This book, along with Chas Balun's Deep Red Horror Handbook, was my Bible during the '80s video boom, which is when I became obsessed with horror movies. I bought this brand new when it came out in 1987 and it's been completely indispensable to me ever since. It's a hefty tome, about one inch thick, with that one inch being comprised of over 400 pages. Unfortunately, the cover is laminated paperback and the book has seen a lot of use over the years. However, the binding is very sturdy and there are no lose pages. The cover may be creased and worn but the laminate has managed to keep it in one piece.
As for the contents, there's a Preface written by editor Phil Hardy, followed by an article entitled "The Horror Film In Perspective" which traces the origins of the horror film from the silent era on through the '70s. Then we get to the "meat and potatoes" of the book - plot synopses and critical reviews for over 1300 horror movies, covering films from countries all over the world. And they're broken down into chapters listed chronologically by decade, covering a period of time from 1896 to 1985. This is followed by four Appendices. Appendix 1 is a list of top-grossing horror video rentals. Appendix 2 is a list of critics top 10 horror films. Appendix 3 is a list of horror films that won or were nominated for Oscars. Appendix 4 is a select bibliography of works cited in the book. There's also an excellent (and very useful) Index where you can look up a movie by its original title or any known alternate title it may have went by.
This reference book helped me immensely during my horror-finding video store adventures in the '80s and early '90s. I can't stress how important a book like this was during the era before the internet. Of course, today all you have to do is log on and go to imdb.com (or listal) to find out all kind of info about pretty much any movie you want (and in some cases just search for a bit-torrent, download it and actually watch the movie). But being a horror fan in the '80s meant you had to rely on reference books like this one and magazines like Fangoria, Gorezone, and Deep Red in order to find information about underground, obscure, cult, or international horror films. There was no other way. One of the things that was so great about this book was that it lists foreign films under their original title, followed by all other titles that it goes by in other countries, as well as pseudonyms the director may have used. As would often happen in the '80s, some video distributors would change the names of the credits on foreign films to make it look like an American film. So Lucio Fulci might become "Luis Fuller" etc. Using the feature of this book that I listed above, I was able to find many of these "hidden" foreign films. This feature is not as relevant today (unless you're a VHS collector), because most DVD distributors that are are releasing horror films today actually care about their product and don't need to "hide" them in this manner by making them look like domestic movies.
Now comes the question. Do you, as a horror fan, NEED to have this book? I would say no, at least not as a reference book, which is its main purpose. Why? Because you can go to the internet for all that info, and because this book is limited in its scope, only covering movies made up to 1985 (when it was printed). Having said that though, would I ever part with it? Absolutely not! I still crack this baby open at least once a week to look up something. And besides, I respect the highly informative and intelligently written critical reviews of the films, as well as the sense of nostalgia that I get nearly every time I pick it up.
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