The Slasher Movie Book — Get a Free Copy Here
update: a winner has been randomly chosen and notified (manekochan from the comments section). thanks to all who left comments/sent emails detailing their favorite slasher film. jason, michael, and chucky films were all well represented… as were lesser known slashers such as THE PROWLER, SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, and BEHIND THE MASK. oddly, no ELM STREET movies were mentioned… but maybe the remake disenchanted some peeps and they’re trying to avoid thinking about freddy for a while.
despite being a consistent cash cow, the slasher film sub-genre doesn’t get much mainstream attention, and when it does it’s usually negative. while it’s easy enough to find slasher films to watch, trying to find books or documentaries focused specifically on the genre will quickly lead you to discover only a few exist, and you can count the ones worth your time on one hand. well, get ready to use that other hand, because THE SLASHER MOVIE BOOK (aka TEENAGE WASTELAND for our friends in the UK) is now available for order, and after looking over a copy for myself, i can honestly say this is a ‘must-own’ for any fan of the genre.
j. a. kerswell (founder of hysteria-lives) has put together a visually stunning, well-written and comprehensive love letter to the slasher genre. many books of this type will either be too text-heavy with few or no images to accompany the text or simply be a gallery of cover art with a few sentences added in as an after-thought. THE SLASHER MOVIE BOOK seems to be an almost exact 50/50 mix of text and images that perfectly compliment each other. the text is passionately written and covers the slasher film from its early roots in other genres, year by year through the golden age, through its rebirth in the 1990s and then all the way to the 3D and remake craze we’re experiencing now. while jason, michael and freddy all get attention (as they should), the book references a wide range of films, including both hidden gems and neigh unwatchable garbage. the screenshots and posters are distinctively stylized and creatively laid out, and often feature images i’ve never seen before, whether they be foreign posters for films i’m well versed in or for films i’d never heard of (of which i was humbled and delighted to discover there were so many of).
if you’re reading this site, then there is no doubt this book is for you. if you like, head over to amazon right now and order a copy. choose expedited shipping — you won’t regret it.
however, if you’re more the patient sort, then there’s another option — you could get a copy for free! we’re having a little contest to give away a copy, and all you need to do to enter is email me the title of your very-most-super-favorite slasher film of all-time and a short explanation of why it’s your favorite. please email entries to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your answer in a comment below (please use a valid email address).
tell the best nostalgic story of seeing your favorite slasher film for the first time or make the best argument for why your choice is the most bestest slasher film ever made, and the words below could very well become a reality…
80s Horror Icons Today
what if famous 80s horror icons aged normally and were alive today? a co-worker forwarded me this photography art project by federico chiesa and carolina trotta that sets out to answer that very question…. i thought this might be relevant to your interests, so i’ve listed a few examples below. find your way here to see the entire project…
brad mchargue (fangoria/bloody-disgusting/horrorsquad contributor, former ilovehorror blogger and long-time friend of eo2l) is involved in a really interesting film project that is currently seeking funding. HAUNTED is a found footage horror film, with an intriguing twist. according to the film’s funding page:
HAUNTED tells the story of what happens when a group of paranormal investigators finally find what they’ve been searching for. Andrew, a film student at the University of Michigan, is tagging along with a team of paranormal investigators to document their process for a school project. At first things go according to plan, but as the night progresses, it’s clear something in the house doesn’t want them there. Taking a unique approach to the concept of “found footage” HAUNTED is presented in a quad-screen/real-time format, showing the audience everything that is occurring inside the house all at once. This bold premise will give the audience, for the first time, the complete experience of what goes on during a paranormal investigation while encouraging repeat viewings, as viewers will be excited to fully see everything they only glimpsed the first time!
the four camera split-screen idea is a great hook, and i’d love to see this film idea become a reality. brad and his co-writer are currently looking for backers through their kickstarter page, where you can read more about the film and pledge contributions to assist in getting it produced.
in the past, if i loved a certain film, it was pretty much a certainty that brad would hate it (e.g., JENNIFER’S BODY). the opposite was also true most of the time (e.g., PONTYPOOL). so what happens if HAUNTED gets made, and i really dig it? does that mean brad has to hate his own movie? well, i’m interested to find out, so let’s hope HAUNTED can find the backing it needs.
Stuff I’ve Been Watching — Needs More Cowbell Edition
THE THING is one of my favorite films, so i was understandably skeptical when i heard they were making a prequel and/or remake. i was anxious for more ‘thing,’ but it would be so easy for them to screw it up by trying to fix what was ‘wrong’ with the first film since it had such a disappointing theatrical release (yet eventually gathered quite the following on home video). i remember reading an interview with the director, stating his intention to be true to the original — but that’s what every director says to appease the existing fans, while not mentioning all the changes they’re having to make to try to have broader appeal. after seeing THE THING, i’m convinced of two things: 1) it’s confusing to name your prequel the same title as the film it is a prequel to and 2) the director was not lying about staying true to the original.
apart from possibly using cgi where it wasn’t necessary in a few places, there is very little to complain about in THE THING. don’t get me wrong — no aspect of john carpenter’s masterpiece is in danger of being eclipsed by this prequel (most notably in the special effects category), but i doubt making a better film than the original was their goal. it feels like they were trying to make a smart and frightening companion piece to the original that supplements it without contradicting or negating anything already established. if that is true, then they succeeded. everything we know from the original about the norwegian camp is seamlessly integrated into the prequel. many scenes are almost identical in tone and content to scenes from carpenter’s, but there are enough twists and differences that it always feels like a homage instead of a rehash. this may not end up joining the original as a true classic of the genre, but it’s certainly entertaining and well worth seeing.
as i was leaving the theater, happily surprised by how much i liked THE THING, i overheard a girl ask her boyfriend “that’s how it ends?!? what happens next?” i did not overhear his reply, but it’s my hope he’s a true horror fan and already owns the answer to her query on dvd and/or blu-ray.
related video: the cast of THE THING (1981) watch THE THING (2011).
AMERICAN HORROR STORY
i was about to start this off with the phrase “despite not being as original as THE WALKING DEAD…”, but quickly realized that would be completely unfair. it’s true that AMERICAN HORROR STORY is not wildly original, as it borrows shamelessly from well-known genre classics and recent horror successes. however, despite being incredibly compelling, THE WALKING DEAD is an even worse offender, stealing unabashedly from only one coffer (george romero’s), while AMERICAN HORROR STORY at least has the decency to spread its thievery around, often sprinkling pilfered bits from john carpenter, stanley kubrick, and alfred hitchcock evenly about, often in the same episode.
most of the time, the show’s tendency to reference other horror films works, coming across not as laziness or plagiarism — but as a type of horror short-hand. in the most recent episode, the intentions of three home intruders is immediately communicated to the audience in a blink of an eye, not through lengthy exposition but by simply emulating the most famous shot from THE STRANGERS. earlier in the same episode during a flashback set in the 1960s, the familiar violin strings from the score of PSYCHO instantly place us in the correct decade and and convey the intentions of an uninvited guest.
the show’s opening credit may be a little too reminiscent of SE7EN’s famous credit sequence, but minor gripes aside, this is a show you should definitely be watching. i don’t know how long they can keep it up, but so far the haunted house story they are telling has kept me riveted and guessing at every turn, and is scarier, sexier and more unnerving than anything horror television has ever seen. similar to the maturity level seen in DEXTER and TRUE BLOOD, but lacking the lightheartedness and comedy those shows occasionally exhibit, AMERICAN HORROR STORY is a hard-edged series that shows a willingness to push the envelope and go to places that even recent horror feature films seem afraid to.
THE WALKING DEAD
along with everyone else in the world, this week i also watched the season premiere of THE WALKING DEAD. once we get to episodes that frank darabont had little to no input on, i’m afraid the show will take a nosedive, but if they can somehow maintain the quality shown in this first episode, then there will be nothing to worry about. you can already see the impact of the budget cuts in a few questionable cgi effects shots, but other than that, there is little to complain about in this season’s opener.
i will, however, complain about how amc is handling suddenly being in possession of an incredibly successful show. in addition to slashing the budget despite growing success and running off the man who created the damn thing, they also became the first company i know of to greedily double-dip the home video release of a show’s first season before the second season even aired.
behind-the-scenes drama aside, the show is fantastic. and it has also spawned one of the more brilliant parodies in recent memory, which you can see below.
THE WALKEN DEAD
Butcher Knives & Body Counts — Available Now
unlike most books on the subject, this is not a simple list of films with rehashed commentary or a straight-forward history — instead it’s a collection of essays from over 70 authors,covering more than 80 films, the sum of which is an incredibly in-depth study and analysis of the slasher genre. given the focus of this site, if you’re a visitor here, that probably means you fall squarely in the cross-hairs of the demographic for this book, so you should probably stop reading and go grab a copy at amazon now. go on, i’ll wait.
as you may remember me mentioning a while back, an essay i wrote about my own personal childhood experience with THE PROWLER was accepted into BUTCHER KNIVES & BODY COUNTS. while my name may not be enough to get you rushing out to the book store, some of the others might (Jack Ketchum, Adam Rockoff, Adam Green, Stacie Ponder, Anthony Timbone… and dozens of others).
editor Vince Liaguno also recently did a 3-part interview about the book for FANGORIA, a small portion of which i’ve excerpted below.
FANG: What went into the process of ordering these films, in terms of their aesthetic and their historical periods?
LIAGUNO: In editing, it gave itself form. Honestly, it just came together. I’d love to take credit for having the brainstorm of putting that full order together, but it really was the way the essays came in, and it just fell into this sequence. I think that’s why I allowed it to grow so big. There was clearly a bunch of films that I could group into something like the Golden Age of Slashers, or a group of essays I could put into the Post-Modern movement.
Then there were a bunch of these oddball essays that didn’t fit into either, almost like if you were going to study a slasher, it would be introductory material. One writer did an article about slashers and their history with video games. Stacie Ponder, who runs the blog Final Girl, did an essay on the novelization of slashers. I just couldn’t stop. We had more theoretical material, equating slashers to different philosophers; some really heavy kind of stuff. When you think about slashers, you usually don’t think about heavy intellectual material. You think about girls in bras and panties getting slaughtered in the woods.
It’s almost 500 pages, which is not the norm for publishing these days. We couldn’t say no. There were so many discoveries, and some of the feedback we’d gotten; somebody wrote me and said, “Thank you so much for not making HALLOWEEN the pinnacle of the book.” HALLOWEEN is only a small part of the book; it gets an essay, but it talks about the music. There were so many other fascinating aspects. One writer, Richard Kane, submitted an essay claiming that THIRTEEN WOMEN , TERROR ABOARD  and THE NINTH GUEST  were really the first slashers. I’m blown away by the way in which people have intellectualized, gone back to those archives of film history and found legitimate cases for the first slasher. Of course, a lot of people argue PSYCHO, Janet Leigh in the shower, is the first. A lot of people argue BLACK CHRISTMAS. But some of these guys go as far back as silent movies.
Stuff I’ve Been Watching — The Power of Expectation Edition
and… we’re back.
while i’m sure we all appreciate the subjective nature of taste, as film connoisseurs i think we often take the stance that our critical opinions of films are based on the sum of some objective evaluation of various identifiable aspects of the filmmaking process and that we judge a film only on what is present on the screen. however, i recently watched two films that really drove home the idea that what i was expecting from a film before seeing it drastically influenced my opinion after viewing it.
YELLOW BRICK ROAD
for both of these films, i knew nothing about them other than what i learned from looking at the poster. and YELLOW BRICK ROAD has a really good poster. i don’t know what this girl is flipping out about, but this is fantastic marketing because it makes this film look like it might actually be scary. it’s reminiscent of THE RUINS, but i also got a definite 1970s TEXAS CHAINSAW / LAST HOUSE vibe from it and i was left with the impression that this film was going to be old-school-straight-for-the-balls-that-are-to-the-wall-and-inside-the-pants-that-are-being crapped-in terrifying. i didn’t know whether the threat would be trees, plants, hillbillies or the lollipop guild– and it didn’t matter. i was going to see this film.
and see it i did, but crap my pants i did not. the film starts out well enough, setting up a mystery where an entire town just one day started walking into the woods and died. unfortunately, from there it quickly falls apart, leaving every mystery as mysterious as it was in the first five minutes and padding the time between the opening and the completely unsatisfying climax with scene after scene of useless drivel, philosophical nonsense or, on the rare occasion, one containing a single creepy idea that has some genuine promise that might have been effectively used in another film… but not here. as YELLOW BRICK ROAD stumbled along, leaving a wavy, sporadic trail of crap in its wake like a sick dog, my opinion of the film dropped lower and lower until hitting pretty close to rock bottom as the credits rolled.
that said, when thinking about the film the next day, it occurred to me that a lot of the reason i reacted so negatively to it was because of the promises implicitly made in that poster. had i seen YELLOW BRICK ROAD cold, with no expectations of any kind, i actually think i would have had a much more positive reaction. would i have loved it? probably not. but my “arrrrgggghhhh” reaction of thinking it was probably a 1 out of 5 stars film might very well have been a more reasonable “meh” of 2 or 3 stars had i not been hoping/expecting to love it. we navigate and survive in this world by using incomplete information to make guesses and estimates about how other things in the world are or will be. “will that dog bite me?” “will that car turn left or right?” “will that red berry taste bad?” and yes, “does it seem like that movie will suck?” when the world does not line up with our internal assumptions, the larger that discrepancy is, i think the more powerful our emotional response is and the more we overcompensate by swinging in the opposite direction.
FORGET ME NOT
the poster for FORGET ME NOT is uninspired, to say the least. everything about it — the ‘row of heads’ layout, the constipated look on the actor’s faces, the crappy photoshop filter on the title, and even the title itself — they all scream “this is a ultra low budget, made-over-a-weekend piece of garbage with shitty film quality and shittier audio that you’ll turn off five minutes in.” well, believe it or not — it is none of those things.
FORGET ME NOT is actually a fairly competent dead teenager/ghost movie. it’s not going to win any major awards, but the writing is decent, the characters are interesting enough and the ghosts, while highly derivative of several famous j-horror offerings, are genuinely creepy at times. i’d probably give it 3.5 stars out of 5 and recommend it to any serious horror fans looking for something they might have overlooked. however, i’d suggest getting on dvd — at the time i tried to watch it on netflix instant, some of the sound channels were missing (evident in the initial party where everyone is dancing in the background and you can hear dialogue — but no music, which was not an interesting artistic choice as i first thought). although, perhaps netflix has fixed that issue by now.
similar to YELLOW BRICK ROAD though, i wonder what my feeling on this film would be had i seen it completely cold. am i giving it a 3.5 because of its inherent qualities or because its poster led me to believe it’d be a 1? is it possible i would have judged these films of roughly equal quality had i gone in to both of them with no expectations? maybe it wouldn’t have made a huge difference — it’s hard to say not having had that experience, but i have the feeling that my supposedly objective measurement of their quality as films would have been a lot closer had i not seen or formed such strong opinions based on those posters.
if you’re reading this and you haven’t seen these films, then i’ve just given you a very different set of expectations than i had going into them. i wonder how that will effect your judgement of the films, should you see them… if you want to let me know — leave a comment below.
Review: “Pop-Up Book of Death” by Chad Helder
A Review of “Pop-UP Book of Death,” by Chad Helder (Rebel Satori Press, 2010)
Given the focus of this site, it should surprise no one that I love horror; however, I have a greater love that I don’t get to talk about as much here, and that love is poetry. The worlds of horror and poetry sometimes meet, as in the case of Edgar Allan Poe’s sublime verse, or the groundbreaking work of Baudelaire. But so-called “horror poetry” is often gimmicky. In fact, whenever I teach creative writing, I tell my students that they’re forbidden to write any genre literature until they’ve mastered the basics of their craft. For the beginning writer, it’s too easy to use the conventions of genre as a crutch. Chad Helder’s “Pop-Up Book of Death” makes enough references to zombies, disease, and dismemberment to satisfy any fan of the horror genre, but this is real poetry written by someone who knows his craft, and Helder uses the conventions of horror to do what good poems always do, whether or not they make reference to the horror genre. These artfully written poems offer fresh insight to the darker and more absurd aspects of the human condition.
The intriguingly short poem “The Void” appears early in the collection and sums up its tone and tenor. Here is the poem in its entirety:
Don’t allow children under the age of ten to stare at this page unsupervised.
And with this, I knew that Helder was up to something interesting. The idea here — and it is manifest everywhere in this collection — is that our language is not static, and lifeless: there are horrors, oddities, and monsters beneath even the most innocuous phrases and utterances. Take “The River,” for example. It’s a poem describing an imaginary pop-up book about a group of mourners standing on a riverbank:
A clever optical illusion:
the lines of the river trick the eye into seeing
relentless current, which
continues to flow in a blink
like the echo of a flashbulb.
So much is seething just beneath the surface, and we’re playfully invited to “Pull the tab” of this nightmarish pop-up book and let its hidden crocodile nip “the thumb of the reader with a sharp cardboard edge.” And in the next poem, entitled “Origins of Burial,” a “Neanderthal corpse rises from the page” to teach us the “miracle of decomposition.” These are intelligently unsettling poems that suggest our histories and our imaginations are dangerous terrains that can’t be bounded by the printed page.
Perhaps the darkest poem in the collection is playfully entitled “Birthday Cake.” It’s about a home invasion in which the intruder transforms into the narrator’s boyhood dog. However, to make matters worse, the dog “is old and sick.” When the narrator decides that the gun he planned to use for self defense must now be used in an act of mercy killing, he discovers that “the chamber is clogged with birthday cake.” I love the dark, surreal comedy of this poem. What could be safer and happier than memories of your childhood dog and birthday cake? But memories are unreliable and dangerous. They distort what was once real, and they can’t always be trusted.
Even love, our most sacred and foundational of human emotions, is contested terrain in this collection. “The Day We Met” is a love poem, and I find it strangely endearing, even if the narrator proclaims to his lover that on the day they met he “escaped the body bag” and “cut down all the nooses tied to the rafters in the garage.” This isn’t Hallmark greeting card stuff. And thankfully so. These poems insist that real love, like real childhood, is strange and transformative and scary, and not always innocent.
I enjoyed this book for many of the same reasons I enjoy a good horror film. I don’t watch a horror film just for cheap thrills and scares, but for the immersion into a strange world that blurs my vision, and challenges me to re-think the world around me a little when I exit the theater. This book does just that.
You can check out more of Chad Helder’s writing at his blog, Helder Horror (http://helderhorror.com/)
Great Horror Films That I Will Never See Again
I’ve watched James Whale’s Frankenstein every year for the past twenty years. I recently re-watched all the Saw films in preparation for the final installment. I watched Dagon again over the weekend simply because it was released to Netflix’s “watch instantly” option. However, there are a few great horror films that I can safely say I’ll never see again. These are not “bad” films. They’re all important milestones in horror cinema that were worth watching, even if I’ll never watch them again.
1. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
In terms of film history, this is a must-see for any horror fan, as it’s the prototype for films such as Hostel, Saw, and all the found-footage films that are popular right now. For all its grainy, trashy aesthetics, Cannibal Holocaust is actually far more intelligent and deliberate than it sometimes appears to be. In some ways, the film is a cogent parody of the Western world’s assumptions about native culture, as well as the problematic role of media. That being said, it’s a deeply disturbing film, largely because the director employs real violence to animals as an analog to the fake violence to humans. It’s incredibly gut-wrenching and effective, and also blatantly unethical. I’ll never watch this film again.
2. Scream (1996)
Let me begin by stressing that I like this film if for no other reason than it famously revitalized the slasher genre in the 1990s. It also made horror mainstream by using an all-star cast, and like every other teenage boy in the 90s, I loved every second that Neve Campbell was on screen. It also gave horror a then-needed dose of wit and tongue-in-cheek self-reflection. At its heart, Scream is a horror movie about horror movies. I suppose that being so ground-breaking and influential has a price, as every horror film that followed for a very long time had a similar tone and technique. I love Cherry Falls (a better sequel to Scream than the actual sequels) and the more recent meta-film Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. Scream paved the way for both of these films. And I’m sure I’ll watch Scream 4 when it hits theaters, if only to reminisce about my younger days as a horror fan. But I’ll likely never watch the original Scream again, because all the irony and punch of it is long gone, thanks in part to the rise of the Scary Movie franchise, which thoroughly lampooned everything that was once pithy and subtle about Scream.
3. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
This movie had me cowering in my seat when I saw it in the theater. I’d never seen anything quite like it, as it was one of the first horror films to really make extensive use of shaky-cam, found-footage style film-making in a way that was more realistic and immersive than Cannibal Holocaust. But, like the meta-narrative style of Scream, all of this has been copied and rehashed to the point that its lost its effectiveness. I tried watching The Blair Witch Project again, hoping to recapture that feeling I had when I saw it for the first time. But the twigs tied up in a knot just seemed silly the second time, and the blurry, indiscriminate shapes and sounds were annoying instead of scary, and the amateur acting seemed puerile. Of course, it’s an important film, and it proves that film-makers should be innovative and try new things. But it also means that there’s no real and permanent substitute for having things like a polished script, professional acting, refined cinematography, and the other timeless elements of good film. If there’s another sequel to The Blair Witch Project that has all of those things, then I’ll watch it. Otherwise, I’m finished with this franchise.
4. The Amityville Horror (1979)
This is another film that scared the loving bejeesus out of me as a kid. This is probably because children think of their homes as being both the center of their world, as well as a very safe place to be. So there was something about the idea of a haunted house, with its dark and sinister inner room (the famous “red room”) that turned my adolescent mind upside down. For a long time, it made me afraid to go in the basement of my own house. I saw the film again as an adult and I had two reactions. It’s actually an incredibly slow and boring film, and James Brolin must have been the hairiest, manliest actor in the 70s. The dude belongs in a Brawny paper-towel commercial. I’m glad I saw this film as a kid, but now that I’m an adult, I’ll never see it again.
5. Suspiria (1977), or any of Argento’s films
I’ve loved every Dario Argento movie that I’ve ever seen, including Suspiria. I’m even a big fan of Jenifer and Pelts, his controversial installments in the sadly defunct Masters of Horror series. Suspiria is a well-crafted, exquisitely paced, and beautifully shot film, with choreographed color palettes and carefully orchestrated music. But I’ll never see it again, because I really don’t need to. Argento keeps making the same movie over and over, whether he’s exploring the secret, evil world of dance, or the secret, evil world of the fur trade. They all look and feel about the same, so I’ll never watch Suspiria again, and wait for the next Argento movie instead.
6. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
I have the utmost respect for this movie. And I’m a little surprised myself that it’s on this list, as I could watch the original Night of the Living Dead every night of the week. And Dawn of the Dead is a smart zombie film with lots of important stuff to say. But I tried watching it again a while back, and, as much as it pains me to say this, it’s really kinda boring. I’d forgotten how slowly paced it is, or how there’s a long sequence of events that we have to muddle through before we get to the good stuff in the shopping mall. This might not be fair, but I also can’t help but compare it to Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake. It’s derivative, of course, of Romero’s work, and indebted to it in every way imaginable. But its pacing is perfect, the characters are all interesting, the tone and editing are contemplative but also relentless, and it has a soundtrack that includes the punk-rock poet Jim Carroll and the one-and-only Johnny Cash. What’s not to love? It’s the better film. And I’ll never watch Romero’s Dawn of the Dead again because of it.