Kim Newman’s Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960’s

Kim Newman's Nightmare MoviesThe cover has the quote:

‘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.’

Halloween

Cannibal Zombie Gut-Crunchers – Italian Style!

Zombi 2

At First Just Ghostly

Wicked City

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.

For more information, look up Newman’s site or you can purchase it from Amazon

8 thoughts on “Kim Newman’s Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960’s

  1. Goregirl

    Sounds like a fun and informative book! I have purchased so few books over the last several years. I have received a few as gifts but I usually just rent from the library. I’ll have to drop some not so subtle hints around Christmas this year!

    1. You were one of the people I thought would get a kick out of this considering you love horror movies. I know I love this book because I’m posting about it. I’ve spent hours at a time reading it and finding hidden gems of movies and it is useful. The entire book is a lot of fun and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in films.

  2. Ark

    I used to like Mark Kermode but I think when it comes to non-english language films he’s too uncritical. He thinks they’re all automatically brilliant.

    1. Thanks for the reply.

      I don’t think he’s too uncritical about foreign language films but I always take what he says with a pinch of salt – the same with all critics really. That said when I see a film then read/listen to a review I find I agree with him.

  3. Ark

    I’m basing my opinion off his take on Guillermo Del Toro films, Let The Right One In vs Let Me In and Ringu vs The Ring.

    Also Miyazaki films e.g. He thought Tales of Earthsea and Howls Moving Castle were good even though most anime fans didn’t.

    There’s a definate trend of unconditional acceptance.

    1. Sometime I find his opinion on remakes is questionable but I tend to agree with him in most cases – just watch the original.

      I disagreed with him when he took against Let Me In purely because it was a remake. I felt it was a better horror movie than Let the Right One In. On the other hand the Japanese Ringu film is a better horror film than the American remake. It sustains the horror and Sadako is far more frightening. That’s not to say the American remake is bad, I just didn’t find it scary but then I knew the course of events from the original so there were no surprises which is important for both films.

      On Guillermo Del Toro – I watched Pan’s Labyrinth in the cinema and it was one of the best films I have ever seen. The guy is a real film-maker and he does my favourite type – gothic fairy-tale horror.

      As far his knowledge of anime goes, yeah I think his exposure to it is low so he tends to overrate certain works.

  4. Ark

    Hmmm. I guess I just don’t get Del Torro.

    I think he’s better when he sticks to horror movies because I really don’t think he can tell stories well.

    1. I think his best films are his original titles like Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth – horror mixed with fairy tales. When he works on Hollywood franchises he struggles somewhat. I found Blade II and Hellboy II disappointing. Both films have good moments but as you say his ability to tell a story comes up short because there was a definite case of one thing after another with characters you cease to care about. That said, the first three films I mentioned are brilliant.

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