"The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies: An A-Z Guide to More Than 60 Years of Blood and Guts" Book Review
Written by Peter Normanton
2012, 512 pages, Non-Fiction
Book released on October 23rd, 2012
The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies: An A-Z Guide to More Than 60 Years of Blood and Guts is the latest edition in Running Press’ “Mammoth” series of movie guides. Like other collections, this book presents an alphabetical listing of some of the high-water marks of the horror genre throughout the majority of the 20th century. It also includes short biographies for many of the directors responsible for the films discussed and a general look back at the historical context of the times in which these movies were created.
In the preface "Blood on the Walls: An Overview of 60 Years of Blood and Guts", author Peter Normanton studies the trendsetters that shifted the style of the genre, from Hammer films’ use of color to the wave of exploitation flicks that followed and finally to the golden age of the slasher movie. He studies the many challenges filmmakers have faced with censorship both in England and the United States, from the Hays Code of 1930 to the Video Nasties campaign in the mid-1980s. While the former limited what filmmakers were allowed to show in their pictures, the latter actually banned many titles and law enforcement went after anyone in possession of the films on home video.
Following the introduction, the reviews are presented under the title "An A-Z of Slasher and Splatter Movies", and this becomes relevant in a moment. Each title receives a generous plot summary followed by brief anecdotes about the crew or the making of the film and the status of the availability on home video. There is mention of any cuts that were forced to secure an R rating and a notation of the movies that ended up on the dreaded Video Nasties list. The plot summaries are frequently guilty of revealing too much information, including the identity of the killer or the fate of the sole survivor.
There is one main discrepancy however, as this is actually a collection of slasher and “splatter” movies (i.e. movies notorious for excessive bloodshed). This seems like a petty complaint, yet the muddling of terms comes at the expense of several legitimate slashers in order to make room for ghouls and aliens. The first three films in this collection (28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later and 30 Days of Night) are not slashers. Zombies and vampires are fine, but their exploits should be covered in their own collections.
Normanton also declines any attention to sequels, which becomes a problem when covering films like Halloween or Friday the 13th that have spawned at least eight films each in their respective cycles. The original installment in a franchise is covered, but the remainder of the series is only mentioned in a brief listing by titles at the end of the entry. An exception to this design is the previously mentioned zombie films 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later that receive separate breakdowns. Remakes are also occasionally mentioned, but do not receive their own coverage; again possibly a petty complaint, except that the Friday the 13th remake that graces the cover of the book is never mentioned.
If you are looking for a detailed book on slasher films, this isn’t it. Instead, I recommend anything by the late, great Chas. Balun, whose horror guides Deep Red and Gore Score gleefully praised infamous titles if they were satisfying and he also was quick to call bullshit on some over-hyped movies through a variety of colorful metaphors. John McCarty’s Official Splatter Movie Guide collections are also quite helpful. And as a final pair of suggested readings, check out Jim Harper’s Legacy of Blood or J.A. Kerswell’s The Slasher Movie Book.
The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies is a decent book that suffers from an unfortunate progression of missteps starting with the title and cover art. The spoiler-heavy plot summaries and omission of countless slashers (and their sequels) are also disappointing. As a generic horror movie guide, the collection will be sufficient for casual fans of the horror genre, but anyone looking for a “mammoth guide to slasher movies” should shop somewhere else.