‘Encyclopaedic, insightful and entertaining – no bookshelf should be without Newman’s frighteningly readable Nightmare Movies’
The quote comes from film critic Mark Kermode (his opinion is always right – according to him at least). Actually I tend to agree with Mr. Kermode about almost everything including this book because it is an insightful, detailed and well written look at the horror genre covering just about everything and is a must purchase for anyone interested in horror or films in general.
Nightmare Movies is in its third edition and has been updated for 2011. It offers erudite and entertaining cult film criticism from Night of the Living Dead to the recent remake of The Crazies. It takes in every cult film genre going adding context and depth. There are so many films over the 500+ page book that I’ll cherry-pick some for examples:
The Indian Summer of the British Horror Film
The Beast Must Die
Psycho Movies or: ‘I Didn’t Raise My Girl to be a Severed Head.’
Cannibal Zombie Gut-Crunchers – Italian Style! –
At First Just Ghostly
He doesn’t just cover films but also includes novels, short-stories and TV drama like Supernatural. Kim Newman has clearly watched everything good and bad thus his writing shows experience and knowledge. When he analyses auteurs, trends, careers, gender and race politics, technical and thematic touches, and the influence of porn and indie or major studio output you can trust his opinion.
His writing is hugely enjoyable and detailed enough that you get a sense of history (and occasional spoilers) and he manages to remain witty, shaping chapters and paragraphs logically but with verbal flair using great imagery and humour (even the lists that frequently appear). One simple example is,
“Most disaster movies are bloated caricatures of Night of the Living Dead, floundering in their titanic budgets.”
As a fan of Japanese and Far Eastern cinema I was pleased to see films from the region were also included in the book in the analysis of genres and not just a short chapter. For example he includes anime like Hellsing and Blood: The Last Vampire as well as B-Movies like Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl in a wider discussion about vampires. Titles from Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong are explored in greater depth in his chapter focussed on ghosts and he gives a detailed account of the J-horror boom and the Ringu franchise. There are a variety of films from different years including Evil Dead Trap, A Tale of Two Sisters and A Chinese Ghost Story which which just adds further to the sense of Newman’s expertise although I would have liked an analysis of an auteur or two.
As for the pictures – there are many in two sections and they are pretty good (bloody creepy) although they are in black and white.
What I really enjoyed about the book is it brought back memories of why I like these films, why they caught my imagination. The main draw is the fact that this book is really useful and informative. I now have no desire to see Thundercrack! (not that I ever did) on the one hand and on the other his analysis of various auteurs has left me intrigued about DePalma’s 1966 Murder a la Mod. I no longer want to view the earliest output of David Cronenberg because his descriptions are adequate enough but something like Larry Cohen’s The Stuff warrants a viewing.
In this modern age of film viewing with legal so many platforms and sources for films I have so much content to watch and choice as to how I watch it but don’t get the chance to see everything so a book like this is both a gift.