Monday, October 31, 2011

THE HORRIFYING HALLOWEEN BOOKSHELF. As Halloween (and October) rockets towards its big finish, I thought I'd mention a couple books I'm currently devouring that lend themselves to the season. Both books are about horror films naturally; one is a sedate hardcover and the other is a glossy photo-packed riot of colour. The first book was actually recommended by John Rozum on his blog; actually he recommended a few books and I promptly bought them all! The one I'm currently reading first is Jason Zinoman's SHOCK VALUE and you can read John's recommendations here. SHOCK VALUE is subtitled "How a few eccentric outsiders gave us nightmares, conquered Hollywood, and invented modern horror" and the book concerns the major maverick horror filmmakers of the 70's & 80's such as Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Dan O'Bannon, Brian DePalma, William Friedkin and others who were inspired by three influential 60's horror flicks: Peter Bogdanovich's TARGETS, George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and Roman Polanski's ROSEMARY'S BABY. This is an area of horror which has been relatively written little about in book form which makes this tome a welcome addition to horror film scholarship. Zinoman puts seemingly unrelated 70's films like TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, ALIEN, HALLOWEEN, DARK STAR, THE EXORCIST and CARRIE in their proper context as a dawning of a "new horror" radically different from the previous generation of Roger Corman and William Castle. The book is also a fluid read and never becomes dry or academic. There are one or two nagging errors which annoyed me; one of which is when Zinoman refers to the character of Norman Bates in Robert Bloch's original novel as "skinny" making Anthony Perkins good casting. In fact, Norman Bates in the novel is overweight; there has been compelling speculation which I believe to be true that Bloch actually based the character of Norman Bates' physical appearance on "CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN" publisher Calvin T. Beck. But one or two factual errors do not spoil what is a fascinating read.
The second book is Gary Gerani's "TOP 100 HORROR MOVIES"; a big colour-splashed book with white printing on black glossy paper which is built more for fun than scholarship. Gerani, of course, is the author of that seminal early reference work "FANTASTIC TELEVISION" which examined in detail (probably for the first time) genre TV from STAR TREK, TWILIGHT ZONE, and THRILLER to KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS and SPACE: 1999. Here Gerani indulges in that wonderful list-making we boys find so much fun. Brief film synopses and credit lists accompany entries as to why each film is important and deserves to be on Gerani's "top 100" list. Here too we have one or two nagging errors; paramount of which is Gerani's constant reference to child actor Martin Stephens (of THE INNOCENTS and VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED) as Martin Phillips for some reason. But here too such details don't spoil the fun. While "TOP 100 HORROR MOVIES" doesn't really offer anything new under the sun, it is always enjoyable to see somebody's list of top 100 horror movies and this is no exception. And don't worry, Gerani has also provided a companion volume of "TOP 100 SCI-FI MOVIES" which I'll get to later. So there you have it: a couple really good reads for these dark autumn nights. Light a candle and read 'em aloud to a restless spirit near you!
Today's 31st and final Halloween Comic Book Cover of the Day is NIGHTMARES #1 from 1985.

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