What goes into making a horror movie freak? A modicum of passion for the genre, for sure, and certainly an appreciative knowledge of old and new fright flix. Don Sumner brings both together in his easy-reading and highly informative Horror Movie Freak.
I'm ocasionally asked why I've never written a horror movie book: my ready answer is "the shelves are chock full of tomes both wonderful and mediocre. What more can be said?" Sumner does something wonderful by not offering more to be said, but making sure what needs to be said is concisely and clearly done. His simple premise is that if you want to be a real horror movie fan, you can't hide behind a single genre, evade a decade or two, nor shriek away from the moldy oldies. You don't need to like everything, just make sure you know what you're talking about before you start pissing on Dracula's cape or tugging Freddy's sweater. The style is brisk, light, and appetite-wetting for newbies, while reassuring and comprehensive enough for seasoned fans to appreciate as a handy reference.
The perfunctory "why we love horror movies" section is one I usually speed through (really, why do you love horror movies? is a more important discussion), but one paragraph stands out and could easily be the basis for yet another book:
There are many ingredients to an effective and enjoyable horror stew: storyline, special effects, script, and scenery, but one of the most important is the star. Not the actors and actresses in the film, but the real stars--the heroes, villains, ghosts, and monsters.
I'll go a step further and say this is the most important ingredient. Sumner's assessment points out the major problem with today's remakes and reimagines and reboots: the real stars are missing. We get cardboard standees of monsters instead of the memorable performances that were so monstrously frightening and endearing in the first place. I love horror movies not so much because of the scares but because of who is scaring me.
The who and what of horror is covered all the way from the silents, the Universal Horror Golden Age, Hammer's bloody good reign of terror, and up to the chapter titled Remake Nation. Other chapters break down the major areas of terror onscreen: aberrations of nature, aliens, foreign horror, homicidal slashers, psychotics, supernatural, vampires, zombies, and ghost stories. Each movie receives a page or two of highlight coverage, with enough posters and photos to appropriately balance the visual dance between text and eye-candy, and it's a thorough selection of cinematic creeps to fill up a fan's must-see movie list.
Anyone still looking for a good movie to watch on Halloween will find ample choices in Sumner's Ten Days to Halloween. Each one is a worthy recommendation, but I'll second Darkness Falls. How can you pass up a murdering tooth fairy swooping in when the lights go out, especially on Halloween night?
Horror Movie Freak is that rare book that will spend as much time in your hands as it does on your shelf. After you read it, you will be a walking arsenal of lethal horror movie knowledge, ready to fend off anyone dumb enough to try and knock the Fedora off of Freddy's head.
This definitely sounds like a worthy addition to my shelves, which are already chock full of tomes both wonderful and mediocre.
Posted by: Theron | September 09, 2010 at 05:25 PM