Mammoth Book Slashes Horror Sub-Genre
Over 250 horror films are celebrated in “The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies: An A-Z Guide to More Than 60 Years of Blood and Guts”, by Peter Normanton. On average, each film is given two pages for plot summary and interesting notes, as well as major production credits (with an emphasis on the directors).
In an introduction to the 511-page paperback book, Normanton writes about his exposure to slasher and splatter movies while he was growing up in England. A phase he outgrew, he was eventually hooked again when, years later, he saw Black Christmas for the first time on TV. He continues to describe 80s horror films as being known for their “cheese”, a term I wouldn’t necessarily use, but I suppose does indicate the low budget production values of many of the movies being made during that time.
The reference pages are preceded by a 16-page overview. This chapter is heavy on the history of censorship in both American and British cinema. Written from Normanton’s British point of view, it is interesting for me to read about the uproar horror movies caused in England during the home video boom of the 80s. Say what you will about the laws of the United States, but we’ve never in our lifetime seen it a crime to watch a slasher movie at home.
Again from his British point of view, Normanton considers Hammer Films influential toward what he calls “The Golden Age of the Slasher” from 1980-1984. That might explain him categorizing Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and other classic films as “slashers” and including them in his reference.
Preceding the Golden Age, Normanton considers 1960 to be “one of the most significant in the development of cinematic horror”. It’s hard to argue when he lists the five movies released that year: Psycho, Peeping Tom, Les Yeux Sans Visage (Eyes Without a Face), Black Sabbath and Jigoku (The Sinners of Hell). These films ushered in the era of the grindhouse and exploitation movies of the 70s. Likewise, when Halloween was released in 1978, it inspired “an onslaught of knife-wielding maniacal killers” leading into the Golden Age of the Slasher in the 80s.
The reference itself includes what seems like a representative sampling of horror movies in the slasher sub-genre. I can’t think of any off the top of my head that were omitted; however, there were a handful of which I’ve never heard. If the 250 or so titles is not comprehensive enough for you, there is a chronology afterwards that lists more than 500 films.
The book also includes a chapter on 11 major directors of the films, from Argento to Savini. Again, about two pages are devoted to each director. There’s also a five-page index to directors at the very end of the book. Most interesting to me, though, is the list of “Video Nasties”, the 72 titles found offensive in the 80s, 39 of which were successfully prosecuted in England. Had I grown up across the pond instead of in the United States, I may never have seen such classics as The Burning, The Evil Dead and The Funhouse.
I highly recommend “The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies: An A-Z Guide to More Than 60 Years of Blood and Guts”. While being nostalgic about all these great horror films, you can also be nostalgic about your reference source, remembering the days when you couldn’t just hop online to find information about a movie… you actually had to open a book to read about it.