Tag Archives: Slasher Films

This Book Is Full of Slashers!

This was sent to our lovely Mercedes for review, some time ago. She kept telling me she was going to give it to me, as I’m the resident slasher film nut and I’ve actually seen most of the films discussed within. Well, I finally got this book a month ago and what a groovy book it is.

The Slasher Movie Book, by J.A. Kerswell, is a gorgeous thing, almost a coffee table art book. It’s loaded with beautiful renderings of poster art, cinema poster art, and other artifacts from the curious history of the genre.

J.A. Kerswell lovingly and tenderly gives us this 208-page love letter to a genre that folks love to hate. From his introduction to the category via a viewing of Halloween II when he was twelve to more obscure fodder. Kerswell knows his shit.

Beginning with the Theatre of Grand Guignol and the Italian giallo films, he holds our trembling hands and tours us through the foggy moors of British gothic and American horror. The golden age of the slasher, with its terrifying birth in 1978 and a little picture called Halloween. Through the early 1980s, when the video store shelves were loaded with endless masked imitators, all eager to quench a teen nation’s thirst for blood and breasts.

Kerswell knows what he’s talking about and chooses some wonderful—and sadly ignored gems—in the realm, films like The Prowler, Night School, and Bloody Birthday. I will admit I was a little saddened to see omissions of a few of my personal favorites, mostly the 1977 Canadian classic Rituals, truly an atmospheric gem and deserved of at least a passing mention.
He wraps up with a chapter on the tepid crop of 90s slasher films, not a single one of which I actually liked.

From there we have a few pages of fun stuff: A list of the top-ten slasher films and their body counts, and a nifty “Before They Were Stars” rundown of struggling young actors who starred in these gruesome flicks.

The bottom line is this: If you love the sadistic and often stupid slasher flicks that we rented and rented again…you’ll love this. A slick and eye-popping catalog of blood and guts. If you aren’t a fan of that niche of cinema, I’m afraid there isn’t much for you here.

There was so much buzz around David Wong’s John Dies At the End, and yet I somehow managed to miss it. So when the sequel, This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It, arrived for me to review, I was worried that I’d not get it. That was a silly worry, indeed. Wong crafts a sequel that is quite adequate as a standalone. Same goofy characters, same sort of hijinks and chaotic scenarios.

We begin with our protagonist, David, being bitten by an invisible spider-creature in his bed. It tries to crawl in his mouth, but he fights it and flees. David then meets up with his friend, John, and they begin a long and frenzied journey into the dark, dastardly and downright ridiculous. I mean balls-out crazy shit. Inter-dimensional spiders-aliens that hole up in your mouth and control you, turning you into a monster; a gulag full of survivors who are scarier than the infected; a mysterious underground monster that eats your asshole if you sit down; a ghostly girl in an abandoned hospital; and a supervillain so clichéd and cheesy, he must be applauded. And there is one of the most tenaciously loyal dogs ever to appear in a novel about spidery parasitic beasts.

It’s as fun as a drive-in movie and as silly as a Saturday Night Live sketch…you know, when those were funny. It does have some drawn out and draggy moments, but if you troop through you’ll be glad you did. With the film release of John Dies At the End looming very close, I urge you to check out this book as well.

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Up Jumps the Sequel

In Michael Poore’s quirky and brilliant debut, Up Jumps the Devil, we are treated to a stunning, near biographical study of the fallen angel.

We find that John Scratch (aka Devil) is made of wood, looks like a rocker or a TV bounty hunter, smokes mice and other critters in a pipe, whips up a mean gumbo, is the unbridled object of bovine affections, and isn’t an entirely bad guy. He does not abuse his magical capabilities and trick you out of that soul of yours.

He decides Earth, more so America, is ripe for grooming into the best place to be—his Heaven. He sets out to escort it into its own, all the while scheming of a way to lure his long lost love, a fellow fallen angel named Arden, back to his side.

We read about Scratch’s exploits throughout history. Events he has touched or somewhat orchestrated, from Woodstock and the rise of Tele-Evangelism to the science of cryogenics. From early escapades with God and creation all the way up to a bargain struck with Elvis’ father. He was at the battle of Gettysburg and helped invent the Internet. He tends to dole out a fine meter of morality and self-discovery while handing you the payment for that soul.

This wonderful novel is loaded to the gills with cool pop cultural flourish and witty characters: A blues musician who has death trapped in his guitar, a man named Benjamin Franklin who seems to be onto something with his wild experiments, George Washington, Pocahontas (whom the Devil seems wary to speak of), and loads more show their faces in this ingenious book.

I could go into more detail on the wild adventures that fill this tome, but I won’t—you need to read it. Read how well written and goddamn funny it is. See the richly painted characters and oddly goofy scenarios that play out within its pages. This truly enjoyable debut is available from Ecco, which is an imprint of HarperCollins.

I have read and reviewed the work of Mark Allan Gunnells before. I count myself a fan. He has a knack for nailing realistic characters and conversation. Sequel is his love letter to 80s slasher films, and his love is bold.

Sequel begins with the original cast members of the slasher film Class of ’93, all being hired to reprise their roles for a sequel. After nearly a decade of varying degrees of sordid misadventure, none seem truly ecstatic to rekindle this fire, but they all climb aboard anyway.

From there it chugs ahead with a familiar head of steam as it follows the schematics for nearly every slasher flick ever released. Cryptic threats and gruesome murderous mayhem. Distrust and dishonesty abound. There are no real earthshaking surprises, nothing completely unexpected, just buckets of blood and campy whodunit shenanigans. What elevates this above the cheese platter it could have been is the author’s sense of fun and his always delightful characters. This is written with tongue firmly in cheek. It is a brisk and enjoyable read. One that made this fan of 80s horror pretty damn happy.

Sequel is available through Gallows Press.

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