Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema
Published by FAB Press, 2005. 319 pages
Re-Issued by Titan Books, 2014. 376 pages
By Jamie Russell
There are tons of film books on the zombie sub-genre. When this title was first released in 2005, The Walking Dead TV show was still 5 years away from hitting the airwaves. Since that time, books on the zombie culture have flooded the fandom like walkers a Pittsburgh shopping mall. So when this title first came out in 2005, it was long overdue. Finally, someone had taken a very serious look into this sub-genre. But while zombies became really popular in the ’80s, from Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Fulci’s Zombie, they have been around a lot longer than some might realize. That is where this book comes in.
Film Alchemy: The Independent Cinema of Ted V. Mikels
Published by McFarland, 2007. 220 Pages
By Christopher Wayne Curry
The name of Ted V. Mikels is one that is not that well known in the film community. Unless of course, you are a fan of cult movies. Then you are well aware of the name, and the man, and the movies that he has given us over the past 40+ years. Now thanks to author Curry, we are able to get a closer inside look at the man and his movies.
Mikels’ films can pretty much be the definition of “independent cinema”. Within these pages, Curry does an excellent job explaining and showing the readers just what Mikels has gone through to bring his productions from conception to creation. It’s not a pretty story in most cases. But as Mikels says in the book, “I always tell people at the beginning of my movies that if they’re not here to enjoy the making of a movie then they shouldn’t be here.” I think that statement perfectly describes Mikels. He simply loves to make movies.
Frankenstein: How a Monster Became an Icon
Published by Pegasus Books, 2018. 254 pages
Edited by Sidney Perkowitz & Eddy Von Mueller
Being a sucker for any books on Frankenstein, the movies, the novel, and/or anything in between, it was a no-brainer to add this one to my library when it came out. At first glance, I figured it would be another one of those psycho-babble titles, filled with such ludicrous ideas and theories. But as I started to dig into it, not only were my initial fears were wrong, I found this a very intriguing and interesting read, with plenty of ideas, theories, and information that really got my brain working.
Editors Perkowitz and Von Mueller have gathered a collection of authors that really know this subject and have quite a few interesting things to say about it, as well as giving the reader a variety of subjects relating to Shelley and her famous creation. The book covers a variety of topics, from Shelley’s original novel, to the many adaptations of it, to the science and the morals and ethics behind it. There is even an interview with filmmaker Mel Brooks, talking about Young Frankenstein (1974)! There are chapters that discuss different aspects of Shelley’s story, such as the creature and how it is looked upon, perceived, and treated, and why? These are the parts that I found most fascinating since it really gave you some ideas to think about, if Shelley really had these in mind when she wrote it. We get to hear about how Frankenstein’s creature has invaded the media over the last 200 years and how it is used, which again, I found very interesting to see how far this character has come these last two centuries.
Gods of Grindhouse
BearManor Media, 2013. 169 pages.
Edited by Andrew J. Rausch
I know everyone out there knows the name of Roger Corman. But what about Ted V. Mikels? Or Ray Dennis Steckler, Jack Hill, or Bill Rebane? These gentlemen, plus a few more, are the names covered in this very important book. The guys are from the filmmaking industry that I feel are much more important than the likes of Michael Bay. Why? Simple. There movies are something you will remember and will stand the test of time. Each generation will discover and be entertained by them. Without the talented craftsmen discussed in this volume, there would be no Quentin Tarentino. So while their movies may be the jest of places like MST3K, that doesn’t take away from what their films are about, as well as the people that struggled to get them made and distributed.
I know I preach over and over on this site about how important it is to know your history when it comes to the genres, but I wouldn’t keep saying it if I really didn’t believe it. So many younger filmmakers, such as the previous mentioned Tarantino, grew up watching the films from these guys, being inspired to make their own mark with their films. So yes, it is VERY important to know these guys and their work. And this book is a great way to start.
Grande Dame Guignol Cinema
Published by McFarland, 2009. 340 pages.
By Peter Shelley
Kudos to author Shelley for coming up with a great idea, highlighting some classics in horror cinema that some of them I feel tend to be left behind. Shelley writes in the preface, “for me the sign of good writing about films is that it compels one to see the movie under discussion. I hope my book does this for my readers.” Not only do I completely agree with that statement, but there are more than a few titles discussed in this book are now on my Need-to-Watch-AGAIN list.
Shelley does a great job in his introduction explaining the title of the book, and clearly defining what he means by it. This is a good way to stop people from asking “why did you leave this movie out?” … granted that will still probably happen. But at least going in, we are well aware of his point and what he is trying to accomplish with this book. With each title, he gives us a little background on the actress who is filling the role of the book’s title, and why they fit so well here. Once again, any book that sheds a little light on some horror history, I’m all for, and Shelley does an admirable job here.
Monster Squad: Celebrating the Artists Behind Cinema’s Most memorable Creatures
Published by BearManor Media, 2017. 430 pages.
By Heather A. Wixson
In the early ’80s, makeup artists that worked on horror movies were becoming real celebrities, just as if they were the main stars of the films they worked on. Seeing names like Savini, Baker, or Bottin in the credits would get fans to go see a film on their participation alone. So many young fans out there were so inspired by these names, that they dabbled on their own with latex, spirit gum, and greasepaint, some more successful than others. Like a lot of us fans during that time, the movies affected us more than most people watching them. Some wanted to be part of the world that were creating this magic. That passion is what drove them to never stop trying, never stop learning, and just never stopping. That era when rubber monsters and outrageous creatures ruled the genre is over three decades ago, with quite a bit being replaced with CGI. But that hasn’t stopped some of these guys from continuing with their craft, still fueled by that same passion to create magic on the screen.
The Thrill of Repulsion: Excursions into Horror Culture
Published by Schiffer Publishing LTD, 2016. 280 pages.
By William Burns
When I picked up this book from ebay, from the title I figured it would be another nice addition to my Psycho-Babble section in my library. But once I got it and started to browse through it, I was completely surprised at what this volume actually is about. What seemed to be moments later, I realized I had already read the first couple of chapters!
This tome is a couple of different kinds of books. The first part, which is on films, is what got my attention right away, is the lists. After a brief introduction, we get several chapters of the Top 13 lists, such as The 13 Most Disturbing Films That Aren’t Horror Movies, or The 13 Most Deranged Horror Director Debuts, or even The 13 Most Phantasmagorical Fantastique Films. In each of these chapters, the author lists the top 13 in that particular category that he feels are important and discusses them a bit. Now like with any list, there might be some arguments or discussions with the ones that Burns has come up with, but that is really what these kind of lists are for. But the other part is that possibly for more of novice fan, it gives you a little checklist to make sure you check the recommendations. Even more experienced fans might find a title or two they need to check out. I know I did. Even if you don’t agree with the titles mentioned in the lists, the author felt they were pretty important so they should be at least worth checking them out if you haven’t already. These little lists are a great way to add some titles to your “Need to Watch” list.