[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

  • John Marrone

    I like the sound of all those kills listed, even if its down to the fish. Thats cool. The B&W pix sounds disappointing – zombie films need gore, and thats red. I could do without the big makeup schpeal myself but thats the angle here. The best part is how I clicked on a FIDO review and it brought me here.

  • BabyJaneHudson

    Maybe if it does well he’ll release a special color edition? One can hope, right?…

  • Ryan Daley

    I hear what you’re saying, John, but each instance of violence isn’t ranked. So you end up getting “Zombie stabbed in the stomach” 15 times in one movie, never knowing which stabbing resulted in the bad-ass disemboweling you’re looking for.

  • Ryan Daley

    Seriously, BabyJane, a good portion of the included images would be completely bad-ass if depicted in color. There are some real winners here.

  • djblack1313

    John, agree regarding the b&w pic thing.

  • Joe-Banger

    Yes! That there is what Im talking about! Special effects! That is what I want to do for a living! This book looks awesome.

  • St.Anger

    The black and white photos are a real deal breaker. So much of the zombie look comes from skin and wound coloring.

  • Craig Chenery

    Thanks for the review Ryan and for giving Blood Splatter a chance.

    I’d be happy to address some of the concerns you brought up. The final color of the images was something I thought long and hard about and was not a decision that was taken lightly. Trust me, I had many sleepless nights dealing with it. Basically the issue came down to printing costs. A new author with a 380 page color book for a niche market is going to have a really hard time finding a publisher willing to do a reasonably priced book. I spoke with four separate publishers and I could not find one who could print the book in full color for under $40. Let’s face it, no one would have paid that. I couldn’t find a cost effective way of doing it without pricing myself out of the market or at the very least only making it available to a limited few. Another issue is the zombie market is starting to get a little saturated. When I started writing this, The Walking Dead had not started and the genre was not at the fever pitch it is now. I think that may be turning some publishers off a bit too. It was definitely mentioned as I got to the end of the project with one of the last publishers I spoke with. On a positive note, I will be doing a digital version in the near future that will be in full color. I’d be a little weary of a physical reprint if I did get an offer by a new publisher as I don’t like the idea of double dipping fans. That is something I will cross if it happens though. But a digital version is coming and will be much cheaper than the in print book. Actually, if readers can provide a proof of purchase, I would be happy to provide the digital version free of charge when it’s available. My ultimate goal for the book was to see it in color.

    As far as the interviews go, I tried to get a selection of seasoned and less popular folk. As the review criteria I established put all movies on an even playing field, I thought it would be interesting to do the same with the interviews and see how someone who has only been in the genre a short while works compared to someone like Nicotero or Savini. Many interviewed here have been done so for the first time and they spoke with the same passion as any of the veterans. As far as Savini’s interview, it was not my intention to make him look bad. It was just a very concise and to the point interview. The guy has done this so many times, I was grateful he gave me the time. He could just as easily have said no. Shy of some minor editing, I printed what he said. I felt it was fairer to do that than to put words in his mouth. Besides, anyone familiar with him knows he is to the point. Had I worded it any different it wouldn’t have felt right.

    The detailed gore breakdown isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, granted but my thoughts on that are that there are loads of other books that review plot, acting etc… and I really wanted to focus on the violence, gore and special effects. Yeah, it can get a bit much at times, but any scene that has blood or gore in it is tagged.

    Sorry for the long winded response. Again, thank you for your review!

    Best

    Craig

  • John Marrone

    Craig, that’s all legit. It sucks that a production process would alter the outcome of your project, but it happens, and it sounds frustrating. I like the detailed listing of kills in the films so Ill be checkin it out.

  • Fiesty-Cadaver

    Craig, I applaud your insightful response here. I always enjoy knowing all the grimey details that go into an artist’s work. Also, I really like that you chose lesser known artists to interveiw…who knows, in 20 years they could be the reigning “Masters of Macabre”, which will make this book a nice one to revisit. I’m sold!