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It Lives Again! - Horror Movies In The New Millennium
Telos hardcover £16.99 / $29.95
review by Christopher Geary
Profusely, but not lavishly, illustrated - with poster artwork, publicity stills, and DVD box covers - and quite reasonably priced, too, this overview of the current horror scene begins its survey with a skim through prominent genre films of the 1990s, noting their relevance (or reactions) to various happenings of the late 20th century. It establishes an interesting cultural backdrop - continued somewhat erratically for each yearly chaptering in the book - of social and cultural trends, major political events, and (in particular) tragic disasters, which have refocused or diverted both media coverage and public opinion from 'peacetime' optimism into pessimistic angst, with consequent feedback loops (apparently) influencing thematic direction of developments in horror movies from around the world and their popular and critical reception.
Although somewhat burdened with standard journalese, especially favouring that uncritical writing style's fixation on the rather boring accountancy of production budgets, cinema distribution figures, opening weekend's box-office receipts, and worldwide gross profits, It Lives Again is richly comprehensive (yet not wholly completist) in its scope, and charts nearly as many fine or failed examples of Asian and European horror films as American franchises or British offerings. The text also notes the burgeoning and profound influence of the Asian industry, on American films, which stands in sharp contrast to the comparative decline of horror in Europe, perhaps due to financial or economic difficulties.
Commenting on the ups and downs, successes and flops, of comedy in the horror marketplace, and complaining but without condemning the US film industry's grimly determined recycling of material (in a tidal wave of re-imaginings or re-brandings), while also spotting obvious patterns in the socio-political content of horror that offer particularly significant meditations or reflections upon current affairs in the real world, this survey attempts a lot more than your average fan's fascinated or disgruntled musings.
Of course, a key point about such books as this is whether the reader finds the writer's taste in sync with their own views. Opinions may vary on all manner of specifics, from the appeal or validity of 'torture porn' as entertainment, to the variable effectiveness of essentially supernatural, or distinctly science fictional horror, but there can be no doubting the author's keen interest in every aspect of subgenre works of the last ten years. Disagreements with the author's take, regarding such disparate horrors as versions of the Exorcist prequel, adaptations of top-selling fiction by Stephen King, ghosts versus gore, zombies or vampires, brooding atmosphere or thrilling action, are all part of the fun of this type of book, anyway. We all have favourites, so perfect agreement is rare and individual perspectives on what's horror, terror, or just mildly creepy accounts for most of Axelle Carolyn's apparent under-appreciations, over-ratings, and rants or raves, here, irrespective of any single film's triumph at the awards, widespread acclaim, immediate or eventual profitability, and cult-worthy appeal.
With a foreword by Neil Marshall (Carolyn's husband), an introduction by Mick Garris, and a helpful index of all the titles discussed, this is a welcome, genuinely state-of-the-art guide to 21st century horror at the movies, in all its scary or cheerful manifestations. If you'd like to get a whole checklist of honest recommendations for your future DVD rentals or bargain buys of horror flicks, this certainly does the job!
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