Review: The Book of Horror
Matt Glasby's illustrated compendium of terrors is a thoughtful and engaging book for horror fans
Written by Martyn Conterio
Matt Glasby’s The Book of Horror: The Anatomy of Fear in Film, to give it its full title, opens with a quote from John Carpenter. The maestro behind Halloween, The Fog and Christine, after all, knows a thing or two about scaring an audience rigid. The filmmaker opines, ‘Horror isn’t a genre, it’s a reaction.’ While the author doesn’t disagree, he points out horror is very much like comedy, in that it depends on a reaction. What scares us, indeed what we find funny, is highly subjective, however, as Glasby readily concedes in his introduction.
In this thoughtful, engagingly written, moodily illustrated compendium of terrors mixing historical context, production information and light textual analysis, not unlike a mechanic or indeed a surgeon, given the subtitle’s use of the word ‘anatomy’, Glasby pokes around the insides of the genre; probing, examining, exploring why this chosen set are so damn scary, using seven specifically detailed components — dead space, the subliminal, the unexpected, the grotesque, dread, the uncanny and the unstoppable — which horror films cannot do without. These components may stand alone or work together in a variety of combos. Horror’s endless ability to reinvent the wheel has led to its survival while other once-popular genres have faded.
An accessible work with inventive infographics and eye-catching visuals (Barney Bodoano’s illustrations really are stunning), thankfully Glasby is committed to taking us on a globetrotting expedition and not just relying on American titles as case studies. It is both surprising and most welcome to see a host of foreign-language horrors such as Ring (1999), Rec (2007) and Martyrs (2008) among the pack, but kudos for also dissecting Australia’s relatively unknown gem, Lake Mungo (2008), a film that would make a terrific double bill with David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (also included in this roster of repulsion). Other excellent choices include: The Innkeepers (2011), Banshee Chapter (2013) and Oculus (2013). Seeing these among legendary spook-fests from days of gore — The Exorcist (1973), Suspiria (1977) and The Entity (1982) — provides The Book of Horror with not only contemporary relevance, it strikes a fine balance between iconic frighteners we know and love and newer movies likely on their way to becoming established favourites, the next generation of classics.
You can purchase a copy of The Book of Horror from any of these retailers.
Author: Matt Glasby
Illustrated by: Barney Bodoano
Format: Hardback, 176 Pages
Price: $28.99 / £18.99
Publisher: White Lion Publishing