing its effect on the audience time after time. And yes, I was one of those original haters on Season of the Witch, but have since gotten over that and realize the pure genius of that entry. But from then on, there was never a sequel that I got excited over, or was waiting for its release.
Sacrilege, you say? I just felt the sequels got dumber with each entry. When Rob Zombie took his turn, while I thought the first one was better than the last several, I still didn’t care for it. And I still am confused at the reaction to the latest one, when we saw the re-re-re-return of Jamie Lee Curtis, with fans acting like it was her first return since the 1981 film.
Now you might be asking yourself why am I stating how much I really don’t care for the Halloween series as a whole? Because even with all of that being stated, I devoured this book! Continue reading
The Haunted House on Film: An Historical Analysis
Published by McFarland, 2019. 222 pages
By Paul Meehan
The haunted house film is one of my favorite sub-genres so I was very excited to dig into this title when it finally came out. I was hoping to add a multitude to titles to my “Crap! I haven’t seen that yet” list, which is exactly what I did. Even before we get into the thick of this review, anytime a book has you seeking out different titles, that is always a good thing!
The introduction gives a great overview of the not only haunted house in cinema, but in fiction as well, giving the reader a nice background as to where all of this really started. When you consider that the very first haunted house film, Georges Méliès 1986 film Le Chateau Hante (aka The Haunted Castle), was also the very first horror film, makes this sub-genre really the oldest in the horror film category. But we also have early titles discussed such as D.W. Griffith’s One Exciting Night (1922) and Roland West’s The Bat (1926). Meehan covers the early “old dark house” films that really were a combination of mystery/thriller/comedies, giving a good explanation as to why these are really different than what one would normally define as a haunted house film. On many of the movies discussed, where there is a mystery killer, the author leaves it up to the reader to find the movie and watch it to find out who that might be. Since many authors will give away any surprises, which really is a letdown going into the film if you know the ending, it’s nice to know those secrets were left hidden. Continue reading
Studying Horror Cinema
Published by Auteur, 2019. 300 pages.
By Bryan Turnock
This took me much longer to get through than I originally had hoped. Not that it was a hard read, but because I started reading it in November of last year, right before the holidays started to set in. But I’m glad I stuck to it because it makes a great book to start the new year out on!
For anybody who is interested in learning more about the horror genre, the best way to do that is watch the movies. Not just new ones, but the old ones too. Besides the actual viewing though, reading about them as well can do wonders on how you look at the films and the effects they have. Not to mention maybe suggesting titles that you haven’t seen before. This isn’t to say you can’t form your own opinions and thoughts, but one of the beauties of your “horror education” is when you read of others opinions, not only to you compare it to your own, but help you think of different things that you might not have otherwise. And Bryan Turnock’s book is exceptional example of this. Continue reading
Darkening the Italian Screen
Published by McFarland, 2019. 334 pages
By Eugenio Ercolani
As fans of Italian genre films, we all know the names of Argento, Bava, Soavi, and (hopefully) Freda. But there were so many that worked in the industry in the ’60s through the ’80s, that so many get lost in the shuffle. Maybe we’ve heard of them, or maybe we know a movie or two they did, but that’s it. That is what I love about this book, that it brings light to more than a few people that had connections to some of the films we love, but maybe didn’t know as much about them.
Going through the list of names interviewed in this book, there were a few that I was familiar with, such as Umberto Lenzi, Ruggero Deodato, Enzo G. Castellari, and Sergio Martino. But even with these guys, there were plenty of interesting and sometimes downright amazing stories to be learned within these pages, especially when we learn about their beginnings in the industry. Other names like Alberto De Martino or Mario Caiano, I was somewhat familiar with, but not a lot. Then there were names that I wasn’t as familiar with at all, such as Giulio Petroni or Franco Rossetti. But the great thing about if you’ve been a fan of the Italian film genre for any length of time, you will have at least heard of the films they are talking about, if you haven’t seen them already. Continue reading