Horror! 333 Films To Scare You To Death
Carlton Books Ltd
And here we have a list book which, like all things that rely on personal choice to create a list, is always going to be seen as fairly contentious in it’s choices of inclusions. This is all fair enough and I am fully aware of the pitfalls of creating material based on lists but, at the same time, I had very high hopes for this book. The design and layout “looks” fantastic and was enough to sell me on it just from a few pictures on Amazon.
So I was expecting to be a little irritated by some of the choices on this list but, to be honest with you, I wasn’t expecting to be furious with them... but ultimately that’s how I felt on reading this particular tome. If I was feeling more charitable to the authors of this work after enduring their less than error free and sometimes blatantly contradictory entries in said attractive looking tome, I would perhaps be quick to point out that the definition of a horror movie can mean all things to all people... but after some of the inclusions and, frankly, the mini masterpieces which have been excluded, it’s hard for me to get anything other than horribly worked up about the whole affair, to be honest.
Now I personally don’t consider a movie a horror film unless it has either a definite supernatural force or an non-human monster present in the narrative at some point. That’s my, possibly childlike, definition of a horror fillm and it seems to be a strong acid test for me. I don’t hold with all this “human-monster” stuff and so the inclusion of serial killers and such like belong firmly to the realms of thrillers and gialli and my personal experience happens to be that people I know who will never allow themselves to even look at a horror film for five minutes are more than happy watching the likes of the Hannibal Lektor films and films of this kind of nature where serial killers are the central “attraction of fear”. Therefore, frankly, they’re not horror movies (anything which supports my definition of a horror movie is good I reckon so please forgive me if I labour this point a little).
What I don’t think anyone can rely on... and I have heard this defence when used in similar instances to defend the human killer as evidence of the manifestation of the silk purse of a horror movie spun from the sows ear of the serial killer flick... is that a horror film contains scenes that horrify. Nope, don’t buy it. What horrifies me may not horrify you and vice versa... too subjective to be useful as the sole criteria of an applied generic label, thank you very much.
This book, however, not only includes films like the horrendous adaptation (of a great book) of Silence of the Lambs but also various gialli and films by the likes of Fellini and Bergman. C’mon guys. I know we all like films by these directors but this seems more like a book about cramming as many “horror definition stretching inclusions” as you can get away with, just because you happen to like those movies. And seriously people... let me clarify it again, just in case you missed it the first time... A thriller is a thriller! A giallo is a giallo. These are not horror films and though a spare few Dario Argento movies could (and are) included... putting stuff like The Bird With The Crystal Plumage in a book about horror movies just makes you look like idiots. And contrary to popular modern belief... Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up is not a giallo... there’s possibly not even a murder in the movie, depending on how you read it. So once again, inciting it as giallo turned art film is an absurd state of affairs.
You can probably get a good idea of as to my state of mind when I read this. But it’s not just the bizarre never-in-a-million-years-is-this-a-horror-movie inclusions which got to me in the end. It’s just as much about the exclusions. Seriously guys... you include movies like the above but you miss out some of the truly scary horror movies of recent years like the excellent [REC] series and, instead put in tired teenage slashers like Jeepers Creepers. This is not a quality choice.
Added to this I found a few factual errors and contradictory opinions in the text. One has to ask, if the reviewer finds occasion to give a movie a bad review, why the damned thing is in this book in the first place. If this is supposed to be only the 333 essential movies to see then surely you don’t include what you think are the clunkers.
Another gripe is that there are various “categories” reviews which try to dance around the possible silliness of some movies inclusions by giving a particular sub-genre (which for the most part isn’t a sub-genre) a highlighted section within the book in the hopes that the boldness of the inclusion will mislead readers into accepting the authors definitions of “Horror” as Gospel. But this is just not the case because... you know what? A giallo is not a horror film! Oh, hang on... I might have already said that one.
Adding insult to injury, at least one of these mini category reviews is not present in the actual finished book... even though the section is referred to on specific page numbers throughout the remainder of the tome. This seems to be in keeping with the books index which also seems to list appearances by various films on pages where they are nowhere to be seen. Seriously, what happened here?
And that’s about it for me and this book I’m afraid... nice to look at but ultimately it doesn’t deliver on content. Can’t bring myself to recommend this one and am now going to cast my nets further because there seems to be an abundance of these horror-movie lists type books doing the rounds at present. Maybe, if I’m really lucky, I can find a book called, something on the lines of, 200 Colours of Gialli You Should Profoundly Watch Before The Drops Of Blood In Your Body Go Velvetly Cold. Now that’s a book I’d really want to read!