The Well-Read Ghoul: 10 Essential Books for the Horror Fan at Cinepunx

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Horror movies are so much more than splatter and jump scares, if you want them to be. While repeated viewings can sometimes yield surprises, there’s nothing quite like an informed opinion from a different perspective to offer further insight into longtime favorites. While the pendulum horror film criticism seems to frequently swing from fannish enthusiasm to academic dryness with little in between, there’s a slew of interesting reading to be had. What follows is a list of the most-readable and interesting books any self-respecting horror fan should have on their shelf.
Read the full list at Cinepunx. Published 10/3/16

Review of ‘The Good, The Tough & The Deadly’ at Starburst Magazine

good the tough
When David J. Moore’s The Good, The Tough, and The Deadly:Action Movies & Stars 1960s-Present showed up, we could hear the sound of it dropping onto the stoop from the other side of the building. It’s a veritable tome -- much like Moore’s prior book, World Gone Wild: A Survivor’s Guide to Post-Apocalyptic Movies, this is the size and heft of a college textbook.
Read the complete review at Starburst Magazine. Published 8/19/16

Review of J Blake Fichera’s ‘Scored to Death’ at Starburst Magazine

scored to death cover
As author J. Blake Fichera states in his introduction to Scored to Death: Conversations with Some of Horror’s Greatest Composers (out now from Silman-James Press), there have been interview-based books of interviews with film composers, and compilations of essays about horror film scores, but because the twain haven’t met, he wrote Scored to Death, which is the first collection of horror film composer interviews.
Read the complete review at Starburst Magazine. Published 8/9/16

Podcast with J Blake Fichera at From & Inspired By

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On this episode, we speak with J Blake Fichera, musician and author of the new book, Scored to Death: Conversations with Some of Horror's Greatest Composers, out now from Silman James. In Scored to Death, the author spoke with 14 different composers of music for horror films. Be it the greats like Harry Manfredini, John Carpenter, and members of Goblin, or newcomers like Jeff Grace and Joseph Bishara, Fichera asks great questions and gets inside the creative processes of these amazing musicians. Scored to Death is the sort of book which appeals to newcomers to film score fandom, as well as deep-digging heads.
Listen to the podcast at From & Inspired By. Published on 8/8/16

Q&A with Jack Womack at Starburst Magazine

flying saucers Author Jack Womack is best known for his DryCo series of dystopian science fiction novels – 1993's Elvissey won the Philip K. Dick Award that year – but for the past fifty years, he's been collecting all manner of printed material related to UFOs. His collection is now known as the Jack Womack Flying Saucer Library and lives as part of the archives at Georgetown University's libraries. Womack's collection has been summed up by the author in a forthcoming book for Boo-Hooray and Anthology Recordings, entitledFlying Saucers Are Real. We spoke with Mr. Womack about this ‘visual history of the genre.’ Read the Q&A at Starburst Magazine. Published 8/1/16

Gladman’s “Bombshell” is really just a bomb

book cover - bombshell This book, John Gladman's Bombshell: The Pin-Up Art of John Gladman, came in the mail yesterday. I was supposed to be doing a piece on it for another publication, but that fell through, and having seen the book, I'm kind of glad it did. I get what the photographer is trying to do: he edits his photos in such a way as to make them look like vintage Vargas or Elvgren pinups. However, he flat-out fails most of the time. The images Vargas and Elvgren produced were stunningly rich with depth, and the focus was on the women themselves. Gladman's photgraphy renders many of the women two-dimensional, and when he utilizes digital backgrounds, the quality of photography on the women is ruined by the chintziness of what surrounds them, be it pixelated waves or cheap magazine cover mock-ups. [caption id="attachment_18698" align="aligncenter" width="599"]Courtesy Schiffer Publishing Courtesy Schiffer Publishing[/caption] Maybe we'd have a better idea as viewers / readers if we had a glimpse at Gladman's process. Aside from a brief introduction at the outset, however, all that's in Bombshell is imagery. One gets the hint that there might be some sort of organization, but it's not like the book has any sort of flow. Were that the images were one to a page, in order to really look at the women and get a sense of what the photographer was going for, but sometimes, there are two images shrunk down and placed on one page. There's no real organization to Bombshell, either. The western images aren't near one another, nor do we have images of weather with one another. It seems rather haphazard and disjointed. Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that the women seem to have no agency. It looks that way because nowhere in the book is a listing of the models and where they're from, or why they chose to have this photos taken. Those names would've been nice to have so that your reviewer might've been able to contact the woman in the Native headdress and buckskin fringe swimsuit to see how problematic her costume was. As a viewer, it's difficult not to assume problematic intentions, as the vast majority of women in this book are white. There are three women of color, and one of Asian descent. That's it. We understand that past portrayals of women of color rendered them overly-sexualized objects of the male gaze, but as these pinup photos are usually meant to be women taking control and portraying themselves as strong and confident, we would have liked to have seen at least one woman of color getting a two-page spread. Frankly, this book creates more problems and issues than we know what to do with. Given the large number of pinup photographers working these days, one assumes Schiffer could've found a woman working in the field who protrays more than just the standard "white lady looking astonished" imagery. It's just unfortunate they didn't. See more images from Bombshell at Schiffer's website.

Witt’s “How Music Got Free” essential reading for music fans

how music got free header There are quite a few stories to be told in Stephen Witt's book, How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy, out not from Viking. You have the story of how the mp3 algorithm was created, you have how the music industry failed to meet the demands of a new digital age, and you have the story of how one man in North Carolina managed to leak many of the top albums of their day. It's fascinating, and though I came to it with many of the same touchstones as author Witt (we're the same age), there's a lot to this for everyone, not just those of us who hit college right as file-sharing, broadband, and big hard drives all converged. I mean, granted: if you're a mid-to-late '90s high school graduate who lived in a college dormitory during the tag end of the last century, there's a lot of obscure references in How Music Got Free that will open mental doors to which you'd long since lost the keys. But even for those who didn't look to RNS as a mark of quality or Oink as the the be-all, end-all of musical treasure-hunting, there's still so much here. If ever there were a textbook case of how a perfect storm came to wash away vast swatches of an industry, this is it. Witt's book answers every question you've ever had about piracy:
* Why the hell did they sue 11 year-ols and grandmas, but I still have 3000 albums on my hard drive to this day? * Why were CDs so goddamn expensive, even as the technology got cheaper? * What does it take to get your hands on an album that far in advance? * How did the labels repeatedly fail to get on the ball with digital music?
It's three stories, all interwoven, and it's brilliant. Like an epic episode of Frontline, but told with the wit and wink of This American Life, Witt's How Music Got Free documents the way piracy came to be a way of being. It's a cultural and technological history that will leave you enraptured. My only regret is that I've sat this long trying to figure out how best to sum it up. My recommendation: buy it, take two days off work, and get ready. You're not going to want to put this down once you start it. How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy is available to purchase from Amazon.

“VHS Video Cover Art” both a nostalgic trip & celebration of under-appreciated artists

vhs - cover art I'm not the biggest fan of Tom 'The Dude Designs' Hodge's work on posters – the bubbly, neon '80s stuff has always felt far too busy to me. He's basically the antithesis to Drew Struzan. Struzan's work is clean, uncluttered, and offers up just enough to stir your interest, whereas I've always felt that Hodge's art tries to fit the entire plot to the movie within a one-sheet's 27x40 dimensions. That said: the work from which Hodge draws his inspiration shows that the artist has deep taste. His new book for Schiffer Publishing, VHS Video Cover Art, is a treasure trove of astounding and astonishing VHS cover art from the '80s and early '90s. These painted covers are what drew so many of us into the stranger sections of the video store as kids. As so many documentarians have pointed out, VHS covers needed something to make them stand out, and those covers were a prime way of maximizing their appeal on the video store shelf. VHS - BlackRoses What makes this book interesting is that it's a collection of VHS art from UK releases, meaning that while some of the titles might be familiar to Americans, the covers are totally different. There's a lot of work by the likes of Graham Humphreys, whose work is bonkers in terms of quality and detail, and only stands to be the stick by which all of the other art is measured. Given that so many of these VHS cassettes had artwork with bad perspective, strange homages to movies to which they weren't at all related, and just perplexing choices overall (for instance, I cannot believe that so many sex comedies featured nudity on the covers), this is the sort of book over which you can repeatedly pore. Given that these aren't just the covers, but the entire VHS box, in addition to admiring the art, you can admire the way some copywriter sums up a film in just a short paragraph. Some are dead on the money, while others are out-and-out lies – a lesson many of us learned the hard way. It's great that all this text is included, because otherwise, you'd just be staring at images with little to no context for them, aside from Justin Ishmael's introduction and Hodge's opening reminisces. A big hand must go to Hodge for the way in which the book is organized. While the titles are arranged alphabetically, it's done so under a series of categories, making VHS Video Cover Art the coffee table equivalent of a trip back in time. You want to wander the horror section? Let's try and choose between The Evil Dead and Annihilator. Also, you start to notice certain trends. There are quite a few images which look an awful lot like other films. I know that Enforcer II isn't related to Cobra at all – nor does the star look anything like Sly Stallone – but damned if you wouldn't have rented the film if you liked Cobra. Similar things occur when you have facing pages showing the career trajectory of stars. Linda Blair in both Savage Streets and Savage Island? Obviously, she's found a trend. In the end, this is a wonderful collection, showcasing these VHS boxes just as one would have found them in the UK video shops during their heyday. For the connoisseur, there's a lot into which you can delve, recollecting over your youth. For the novice, there are quite a few films of which you've likely never heard, and a definite starting point for obscurities over which to obsess and search. Samples of some of VHS Video Cover Art's images, including the Black Roses cover pictured about, can be found at the book's website. You can also read an excellently in-depth interview with Graham Humphreys over at Film On Paper, which goes into great detail about his video cover art, as well as the rest of his career. VHS Video Cover Art isn't out until May 28, but you can pre-order it from Amazon by clicking here.