Book Review: ‘Horror Movie Freak’ Not for the True Fans

Now available at book locations around the Nation is Don Sumner’s widely popular “Horror Movie Freak,” a book that discusses loads of genre films, dividing them into various categories including Asian horror, beginners, homicidal slashers, supernatural thrillers, and zombie invasion. The book features more than 130 movies, 250+ photos of movie stills and posters, and a chapter on remakes and re-imaginings. It also includes the DVD of George A. Romero’s original 1968 version of Night of the Living Dead. While it sounds crazy awesome, Ryan Daley writes in with his thoughts urging that “true horror freaks need not apply.” Check out the review inside.
Horror Movie Freak CoverThe victim of a strict religious upbringing, I didn’t have the opportunity to truly delve into the horror genre until relatively late (my early 20s). I was an awkward horror newb, my horror education wholly dependent on Film Threat magazine, books like The Fearmakers by John McCarty, and the deodorant-hating employee working the video counter at Media Play. Back in those early days, I would have found a book like Horror Movie Freak invaluable, the perfect starting place for my horror-starved mind.

Penned by Don Sumner, the editor over at Best-Horror-Movies.com, it’s a heavy, glossy, gorgeous-looking book jam-packed with pages full of killer photos. Various horror movies are assigned roughly a page of coverage each, and the book is split up into chapters with compelling titles like, “Aberrations of Nature”, “Evil from Hell” (as opposed to “Evil from Heaven”, I suppose), “Scream Queens”, and “Ten Days to Halloween”. It even comes with a DVD copy of Night of the Living Dead tucked into its back cover. Not bad so far.

But as pretty as Horror Movie Freaks is to look at, it’s beauty comes at a steep price. First, it’s disorganized to the point of distraction. The Howling and Dog Soldiers are in the “Monsters” chapter, while Ginger Snaps is hidden in the “Beginner’s Shelf” chapter. Suspiria is mentioned, but you won’t find it in the Foreign Horror chapter along side Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath. Nope, it’s in the “Supernatural Thrillers” chapter, along with The Shining and The Blair Witch Project. But be careful not confuse the “Supernatural Thrillers” chapter with the “Ghost Stories” chapter. I hope you see what I’m getting at. Needless to say, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the index.

And although the writing is competent, it’s also strangely inconsistent. Much is made of “running zombies”, with the coverage of the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake (frustratingly located in the “Remake Nation” chapter, rather than the “Zombie Invasion” chapter, but I digress) stating it was “the first time many people saw running zombies!”, while the piece on 28 Days Later (which was released a year earlier) refers to “traditional running zombies”. So is the “running zombie” a recent innovation or a tradition? Several paragraphs are devoted to the subject but, sadly, not once is Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City (1980) cited. (They run AND shoot machine guns!)

My biggest beef: Although Haute Tension gets a page, it’s the ONLY entry in the French Grue Wave to even earn a mention. No sign of Frontier(s), Inside, or Martyrs.

It’s a horror movie compendium hip enough to include Let the Right One In and Audition, yet lame enough to devote pages to Darkness Falls and Dead Silence. It’s highly uneven and occasionally frustrating. As an experienced horror fan, I personally got more mileage out of Fangoria’s 101 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, which at least tipped me off to a few little-seen gems. Horror Movie Freaks is a good bunny hill for those young `uns first attempting the perils of downhill horror, but true horror freaks need not apply.