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[Book Review] Blood Spatter: A Guide to Cinematic Zombie Violence, Gore and Special Effects

Blood Splatter Cover

Say anything you want about Blood Splatter, it’s undeniably ambitious. Craig W. Chenery’s guide to zombie effects is packed with hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos and dozens of interviews with the bad boys of latex horror. With its detailed dissection of over 300 zombie films–including time counter notations for every act of zombie violence–there’s no doubt that Blood Splatter is impeccably researched. But what could potentially serve as a bible for zombie enthusiasts comes undone under a series of regrettable missteps. For one, remember those hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos I mentioned? Well, they’re all in black and white. You heard me, all of them. Details lie beyond the break.

It’s obvious that Blood Splatter is the result of Chenery’s deep love of the horror genre, so it’s hard to criticize his project without sounding like a douchey troll. The first portion of the book–which consists of a meticulous breakdown of over 300 zombie films, including zombie counts, death counts, and gore evaluations–must have taken months to research. But rather than focus on the gory highlights, Chenery insists on citing every single act of violence in each movie, no matter how inconsequential. (Is it really worth noting that “a man shoots a fish” at the 33:45 point of 2003’s Undead?)

Moving onto the interviews, Chenery has managed to snag a few veterans like Robert Kurtzman and Greg Nicotero, but many of his subjects have such limited experience in the genre, it’s hard to understand why he chose to interview them in the first place. (One of the more entertaining interviews comes at the expense of a stuffy and dismissive Tom Savini, who answers more than one question with a bored “Oh, I don’t think about that.”) Many of the included photographs are credited to Chenery’s interview subjects, and it’s disheartening to imagine these old school veterans raiding their hope chests for vintage color photos only to see them reprinted in a grainy, newsprinty black-and-white. These photos deserve better. (A 20-page color insert would have gone a long way here.)

Chenery wraps things up with “Journal of the Dead”, in which he describes the laborious zombie transformation process from a first-person perspective. He spent two days getting the full-on zombie treatment from Walking Dead make-up artist Toby Sells, head cast included. His insightful essay offers a perspective on professional technique that’s missing from the rest of the book. Chenery cites “non-disclosure agreements” as the culprit, which is understandable, but Blood Splatter‘s overall obsession with philosophy over technique lessens the value of this industrious effort.

3 out of 5 Skulls

Blood Splatter Cover




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