The Pocket Essential Guide to Horror Films

Book coverWriting an essential book on someone’s work isn’t easy, so you can expect how hellish it must have been to write an essential guide to horror films. Oh, and could you do that in 95 pages? Michelle Le Blanc and Colin Odell did it.
Such a work is bound to be incomplete: how can you compile 105 years in 95 pages? Well, first and foremost by starting at the Twenties and ending with the Nineties. For every decade, they made an introduction and then reviewed three movies that were saying something about their decade.
This is of course not enough and that is why Le Blanc and Odell also dissected the works of ten horror auteurs. After an introduction, two or three movies got a close examination.

That could still be a initiative that sounds well, yet falls flat on its face when executed. Le Blanc and Odell, however, didn’t fall into that trap. Almost every important auteur is mentioned in this booklet: if they were not one of the lucky ten, one of their works could have been mentioned in one of the decades (and with every reviewed movie you learn a bit more about the director or the studio). If that wasn’t the case either, they probably got mentioned in one of the introductions to the decades.

The problem I have with this guide is the errors they make. Mind you, this is a personal work, so if they feel that most Italian directors like Bava or Freda were nothing more than cheap imitators, then that’s their opinion. A wrong opinion, but an opinion nevertheless. They certainly have no sympathy for Lucio Fulci, he gets the harshest verdict: a complete loser, only capable of stealing ideas or showing mutilated bodies.
Well if they feel that way about him, then that’s their problem. But I think they should at least have tried to spell the director’s name correctly. He is mentioned three times as “Fulchi”.

There are more stupid errors: “Lucio Fulci’s [spelled correctly for a change] notorious Zombie Flesh Eaters was even marketed as Zombi 2 in some quarters to cash in on Dawn of the Dead‘s continental title.” (p. 68) Could you get further from the truth? It might seem to the English that the whole of Europe is an unimportant mess of countries, but in fact Dawn of the Dead was only marketed as Zombi in Italy. Fulci is Italian, which explains why he chose the title Zombi 2 (the films are unrelated however) for his movie. So Zombi 2 is the official title of Fulci’s movie and the film was only called Zombie Flesh Eaters in America and England.
Likewise, I have problems with “[after Nosferatu Murnau] would go on to direct Faust (1926), […] before moving on to non-genre projects.” (p. 14) Murnau made non-genre projects before Faust and even before Nosferatu.

But if you would the number of errors from the number of times Le Blanc and Odell tell you vital information, you’ll still have to conclude that for 95 pages and £3, this is a booklet worthy of your money. Before I leave you, I would like you to check the films and directors mentioned in Horror Films:

Twenties: The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, Haxan, The Phantom of the Opera
Thirties/Forties: King Kong, The Ghoul, Dead of Night
Fifties: The Quatermass Experiment, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Les Yeux sans Visage
Sixties: Peeping Tom, The Masque of the Red Death, Rosemary’s Baby
Seventies: Theater of Blood, The Exorcist, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Eighties: Evil Dead, The Thing, Spoorloos
Nineties: Braindead, Dust Devil, The Blair Witch Project
Tod Browning: Dracula, Freaks
James Whale: Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, Bride of Frankenstein
Val Lewton (producer): Cat People, The Body Snatcher, Bedlam
Terence Fisher: The Mummy, The Curse of the Werewolf, Dracula: Prince of Darkness
George A. Romero: Night of the Living Dead, Martin, Dawn of the Dead
Dario Argento: Deep Red, Suspiria, Inferno
David Cronenberg: Shivers, The Fly, Dead Ringers
Joe Dante: Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins
Wes Craven: A Nightmare on Elm Street, The People Under The Stairs, Scream
Clive Barker: Hellraiser, Nightbreed, Lord of Illusions

And if that’s not enough, at the end of the book you’ll find 50 other films certainly worth seeing. I guess you know what to do know.

Horror Films by LeBlanc and Odell is part of the Pocket Essentials collection. They’re cheap and concise guides to directors, genres and subgenres.


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