Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review: Hidden Horror

All film fanatics know the exquisite frustration of whole-heartedly loving a flick that no one else seems to know exists.  How the hell has no one else heard of your beloved, unappreciated masterpiece?  On the other hand, there are few geeky pleasures quite like leading someone into a dark new corner of the garden of cinematic delights and showing them their possible new favorite movie.  That’s what a hundred and one of the top writers documenting the horror genre today (with one MAJOR exception, ahem!) have done with Hidden Horror.   It’s like perusing the horror section of a video store in the days of yore with your weird, horror obsessed friend pointing out the gems.

Being both a diehard horror junkie and the holder of a (pretty much useless) degree in film studies, I have read far more than my fair share of film criticism.  To be honest, the vast majority of these books suck like Vincent Gallo promised them that it would be their breakout role.  That’s why it makes me extra happy to report that Dr. AC and his cohorts did damn near everything right with Hidden Horror.  It’s a collection of essays highlighting some lesser known fright flicks that the writers think deserve more respect and a wider audience.  I like that the roster of contributors is so deep and widely varied.  The amount of different styles, voices, and perspectives keeps the reading fresh throughout.  All of the writing is quality, and the enthusiasm these folks have for the genre bleeds through every word.  Hidden Horror even contains entries from 3 What Halloween Means To Me alumni; John Squires, Freddie Young, and Jude Felton.  Cellmates represent!

Although with any list like this you’re going to find a few that don’t exactly fit your definition of obscure (TREMORS?  Really?), for the most part the movie selection is top notch.  Everything from groundbreaking flicks like Coffin Joe’s At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul and HG Lewis’s protosplatter classic The Gore Gore Girls to VHS era favorites like Razorback and extreme foreign shockers like Ichi the Killer get equal time and love.  I’m also happy that the majority of the films, while not widely seen, are fairly easily available.  Too many “horror you haven’t seen” lists miss the whole point and get all kinds of snobby listing movies you can’t get your hands on. 

The cake from the launch party.  How cool is that?
The finished physical package of the book itself deserves a mention.  Most independent horror books look the part.  They’re cheaply put together and often badly edited.  Not so with Hidden Horror.  It’s a class production all the way; from the killer cover by Brett Harrison to the appealing, photo laden layout.  One of my biggest sticking points with small press books lately is the sheer amount of spelling and grammatical errors.  It’s like people forget that this is the final product they intend to represent them as a writer/publisher.  For this Grammar Nazi, that’s a deal breaker.  It may seem like a small thing, but I’m two thirds of the way through this book and have yet to find a typo.  Aaron Christensen is excellent in the role of editor.  Well done, sir!

 There’s something else I dig about this book; and I warn you, we may be veering into TMI territory here.  Hidden Horror currently occupies the highest place of honor a book can hold in my house… the back of the toilet.  On a recent hibachi excursion, some friends and I were discussing how the age of the smartphone has all but done away with the time honored tradition of bathroom reading.  We also discussed what makes a good addition to a lavatory library, and Hidden Horror exemplifies what I look for in what I lovingly call a “dump book.”  Each entry is self-contained and runs about three pages; a perfect length to stimulate your mind when you’re not going anywhere for a couple of minutes.  When talking about books, I constantly hear “I just don’t have time to read as much as I’d like to.”  Well, if you’re too busy to consume the whole book in a couple of sittings, fear not!  Prolong the fun and ensure that your next 101 times upon the throne will be both entertaining and educational.

Any book that lists Alucarda, In a Glass Cage, and Company of Wolves together is an indispensable tome as far as I’m concerned. No matter how well versed you think you are, you will leave this book with titles to track down. Hell, even I came away with an updated "must see" list.  Hidden Horrors stabs you with 101 of the best obscure horror needles so you can skip the bloody haystack, and it deserves a place in every cinephile’s library.  Nathan says check it out.

Hidden Horror is available here... AMAZON
...and here... BARNES & NOBLE
... and here... KITLEY'S KRYPT


tarquin fortiscue-hetherington said...
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Blogger said...

You might be qualified for a complimentary $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.

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