A few months ago I noticed a new book series available from Amazon.com: short monographs on classic horror films being published under the series title The Devil’s Advocates. “Great!” I thought, “These look like BFI monographs for horror lovers!” In the interest of public service, I took it upon myself to purchase and read a few select titles. Because I am nothing if not altruistic in my pursuit of things that already interest me.
Well, babies, the news could not be better. These are terrific books. This is a terrific series. The series editors are certainly choosing the right film subjects and the right academics to write about them. I recommend the entire series without reservation.
My pickle in writing the column is how to give a taste of the books without giving anything away. By “anything” I mean the cornucopia of new information and insights that fill each slender volume. I do not want this column to be like a sixth grade book report; instead, I am merely sharing below a few thoughts on the volumes I have read. These authors have all “done their homework” and these books are indispensable companions to their subject films.
Although written largely by British university professors, the theories and language are never “jargony,” obscure, or off-putting. Perhaps my readers will take to these wonderful books as I have. They’re like potato chips—I taste one and I cannot stop eating them. No, literally, I cannot stop eating. The paramedics had to come to my house and pump my stomach, and now I’m not allowed to eat potato chips… or books.
I thought that I had read every book and magazine article and watched every bonus feature on every special edition DVD and Blu-ray of this title, which is probably my favorite horror film of all time. Still, Leeder manages to surprise with research and insight heretofore unseen, unread, and unheard.
I very much appreciated this new take on an old chestnut, which was a quick and enjoyable read. Harmes approaches the film focusing on the British film industry of the 1950s, going into great detail about what a tremendous gamble, economic and otherwise, making this movie was for small studio Hammer Films. Harmes’ triumph here is not only to help us see again just how special the film is now, but also to show the many ways that it was truly groundbreaking sixty years ago.
Forshaw explores the film (as well as the earlier Hannibal Lecter film, Manhunter, plus the Silence sequels) as it relates to the detective/thriller genre as well as to the horror genre, but the part of the book I found most fascinating was the section where he detailed all that Silence of the Lambs shares with Italian giallo.
“There’s always room for GIALLO!”
Forshaw’s impressive academic vocabulary was occasionally an obstacle for me on this one, but at least I now know what the adverb “minotary” means. (Favorite sentence: “The most adroit exponents [of giallo] were the veteran Mario Bava, the younger Dario Argento, Sergio Martino, and the less talented Lucio Fulci.”)
Other titles in the series, which I am looking forward to reading with all of my black little heart, include Antichrist by Amy Simmons, Black Sunday by Martyn Conterio, The Blair Witch Project by Peter Turner, Carrie by Neil Mitchell, The Descent by James Marriot, John Carpenter’s The Thing by Jez Conolly, Let the Right One In by Anne Bilson, SAW by Ben Poole, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by James Rose, and Witchfinder General by Ian Cooper.
THIS JUST IN: Devil’s Advocates has announced the next three titles to be published in December: Dead of Night by Jez Conolly and David O. Bates, Nosferatu; A Symphony of Horror by Christina Massaccesi, and Suspiria by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas.
It is going to be a spooky, spooky Christmas, baby Jesus!