It Came from 1957
By Rob Craig
Published by McFarland, 2013. 256 pages.
I’m a huge fan of the sci-fi/horror films of the ’50s. In fact, I love them. In 1957, there were a ton of releases during that period, many of them classics. All fifty-seven titles of them are covered within the pages of the book, some in a little more detail and discussion than others, but they are all there. After an extensive introduction discussing the time period and what was going on in the world, we get to read about such films as The Brain from Planet Arous (which is featured on the book’s cover) to Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Unearthly, Invasion of the Saucer Men, to The Thing from Another World and plenty more. Craig really knows his stuff here and is very informative when it comes to discussing these pictures. But therein lies the problem.
A Year of Fear: A Day-by-Day Guide to 366 Horror Films
By Bryan Senn
Published by McFarland, 2007. 560 pages.
There are a ton of movie guides out there for us fans to choose from. Some are great, some are not. Some have the same old comments on the same old movies. But what author Senn has done with this book is a pretty unique angle and very entertaining as well. He reviews 366 films, one for each day of the year. But there is more than just that concept, for each movie has some sort of tie-in with that particular day. For example, Feb. 4th is Torture Abolition Day, so the movie is Torture Ship (1939), April 26th is National Bird Day so the movie is The Giant Claw (1957), and so on. Sure, some title might be a bit of a stretch, but it still a great idea and very entertaining angle.
But it is more than just picking movies to coincide with a particular holiday or date, Senn actually has very good reviews of the films, giving plenty of information about it and/or the people that made them. The titles range from the classics to the very best of the cheese and schlock, but are all reviewed with a positive light, even if the movie is admittedly terrible. Senn may point that out, but never comes across as all out negative.
This is simply a fun book. It’s a great one to go through to make your own checklist, since quite a few of these titles in here I would consider “must-see” films, but also gives a pretty cool angle if you’re trying to decide what movie to watch some evening. Just look up today’s date, and there you go!
Slasher Films: An International Filmography, 1960 Through 2001
By Kent Byron Armstrong
Published by McFarland, 2009. 376 pages.
Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers.
I have to say one of the key elements in many slasher films is the mystery of who the killer is. While in the later day Friday the 13th films, we all know who it is, but in the first entry, it really is a mystery until the ending. Sure, there are a few where the killer’s identity is given away early in the film, but for the most part, it is hidden from the viewer until the filmmaker decides to let you in on the secret. That really is a key part of the fun with some of these, even ones that are low budget and/or cheesy.
But the first thing that I noticed here is that Armstrong gives detailed plot synopsis for each of the titles covered, including who the killer(s) is. So if you haven’t see a particular film, you’re not going to want read his review of it since it will spoil the surprise. If you have seen a particular title, then there isn’t a real point to reading his review of it because about 90% of it is the synopsis with the last paragraph being his thoughts on it, which sometimes are just a sentence or two. Not a lot of meat on the bone for the reader to chew on here.
The Turn to Gruesomeness in American Horror Films, 1931 to 1936
By Jon Towlson
Published by McFarland, 2015. 240 pages
One of the wonderful things about reading up on the history of horror films is that there is always something new and interesting that can be learned once a subject is really put under the magnifying glass. Now this isn’t to say that if you look for something you’ll find it, even if it isn’t there, but Towlson has done a great deal of research to back up his thoughts and ideas in this recent book. It also shows that no matter how long you’ve been a fan, there is always more to learn.
McFarland is a leading publisher that seems to be intent on making me go broke. While their editions tend to be on the pricy side, they still crank out some great volumes on a plethora of subjects within the horror film genre. We recently came across three upcoming titles that have sparked my interests and I know will be soon added to our library. Yeah, I know…horror reference book…duh? Anyway, read on to see if you might be needing to add these to your own library in the near future.
The first book is called Twisted Visions and is a collection of interviews.But not with just anybody in the film business. These directors are from around the world and have left us with films that made a niche in the horror and exploitation genre, that still makes an impact on viewers today.
Author Matthew Edwards has found and interviewed twenty-three directors that fit that bill. Some of the names are a little familiar, such as Jack Sholder (Alone in the Dark, The Hidden), Jörg Buttgereit (creator of the Nekromatik films), and Alfred Sole (Alice, Sweet, Alice), to a few names that don’t seem to be mentioned that often, such as David Paulsen (Savage Weekend, Schizoid), Romano Scavolini (Nightmares in a Damaged Brain), as well as a personal favorite of mine, Mariano Baino and his highly underrated film Dark Waters, plus many more.
Little Horrors: How Cinema’s Evil Children Play on Our Guilt
By T.S. Kord
Published by McFarland, 2016. 228 pages.
I first became aware of this book from my friend Gavin Schmitt’s review, which immediately grabbed my attention at the author’s introduction and her feelings towards some of the more scholarly reference books. When writing this book, she was told on more than one occasion that it wasn’t academic enough. But Kord didn’t care and states that “they failed to convince me that a good idea is worth less because it’s expressed clearly, and I’ve never been a fan of the academic credo that if a book is comprehensible to more than three people, the author must have sold out.” For that, this author has my undying attention and praise! That is exactly the problem I have with a lot of these film theory books, that it seems more important to them to talk over their audience than to actually get down to their level to get their point across. So major kudos to Kord for standing by her thoughts on this subject and not be swayed to change it just to get published.
It Came from the 80s!
By Francesco Borseti
Published by McFarland, 2016. 294 pages.
Why are there not more books like this? With all the low budget films that were made in the 80s, there has to be an over abundance of incredible and fascinating stories that us movie nerds would eat up, from the high stress levels and time constraints, to no money, to dealing with once popular actors on their way down and young ones fighting their way up, to so many other things that were just a normal part of that kind of guerilla-style of filmmaking. But thankfully for us, Francesco Borseti has given us a chance to revisit some of these films, and hear from some of the different people behind them. Each chapter will cover one specific movie that will have different input from several people from the film. Might be the screenwriter, director, cameraman, effects artists, or all of the above, with each one giving their thoughts and memories of working on that particular title.