Let me start this by saying I am jaded. I am a miserable, cynical old bastard when it comes to my horror. The genre I love so much; the genre that has lived with me through most of my life is at a crossroads, and I am usually on my soapbox at least twice a week to lament over where things are going. However when I stop to think I realise things are not so bad, or at least not as bad as I like to fervently make out. Yes there is a slew of unoriginal fodder churning out the door of Hollywood right now, a new generation of fans who think that the genre started with the likes of Saw and Hostel. The packaging on new releases is all monotone, generic and uninspiring, but there is also something amazing happening behind the scenes. Those once dead and buried lost classics, the VHS straight to video crap (I am using crap here as a euphemism for awesome), the delightful once banned video nasties, vintage Hammer, European sex and violence, and an entire host of treasures are finally finding their way to a new audience through the medium of fresh upgrades on to digital format. Films that hardly saw the light of day are now coming out on special collector’s editions with whole hosts of extra material. Twin that with the internet, the sky is the limit when it comes to looking outside the box for horror old and new. Indie filmmakers are bringing out some amazing new titles to add into the fold. While thanks to VOD services and downloading digital content a whole feast of horrific entertainment is there at the touch of a button.
So brings me to the topic of today’s review, an amazing new book Hidden Horror, edited by Aaron Christensen; a book written for those who like to veer from the vanilla mainstream path and indulge in the wonderful depths that horror has to offer. Aaron Christensen (aka Dr. AC) has assembled 101 writers to offer up their personal slices of ‘Hidden Horror’; those underrated or forgotten classics that deserve their time in the sun. Hidden Horror calls out from the very heart and soul of horror fandom, the convention geeks, the VHS bargain bin hunters, the gorehounds, the people who spend their entire weeks shopping budget on that German OOP release of some 80’s lost slasher (hands up if you are guilty); this is the spirit of the genre, and it crawls right out of the pages of Dr. AC’s latest book.
Part of my inspiration to start The Gore Splattered Corner was to try and divert others to the strange, the fantastical, the gratuitous, and those titles that lie away from the well beaten track, and here is a book that mirrors that sentiment. Horror is one of the longest running genres in cinema. Almost since the dawn of the cinematic age filmmakers have been trying to shock and disgust; Edison’s Frankenstein came out in 1910, go back as far as the 20’s and we have creepy gems such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu being made. Because let’s face it people love the thrill, and horror will always have a place in the scope of cinema. Now is probably the best time to be a horror fan, because at the touch of a button you can summon up anything your heart desires, and with nearly 100 years to pick from there is something for everyone. It’s all out there to find, if you just know where to look. Hidden Horror provides a great starting place to explore.
So what does Hidden Horror have to offer? Well for a start it opens the door to an entire world out there which lies a far cry away from Tesco New Releases section, this is content to whet the appetite. And even for a jaded old misery guts like me there is still something to find, (but then there is always something left to find such is the marvel of horror!). For those acquainted with the films already the book reads like a celebration of the genre, many of the writers offer up their own personal experiences on the films they have chosen, and you will find yourself nodding along at the stories they have to tell. Written by horror fans for horror fans, and the love on those pages makes me feel all mushy inside. The main thing I loved about Hidden Horror was how refreshing the tone was, sure there are plenty of books out there dedicated to horror, but many confine themselves to one time, or subgenre, or a particular director. Here in Hidden Horror the work of Jean Rollin, Jess Franco and Argento sit alongside contemporary indie features such as May. The other problem with horror books (not all of course) is the ones that tend to deal with the outside of the box type stuff very often come from the hand of academics, and as such take on a very formal voice. While the content in Hidden Horror is written by industry writers and professionals (from genre magazine editors (Fangoria and Rue Morgue), to filmmakers, to columnists, to reviewers.) it is done so in a very personal and accessible way. Despite knowing many of the films involved I found this aspect engrossing even for an old hand, there is nothing better than hearing horror fans sharing their own personal stories, it is what connects and bonds us (every one of us has our own story to tell). It has to be said that the horror genre, perhaps more than any other genre of cinema, inspires a sense of passion and community, and it is this collective voice which Dr. AC has managed to encapsulate as the heart of Hidden Horror.
I was extremely pleased to see a number of my favourite films appear in the book including The Devil Rides Out, The Company of Wolves, Pieces, Spider Baby, The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue, and Possession (a film I would love to write about but have never had the balls!). I was even more impressed to see the Sting weirdness 80’s number Brimstone and Treacle pop up, I have been trying to tell people about that film for years! On that basis alone it earned my vote. The book covers the entire spectrum of horror, from arthouse to zombies, and it all comes with a neat index, with a sub-indexes divided into country of origin (nice to also see the British flag being flown with a number of titles from the home turf) and subgenres. Top that with a foreword from William Lustig and cool cover design by Brett Harrison this book is going to look cool on any horror lover’s shelf.
So for those who are jaded, those who have sat through the prequels, the sequels and the remakes, for the tired and uninspired, and those of you who want to take a trip into something which celebrates the true heart of the genre, you could do a lot worse than pick up a copy of this today (even if it is just to revisit some of your old favourites). Hidden Horror invites the reader to delve into the lesser known delicacies that horror has to offer, and that is something surely worth celebrating.
Check out the official Hidden Horror Facebook here.