Yes, I loves me some horror cinema, but watching scare flicks isn't enough for me. I also love reading about them, finding out what went into making them, and learning about other movies I should seek out. Sure, there are some great online resources for that (Cinematical, for instance), but I love books, the feel, the smell, the way you can use one to settle an argument either by confirming a fact, refuting an erroneous claim, or by throwing it. I present you now with seven horror movie related books from my personal library, each perfect for reading by the fireplace while an angry storm rages outside and the howl of a distant wolf mingles with the wails of lost souls emanating from that deconsecrated cemetery across the street (you know, the one right next to Burger King). Many of these are out of print, but used copies can easily be found on Amazon or EBay.
The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film by Michael Weldon
Any self-respecting fan of trash cinema should have this 816 page tome. Exactly what constitutes a psychotronic film is a little hard to pin down, but it includes not just horror films, but science fiction, biker flicks, jungle adventure, juvenile delinquents, etc. When the book was published in 1983, home video was just coming into its own, so locating data on the likes of Dr. Orloff's Monster, Goliathon (a.k.a. Mighty Peking Man) and Ed Wood's Orgy of the Dead must have been quite an undertaking. Author Weldon, who for years also published Psychotronic Video magazine, was one of the first to deem this type of grade z movie swill worthy of cataloging. Dated, but still an invaluable resource.
Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark by Tim Lucas
OK, in the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I did some Photoshop work on this book but, my involvement aside, this is a gorgeous and in-depth publication. If you love the films of Italian horror maestro Mario Bava then you'll love this book by Tim Lucas, who also publishes the monthly magazine Video Watchdog. At 1,127 pages this is without a doubt the last word on Bava's career. The text is well researched and the stills and poster reproductions are many. Every film Bava worked on as director, writer, cinematographer, effects artist, or whatever gets its own chapter, including Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, several Hercules films, Planet of the Vampires, Kill Baby Kill, Twitch of the Death Nerve... it's all good. This is the sort of book that requires a certain amount of commitment from the reader. First of all, the price is $260 including shipping (no, I didn't forget a decimal back there) and is only available from the publisher, so this won't be a casual purchase for anyone. Secondly, a certain amount of upper body strength is required as this sucker weighs twelve pounds. I attempted to read it in bed one night, but after lying back and resting it on my chest I was rushed to the hospital with a ruptured spleen. Still, it was worth it, and since I only recently got my copy it should keep me busy for some time to come.
The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Horror edited by Phil Hardy
The Overlook Film Encyclopedia series has volumes dedicated to several genres including science fiction, gangster flicks, and of course horror. In those dark days before there was an Internet Movie Database (and I sense film geeks all across the land shuddering at the thought), this was my first stop if I wanted to learn more about a particular horror flick, and it's still a valuable resource. Entries are in sequential order with sections broken down by decade spanning the twenties through the mid-nineties (the book came out in 1995). The writing style is a bit elitist, with Hardy and his staff turning up their noses at some genuine classics, but it's an informative and fun read.
Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking Movies That Changed History! by Joe Bob Briggs
If you only know John Bloom (a.k.a. Joe Bob Briggs) from his humor column or his stints hosting horror and science fiction flicks on TNT and The Movie Channel, you might be surprised to learn that he is also a well-spoken and knowledgeable film journalist and historian. In this book Joe Bob examines fifteen films, each of which shattered taboos and pushed the limits of what was considered acceptable when they were first released. Some like The Wild Bunch, Deep Throat, and Reservoir Dogs represent other genres, but most of the fifteen can be classified as horror flicks. Notable inclusions are Blood Feast (the first gore for gore's sake movie), Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (nazi-sploitation anyone?) and Curse of Frankenstein (adding gore to Mary Shelly's story for the first time). Each film has its own chapter which also contains a "For Further Disturbance" section, which takes readers even farther down the path of indecency. The Blood Feast chapter, for example, contains an overview of director Herschell Gordon Lewis's career, and Curse of Frankenstein also takes a look at Hammer Studios' later output. Incidentally, the author also went on to publish Profoundly Erotic: Sexy Movies that Changed History.
Shock! Horror! Astounding Artwork from the Video Nasty Era
by Francis Brewster, Harvey Fenton & Marc Morris
"Video Nasty" was a term used to describe films (primarily horror films) on video that were banned from distribution in the U.K. for extreme content during the 1980s. The majority of the book consists of full page reproductions of British video box covers, and as a horror fan these are a joy to behold. For the most part these differ from the corresponding box covers for the films' U.S. releases, with some going under different titles (the movie released theatrically here as Don't Open the Window is on display here as The Living Dead) and others that just seem downright confused (The Flesh Eaters box features a photo from The Incredible Melting Man). As the title implies, the films represented are some of the nastiest including Don't Go In the House, Cannibal Holocaust and Anthropophagus, although I don't see how anyone could be outraged over such relatively innocuous flicks as The Dunwich Horror, and Equinox. In addition to the box covers, there are also articles about the video nasty phenomenon and capsule reviews for most of the films on display in the book with emphasis on the box cover art and history of the companies that released them in the U.K.,
Guilty Pleasures of the Horror Film edited by Gary J. Svehla & Susan Svehla
This is one of many cool horror movie books from Midnight Marquee Press. As the title implies, the book takes a loving look at horror flicks that have not been treated kindly by history but hold a special place in the hearts of the the authors. Think The Tingler was a waste of time? Not so, says Tom Weaver. Is The Flesh Eaters a stinker? David J. Hogan doesn't think so (and for the record, neither do I). Some might find it hard to come to the defense of the 1976 remake of King Kong, but Robert A. Crick manages to do so. Every horror buff has a favorite film they consider their dirty little secret, and this book allows the reader to come to terms with those personal demons.
Immoral Tales by Cathal Tohill & Pete Tombs
Ah, Euro-horror. Lavishly illustrated with stills, posters and ad mats, this 1994 publication cast a loving eye at European sex and horror movies from 1956 to 1984, with the sex and horror often being combined in a single film. Several Euro-trash auteurs including Jean Rollin (who gave us countless French erotic vampire flicks), Jose Larraz (director of the lesbian vampire romp Vampyres) and Spain's Jesus Franco (who has directed more schlocky films than most people will see in a lifetime) get their own chapters. There's also chapters on "Sex, Cinema and Surgery" and the film industries of Italy, Germany, France and Spain are examined in detail. The many illustrations would have benefited from fewer pages being printed in black and white -- only sixteen of the book's 272 pages are in color -- but the subject matter is fascinating and makes for a great read.
So, what about you? What dusty horror movie books are you keeping on that shelf between your copy of The Necronomicon and Leonard Maltin's Video Guide?