"The Horror Show Guide: The Ultimate Frightfest of Movies" Book Review
Written by Mike Mayo
2013, 477 pages, Reference
Book released on April 1st, 2013
In 1997, author Mike Mayo penned the VideoHound's Horror Show, a go-to source for genre fans in search of some quality entertainment. 15 years later he felt an update was in order and The Horror Show Guide: The Ultimate Frightfest of Movies was born. He explains in the introduction why he felt the need to revisit his massive tome of recommendations. In short, there have been leaps in technology and an endless glut of titles made available over the past sixteen years since he released his book. The earlier collection was created before the DVD format came into existence and over the following decade there have been numerous digital restorations and with an endless glut of new titles, it is indeed time to revisit the material.
This new edition features a different layout, one that at first glance is quite appealing. The titles are listed alphabetically in large, easy-to-read point size and the comments are contained to a brief paragraph synopsis. Credits and assorted technical information appear in a separate index in the back of the book and this makes for a cleaner presentation. Films that have either launched a franchise or sparked a remake are covered under the one heading in chronological order, with each entry receiving an additional paragraph.
Additional information is peppered throughout the book in the form of quotes from assorted movies and recommendations assembled by theme (i.e. “The Top Thirty Golden Oldies That Every Fan Should See” or “The Top Six Massive Reptile Movies”). There are also hundreds of black and white photos featuring tons of cinematic monsters and madmen as well as showcases of original poster artwork. Closing the collection, Mayo provides an appendix of movie credits composed of an alphabetical listing of the book's contents, now paired with actors, directors and screenwriters.
All of these assets somehow manage to be the very thing wrong with the collection, as they work on the surface, but each is a stumbling block that limits the amount of information. The layout is quite nice, but the oversized titles eat up a lot of space and essentially prohibit the inclusion of several selections. While no single guide will be an all-encompassing bible, there are several questionable entries and just as many absences. One example of the uneven nature is the inclusion of Mel Brooks' Dracula: Dead & Loving It while Adam Green's Hatchet trilogy is not even mentioned in passing.
Mayo is also inconsistent in the coverage provided to franchises and remakes. Some are covered in full while others are only discussed to a point and then dismissed with “followed by a third” or “More low budget sequels have followed”. In a book bearing the subtitle “The Ultimate Frightfest of Movies”, it comes off as favoritism to cover only select franchises in full. Either the later entries were not very good or he simply didn't watch them. The synopses are also highly opinionated, as it is the author's prerogative, but he comes off as particularly harsh when discussing sequels (dismissing anything with the number three in the title) yet manages to fawn over random dreck like Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering.
While his treatment of sequels can be argued, there is also the unfortunate tendency for the author to take shots at older titles for showing their age. This becomes increasingly frustrating when discussing classics of the genre like The Bride of Frankenstein and The Haunting which, according to the guide, don't appear to be highly recommended viewing. The “Best of” lists mentioned earlier are also a bit repetitive and would benefit greatly if compiled into one appendix in the back.
While the book has several shortcomings, it will still be a nice introduction for casual audiences looking for a few quick suggestions. Seasoned fans will want to look to Mayo's earlier edition for the detailed analysis lacking in this new collection.