February 26th, 2010

Godzilla Breath

Horror Cinema

For my birthday, friend and fellow author David Wellington gave me a copy of Horror Cinema, a beautiful, illustrated, oversized hardcover--what they used to call "coffee table books" back when people put books on their coffee tables instead of DVD and video game boxes--by Jonathan Penner and Steven Jay Schneider, published by Taschen as part of their ongoing Film Series.

Divided into ten parts, each with titles like "Slashers & Serial Killers," "Ghosts & Haunted Houses," and "The Monstrous-Feminine," the book features short but interesting essays by the authors, as well as apropos quotations from movies, filmmakers and writers, like this awesome one from Joyce Carol Oates that's my new favorite quote ever:

"And this is the forbidden truth, the unspeakable taboo--that evil is not always repellant but frequently attractive; that it has the power to make of us not simply victims, as nature and accident do, but active accomplices."

But of course the real joy of Horror Cinema is the gorgeous black-and-white and color photos that fill it from cover to cover. Some are stills from movies, others are photos snapped on set, like a dainty tea break on the set of The Horror of Dracula and the famous picture of Boris Karloff, in full Frankenstein's Monster makeup, smoking a cigarette while director James Whale brushes some fake dust onto his clothes on the set of The Bride of Frankenstein. It's wonderful stuff to pore over for hours on end, especially when you're trapped at home by Snowpocalypse 2: This Time It's Personal.

There are some annoying goofs, though. For example, one still from Pumpkinhead is accidentally labeled as being from John Carpenter's The Thing (and the young woman pictured facing off against the demon is misidentified as Kurt Russell!), and there are times when the captions for two consecutive stills are switched to describe the wrong one. But these are few and far between, and it's more than made up for by seeing glorious pictures from movies I'd forgotten about, like John Frankenheimer's 1979 mutant bear environmental-horror film Prophecy, or movies I never knew about but that look intriguing, like Brian Yuzna's 1989 sociopolitical body-horror film Society.

Highly recommended for horror movie fans!