Four of the Apocalypse: A Holiday Guide to Horror Non-Fiction Books

Posted in Artwork, Books, Film with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2017 by roarvis

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Recently I picked up four excellent non-fiction works related to movies and books in the horror genre. I was all set to take a photo and post it to Instagram, complete with relevant and witty hashtags. Then I remembered that once upon a time, I was a writer who wrote about other writers writing about things. This was before I grew disillusioned with the world of pop-culture commentary and gravitated toward projects that enable me to afford groceries (and books). My woefully neglected blog was still floating around on the internet like a discarded Angelfire homepage, generating the occasional insightful comment or spammy back-link. It deserved better.

With renewed resolve, I dusted off the old keyboard and composed a series of posts examining these four publications.

Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990 by Brian Albright

Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium 1964-1999 Edited by Amanda Reyes

Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ‘70s and ‘80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix (with Will Errickson)

Death Count: All of the Deaths in the Friday the 13th Film Series, Illustrated by Stacie Ponder

I’ll break the reviews into individual bite-sized chunks for easy digestion.

First up: Regional Horror!

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Death Count: All of the Deaths in the Friday the 13th Film Series, Illustrated

Posted in Artwork, Books, Film with tags , , , , , on November 21, 2017 by roarvis

For the previous entries, go here.

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Esteemed horror blogger Stacie Ponder has published a book featuring stick-figure illustrations of every single murder scene in the Friday the 13th franchise. Ponder’s Final Girl blog features some of the most entertaining horror criticism available online, and was a valuable resource when I was doing my own “research” on the slasher genre. Her blend of humor and insight is intact on the pages of Death Count.

Each chapter is devoted to a specific Friday the 13th film, with an intro summarizing the basic plot and characters (however loosely those terms might apply). As such, Death Count serves as a handy Cliffs Notes guide to the entire series. The graphic deaths are played for laughs, as it’s hard not to chuckle at stick figure renditions of the endless stabbings, slashings, and gougings. I read the whole book in one sitting, and since it’s been a few years since I watched all the films, I was surprised to learn how many head crushings occurred. Thanks to this book, I have a new appreciation for the word “defenestrate,” which means “to throw (someone) out of a window.”

Despite the gross humor, Ponder also empathizes with the victims. The book strives to include every character, no matter how insignificant, and efforts were made to track down each of their names. This has the effect of humanizing the fictional victims, a theme that runs through the author’s work (see her response to the great Arbogast on Film entitled The One I Might Have Saved). Illustrations depicting the few characters who managed to survive the franchise are included as a bonus.

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That wraps up this handy holiday guide to non-fiction horror. Maybe you, or someone you love, will find one of these tomes wrapped up under the Krampus tree. I’m off to hunt down some of the regional creepers, made-for-TV terrors, and musty paperback abominations that managed to slip through my clutches over the years. Hail, Santa!

Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ‘70s and ‘80s Horror Fiction

Posted in Artwork, Books, Film with tags , , , , , on November 21, 2017 by roarvis

For the previous entries, go here.

PFH

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It was the early 1980s. Horror fiction was everywhere. For a while, it seemed like publishers were competing with film studios to see who could pump out the most disturbing offering.

When I wasn’t hiding behind the sofa to catch a glimpse of Don’t Go to Sleep (1982) on TV, I was thumbing through the paperback racks at the local drugstore and scaring the crap out of my preteen self. I stared at the covers in disgust, read the lurid descriptions on the back jackets, and tried to imagine what unnatural terrors were described within.

While the stories seemed to echo the paranoid tabloid headings of the day, it was the cover art that fascinated me the most. Some of the most outrageous fantasy art of the time was designed specifically to sell paperbacks. You had die-cut, three-dimensional covers that folded out to reveal devil children, skeleton grandmothers, demonic priests, damsels-in-distress, killer crabs – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Paperbacks from Hell takes a closer look at this gaudy craze. Author Grady Hendrix examines the unique social conditions that led to the boom in mass-market horror, and gives equal consideration to both the written content of the books and the artwork. Chapters are organized by subject matter, providing a helpful overview of the themes that occupied readers of the day: Creepy Kids, When Animals Attack, Real Estate Nightmares, etc.

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The covers are reproduced in glossy, vibrant color, making this a must-have for fans of horror and fantasy art. Hendrix even profiles some of the prolific artists, many of whom crossed over into science fiction and comics (including Jeffrey Catherine Jones and Rowena Morrill).

Hendrix, who is a fiction writer himself, clearly has respect for these authors and illustrators. That doesn’t stop him from mocking the sensationalism that fueled many of the books. The review of bogus true-crime Satanic abuse novel Michelle Remembers is titled “Michelle Misremembered,” and features the caption: “Could the demonic ordeal described by Michelle Smith possibly be real? (Spoiler alert: No.)

Paperbacks From Hell features contributions from Will Errickson, whose Too Much Horror Fiction blog is an essential online companion to this book.

On to The Final Chapter: Death Count!

Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium 1964-1999

Posted in Books, Film, Television with tags , , , , , , on November 21, 2017 by roarvis

For the previous entries, go here.

TVM

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Many folks who grew up in the 70s and 80s were exposed to horror movies first via the television. My family didn’t have cable, and I didn’t have regular access to a VCR until the mid-80s. During this time, my fragile brain was assaulted by theatrical releases that were licensed (and heavily edited) for television, such as Deathdream (1974) and The Blood Spattered Bride (74). I also saw quite a few made-for-TV movies that haunted me for years to come.

Are You in the House Alone? pays tribute to this era. Made-for-television films like Gargoyles (1972), Bad Ronald (1974), and Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark (1973) are placed in their proper historical context, and given a fair critical analysis – many for the first time. The book also looks beyond the horror genre to include true crime, superheroes, and things that don’t fit in an obvious category (I’m looking at you, The Bermuda Depths).

Editor Amanda Reyes deserves substantial credit for raising the profile of the telefilm via her Made for TV Mayhem blog. Here she is joined by several writers, who contribute entries ranging in tone from academic to humorous. The book is broken into two sections: The first features essays on various subjects and themes, including the rape-revenge and exploitation genres. Lance Vaughan, a.k.a. Unkle Lancifer from the indispensable blog Kindertrauma, provides a chapter devoted to small-screen Stephen King adaptations. The second part focuses on reviews of some of the notable telefilms of the era.

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The films profiled are stylistically diverse, but from a geographical standpoint, the book is primarily concerned with U.S. network productions. The writers dig into the Nielsen DMA stats to convey just how successful many of these “television events” were in terms of ratings. This information is fascinating for anyone interested in American pop culture, but I’m curious if there were similar trends in Canadian television during the time. Similarly, the book mostly avoids U.K. television productions, which included terrifying films like the original The Woman in Black (1989). The British dystopian nightmare Threads (1974) is mentioned, but the works of horror/sci-fi writer Nigel Kneale are not. I’d love to see a companion piece to this book covering TV movie trends in the U.K. and other regions.

Next: Paperbacks From Hell!

Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990

Posted in Books, Film with tags , , , , , on November 21, 2017 by roarvis

For Part 1 of this series, go here.

Regional

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As defined by author Brian Albright, regional horror films are movies that were made and distributed outside of the Hollywood system with predominately local casts and crews. It’s easy to assume that the bulk of these are low-budget films of varying quality, and that assumption is largely correct. Yet they aren’t all obscure.

While it takes a hardcore horror nerd to talk shop about Don’t Go in the Woods (1981, Utah) or Don’t Look in the Basement (1974, Texas), many of the films discussed in Regional Horror Films are popular and extremely influential. Night of the Living Dead (1968, Pennsylvania), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, Texas), and The Evil Dead (1981, Tennessee/Michigan) are three of the most famous horror movies ever made, and their impact on the genre has been substantial.

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The book is organized into two sections. The first consists of interviews with specific regional filmmakers, including J.R. Bookwalter from Ohio and William Grefe from Florida. Albright is good at coaxing stories out of his interview subjects, and the ensuing conversations make these a fun and fascinating read.

The second part consists of entries on specific films, organized by state. The author points out that these are not critiques. He gives you the details, a brief synopsis, and maybe some trivia – enough to decide for yourself if you want to hunt down a copy. This aspect of the book reminded me of The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film by Michael Weldon (1983), an early classic that sent me spiraling down the corridors of movie madness as a young teenager.

I was pleasantly surprised to find an entry on The Wednesday Children (1973, Ohio), a film by Kent State University professor Robert D. West. West taught a class on Cult Films, which was one of the few courses I achieved perfect attendance in during my time at KSU. I’ve never seen his film, but will be sure to track it down now.

If there’s a central thesis to Regional Horror Films, it’s that the locations and communities that spawned these films were as important as the script or cinematography. None of these movies could have been made in Hollywood. Surely the characteristics that make them so terrifying and memorable would have been sanded down or altered beyond recognition.

Next up: Made for TV Movies!

Bandcamp Recommendations

Posted in Uncategorized on August 4, 2017 by roarvis

Today (August 4, 2017), Bandcamp is donating 100% of their share of every sale to the Transgender Law Center.

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Here are some recommendations.

My Bloody Valentine Reissues: A Closer Look

Posted in Music with tags on June 27, 2012 by roarvis

It’s easy to forget that there was a time in the early 90s when musicians competed with each other to blur the lines between melody and noise. Guitars got louder and weirder, while vocals became softer and more ambiguous. Grunge had yet to take over the cultural landscape, and the future stars of Britpop were still wearing short pants.

The music of this era became known as “shoegaze,” a term that just about everyone involved has tried to disown. There’s some dispute as to whether this was an actual genre or just a vaguely connected scene. Whatever it was, most will agree that My Bloody Valentine had the strongest impact.

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