[Book Review] ‘The Slasher Movie Book’


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…

  • BabyJaneHudson

    I’ll admit the slasher genre isn’t my favorite, but there are a few films that I’ve loved. I don’t think you can argue with the golden age statement – these are probably the first slasher flicks that come to mind, but I think that Black Christmas (74) still holds it own as a great horror. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Lesley Vernon (’07) is another good, fun, bloody entry, if more self-aware.

  • Accident-with-power-tools

    “In the U.K, author J.A. Kerswell is the resident expert on slasher films.”… actually he’s not!

  • VillaNJ

    I’m gonna have to grab this & give it a good read. I do have to agree that the golden age for slasher films was indeed ’78 to’84 however, we all know there are a good few that are out of that time frame.

  • el terror

    I’ve read this and loved it. I have no criticism at all.

  • joshg

    I’ve read the book when it was titled “Teenage Wasteland” a couple years back. It’s a wonderful read. Cool review, but I think it comes from a misinformed position. For example, Torso and Tourist Trap are not hidden treasures. They’re very well known. And Justin does critique some films to the point of having no merit, such as Island of Blood, Splatter U., Blood Cult and Savage Water (though I actually enjoy the former two to some extent). I’d call 1978-1985 the golden age, because it’s the last year to capture the general atmosphere well in most cases. I’d be interested to hear which films you think should not be defended, because the author doesn’t appear to be praising most as perfect class acts. There is something in nearly every film that’s of interest. I’ve noticed BD isn’t exactly the greatest haven when it comes to slashers, where some articles bashing the likes of My Bloody Valentine and The Burning have popped up to my astonishment. No, I think that this book is a far more centered & rational opinion in a sub genre ridiculed for the same things over and over again, even though it falls into the generic category far more nowadays than it ever did in the golden age.

    I’d give it 5/5.

  • Girly

    you should probably at least get the website address correct– http://www.hysteria-lives.co.uk/

  • Prowler-619

    I think you guys are forgetting Pshcho 1960 (I don’t really count it as a slasher either but still have the same qualities also with Dementia 13 1963), importantly Black Christmas 1974 (really set the true slasher mood), or one of my top favs Alice Sweet Alice 1976 (aka communion, holy terror). Ofcourse you know Halloween 1978. The Golden age of slashers to me ranged from parts of the 70s all the way through the 80s starting with some true favs of mine like Friday the 13th 1980 and Prom night 1980 to the end of the 80s with Intruder 1989. The best slashers are the “who done its”.