Horror movies 101: rules of survival

How to Survive a Horror Movie ★★★★
Seth Grahame-Smith
Quirk Books, 2007

how to surviveHorror movies and I? We go way back. I’ve been a voracious consumer since I was eight and my enthusiasm for the genre hasn’t diminished with … ahem … maturity and wisdom. So yeah, it’s been a lifelong love affair, one I don’t hide, or feel I need to apologize for. Because even amidst the dreck, there exists some awesome cinematic gems, and amidst the classics there are film moments of hair-raising, heart-stopping, enviable genius.

The naysayers who decry: “how can you watch that garbage” are rude asshats, unimaginative douchebags or big fat chickens. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. Rationally I know horror movies aren’t for everyone, but there’s that rabid part of my brain that thinks if you’re not with us, you’re against us.

In writing this little manifesto on how to survive a horror movie, Seth Grahame-Smith (the guy who gave us Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) proves that he understands horror and humor are a marriage made in heaven – the two go together like Butch and Sundance, Sam and Dean and that other celestial match – Sam and Bruce. Horror indulges in all forms of comedy – satire, slapstick, black, blue, Freudian, farce, irony – you name it, it’s been done; in some cases to humbling effect, either deliberately with great focus, or by happy, moronic accident.

Bruce Campbell (Ash) battles with his possessed hand.

Bruce Campbell (Ash) battles with his possessed hand.

Don’t believe me? Look no further than these cinema classics: An American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead I and II, The Return of the Living Dead, Creepshow, and Shaun of the Dead.

Frank (James Karen) realizing the movie lied.

Frank (James Karen) realizing the movie lied.

All of the above are prime examples of why I’d rather be watching horror movies rather than reading about them. But every now and then a book of this sort breaks through my defenses, giving me that “come hither” look I just can’t resist. This book has giggles, a few gut busters, and a whole lot of in-jokes delivered with tongue firmly planted in cheek. There are some sections that fall flat being over-written and a little dumb, but there are also shining moments of pure cleverness. Any die-hard horror fan who reads this little book is going to think “I could have written this and probably done a better job”; maybe, but you didn’t, and neither did I so we’re going to shut our pie holes and give props where they’re due.

More than anything, this little book is pure goddamn fun. Plain and simple. However, it is not a classic – for that you have to read If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor and Danse Macabre. These definitive texts will teach you everything you need to know about the industry, the genre, the people who make their living by it, and the people who love it. Seth Grahame-Smith wants to make us laugh, but it also comes across how much he loves celluloid horror and because of that I know he is one of us and therefore to be trusted.

There are just too many delightful nuggets to quote from here and rather than trying to capture them all I’m just going to say go read the book. But I can’t resist throwing out a few of my favorites:

The Seven Deadly Horror Movie Sins:

      3rd Deadly Sin: Independence – “Screw you guys I’m going home”. Actually you’re going about a third of the way home.

     5th Deadly Sin: Curiosity – “Do you think it’s dead?” No. Go ahead and poke it with a stick.

How to Defeat a Killer Doll: Kick the Crap Out of It. Why are you running away from something that could be imprisoned with Legos?

How to Kill a Vampire: Interview It.

What to Do If Your Corn Has Children In It (I still can’t say this out loud without giggling my ass off)

The Amityville Horror (1979) – Bad things happen in house. Family buys house. Bad things happen to family.

Carrie (1976) – If you haven’t seen this masterpiece yet, pelt yourself with tampons and go to your prayer closet.

The Hitcher (1986) – How many times do I have to tell you: Never pick up Rutger Hauer!

Seven (1995) – I went to see this film by myself on a cold, rainy Boston day. I haven’t smiled since.

The Sixth Sense (1999) – Hi, my name’s M. Night Shyamalan. Trust me…you’ll learn how to pronounce it.

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