Book Review: Look Back In Horror: A Personal History Of Horror Film

23200641Everyone who loves horror probably saw a horror movie at a young age that left an impression and started them on a life long love affair with the genre. Look Back In Horror: A Personal History of Horror Film by J Malcolm Stewart is one writer’s love letter to his favorite genre. Some of the things this book touches on is the films that managed to scare J. Malcolm as he was growing up, top 50 scream queens and the movies of Mario Bava.

Look Back in Horror starts with J. Malcom explaining why he loves horror. He mentions how he has spent many nights watching movies that we were told were bad for us and then goes on to say that he finds horror fans to be the most even-tempered, honest and nicest people to be around. He goes on to say that horror fans prefer to acknowledge and confront the darkness that is in us and then points out that you have to go through the darkness to get to the light. After reading his intro I realized that J. Malcom felt the same way about horror that I did and I was really looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

There is a lot I learned from this book, its like an encyclopedia of knowledge on scream queens. It also gave a good retrospect on the career of Mario Bava. I didn’t know a lot about the work of Bava with the exception of Black Sunday and Black Sabbath which every horror fan should see. I have to say here Black Sunday is a movie that I would love to see remade, many directors have copied it, but I wonder if the mood of the original can be recaptured in an updated movie. This book also brings up movies I never knew about called The Whip And The Body and Planet Of The Vampires. Mario Bava is a director that gets his due in Look Back In Horror.

I love the fact that J. Malcom brings up the movie Equinox. Equinox is a lost gem from 1970, that most horror fans probably haven’t seen. J. Malcom mentions seeing this movie on Creature Feature many years ago and it stuck with him. As he described the movie I realized that I saw it  once on late night tv years ago and I agree it is a classic. The movie deals with a bunch of hippies in the sixties running away from a devil like creature in the woods. This movie is a great example of why horror is a great genre. Its creepy and campy at the same time. I was happy to see it mentioned here as J. Malcom’s gateway to the world of horror.

There are a lot of movies mentioned in this book that some horror fans might not be aware of which shows how big of a horror fan that J. Malcom is. I loved the fact that Vampira gets mentioned in the top 50 scream queens since she doesn’t get the attention she deserves.  Also liked that Felissa Rose from Sleepaway Camp gets a mention even though I think the movie is one of the worst horror films ever, I liked parts 2 and 3 though. Look Back In Horror is a celebration on what makes horror a fun genre.


Horror Host Books

Horror hosts, this is a topic I love to talk about. I’ve always loved to watch bad movies and horror hosts just make the experience that much better. It’s a horror host’s job to make bad cheesy movies more fun to watch. Just to illustrate how much I like bad movies lets say that Knightmist writes a review for two horror movies. One movie he calls the best movie he has ever seen and one movie he says is the worst movie he has ever seen. I’m going to look at the movie he says is the best and say “I’ll have to see that at some point.” I’m going to look at the movie he says is the worst and say: “I must see this movie right now.”

Horror hosts have a long history, the first TV horror host is to believed to be Vampira back in 1954. My first experience with watching a horror host is trying to stay up late on Friday nights as a kid to watch Acri Creature Features staring a vampire named Vincent Hedges and a werewolf named Beauregard.

A book that gives a good history of horror hosts is Television Horror Movie Hosts: 68 Vampires, Mad Scientists and other Denizens of the Late Night Airwaves Examined and Interviewed by Elena M. Watson. This book takes 68 hosts and talks about the show they worked on, including a list of movies they showed, interviews, publicity photos, show themes, merchandise tie ins and fan reactions.

Another book is I Was a TV Horror Host by John Stanley. This is an autobiography of John Stanley and talks about his years of hosting Creature Features in the San Francisco area from 1979 to 84. It’s also a history of horror hosts going back to the golden age of radio and includes interviews with actors and directors of some of  the movies that were featured on Creature Features.  He also gives profiles of hosts such as Zacherley, Joe Bob Briggs, Ghoulardi and many more.

I also found two horror host biographies. One was: The Frightful Doctor Shock by John Skerchock which looks at the career of a host from Philadelphia. In reading the description for this book, I thought it was interesting to hear that Doctor Shock also worked as a magician and performed for children in hospitals. The other biography was  Ghoulardi: Inside Cleveland TV’s Wildest Ride by Tom Feran. Police said that when Ghouladi’s show was on in the Cleveland area, crime would drop because all the criminals stayed home to watch.

Another history book of horror hosts is Creatures of the Night That We Loved So Well by James Fetters which includes trivia questions, interviews with hosts and photos. The last book I wanted to talk about was Chicago TV Horror Movie Shows: From Shock Theatre to Svengoolie by Ted Okuda and Mark Yurkiw. Growing up not to far from the Chicago area I’ve been watching Svengoolie since I was a kid and still watch him along with Elvira on Saturday nights. The thing I always liked about Svengoolie is that even though he is making fun of the movies he shows, he also gives lots of trivia on the movie and tells you what the filmmakers are up to now. You can tell he loves what he does and loves the movies he shows no matter how bad they are.

All of the horror host books that I found are made up of interviews, photos and trivia. If you are looking to learn more about horror hosts without reading then give the movie American Scary a look. It includes hosts talking about their history along with clips from their shows. You can see this movie for free on hulu. At an hour and a half the movie does seem a little long. When I watched it I found myself wondering how much longer this is going to be and I did get tired of the background music. It was very informative though and I did like all of the clips they showed and the history of local television programming that was included. So if you do want to see different horror hosts talk about why they do what they do and get a couple of laughs, then you may want to check it out.