In the U.K, author J.A. Kerswell is the resident expert on slasher films. Not only has he run slasher site HysteriaLives.com for the past 10+ years, he’s also the author of 2010s’ Teenage Wasteland, which also chronicled the history of the slasher film. He brings his obvious love of bloody stabbery to The Slasher Movie Book, a meaty, colorful tome that effectively encapsulates the entire subgenre within its 200+ pages. Packed with international posters and lurid marketing imagery, The Slasher Movie Book serves as a totem for the anti-Kindle crowd. It’s an undeniable collector’s item for horror fans, even if I don’t necessarily agree with everything Kerswell postulates within its pages.
Much of The Slasher Movie Book is written from a defensive standpoint. As Kerswell states in his introduction, “The slasher is often unfairly seen as bottom-of-the-barrel whipping boy, often accused – by critics and genre fans alike – of pandering to the lowest common denominator.” And while it’s refreshing to read Kerswell defend some hidden horror treasures like Torso and Tourist Trap, he has a tendency to vigorously defend virtually every entry in the subgenre, something to keep in mind when seeking out the unknown films he recommends.
I don’t want to make it sound like I’m criticizing the beautiful opus that Kerswell has put together. The Slasher Movie Book is a pleasure to read. The author postulates that the Golden Age of the Slasher Film took place from 1978-1984, to which he devotes the middle third of the book. He moves outward from there, devoting individual chapters to Grand Guignol, Italian giallo, and even German krimi. Most films are summarized with a compulsory paragraph, and Kerswell breezes through each film era with clear, easy summations.
The Slasher Movie Book’s biggest selling point is the dozens of international images Kerswell has compiled, movie art and lobby cards from the U.S. and beyond. In fact, some may dismiss Kerswell’s effort as a book of vintage movie posters sprinkled with commentary, but it’s more than that. The Slasher Movie Book is the perfect slasher overview for a new fan just getting into the subgenre. Everything is covered here, if only very briefly.
4 out of 5 Skulls
On a side note, would you readers agree that 1978-1984 was the Golden Age of the Slasher Movie? I’m sure we can all name a few seminal slasher films that weren’t released during that time period…
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