"The Horror Movie Night Cookbook" Book Review
Written by Robert Gold
Published by Ulysses Press
Written by Richard S. Sargent
2023, 136 pages, Reference
Book released on July 18th, 2023
There are those of us who invite friends over to watch a scary movie during the month of October in celebration of the spooky season. The die-hard genre fan, however, hosts horror movie nights year-round. Then there is the case of the cinematic fanatic who extends the invitation to include a film based on the calendar date paired with a meal inspired by the night’s entertainment. I tend to fall into the more extreme category. Not every gathering is an event, but if it’s a major holiday, you can bet there’s a slasher tie in somewhere. One of my favorite recurring occasions is Friday the 13th. Friends are invited to write down three numbers between one and twelve. Those numbers are tallied and, whichever number ranks highest, we watch the corresponding Friday the 13th film. The creative part of the evening comes in the menu. In Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, Reggie meets up with his world-travelling older brother, Demon. Demon offers him a broad selection of food including: enchiladas, egg rolls, tacos, cheese and sausage pizza and beer. I prepare these selections and for dessert there are chocolate bars, as enjoyed by the dumpy character Joey, seen early on in the film. Friends have also been known to make burgers shaped like hockey masks and a side of “Jason Fingers” fries as in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday.
In his new book The Horror Movie Night Cookbook, author Richard S. Sargent gathers sixty horror-themed recipes of varying levels of difficulty to challenge your taste buds. Meals are presented thematically and paired with an inspired choice of cocktail. The book opens with a brief introduction revealing his inspiration for his own movie nights and his thought process for pairing his screenings with food. Recipes are divided into three main categories: a collection of appetizers aka “Finger Foods”, entrees aka “Dinner is Served” and desserts under “Sweet Tooth”. The selections may be inspired by a line of dialogue (black-eyed peas in Scream 2) or major plot point (rabbit stew for Cujo or alligator bites for Crawl).
Each recipe begins with a short film description, a list of ingredients followed by a difficulty level (Kill Level), serving size (Body Count) and prep and cook times. There are well written, moderately easy instructions that also include a short cooking tip to either make things easier or enhance the desired effect. There are some elusive ingredients however, like rabbit or alligator, that pop up occasionally. The accompanying cocktail is thoughtfully chosen by either flavor or visual style and the recipe concludes with a suggestion for a drinking game while watching the corresponding movie. In the back of the book is a conversion table for volume, weight and temperature measures. Most helpful however are Nevyana Dimitrova’s gorgeous color photographs of the finished products to let you know what the desired effect is of every item.
For my review I jumped in with one of the more challenging selections that garnered a Kill Level of Hard: the Shaun of the Dead inspired “Meat Pie” with fried mac ‘n cheese, taken from Mr. Sloan’s saying “There is no I in team, but there is an I in meat pie.” I have never made a meat pie before, but I have made beef stew, which proves to be somewhat similar in content. The recipe begins with the mac ‘n cheese that is made the day before and chilled overnight and later sliced, breaded and deep fried. As for the pie, the directions call for making your own pastry, which I promptly ignored and went with a store-bought pie crust. The filling is somewhat simplistic, calling only for cubed beef, carrots, onions, stout beer and a few other ingredients. While this proved delicious, I suggest leaning into the beef stew angle and adding potatoes and possibly peas. The pie came together easily enough and was deemed a success by all.
I followed my entrée with a dessert titled “Flypaper” inspired by the late, great William Friedkin and his film Bug. This one came with a Kill Level of Easy and is a dish of honey-glazed lemon bars with chocolate chip “bugs”. Again, the recipe starts with making your own crust and filling from scratch, but if time is a factor, you can easily go with a kit. What ties the treat together is the honey glaze and mini chocolate chips. These were an instant hit and I look forward to making them again. There are some desserts that rank as Hard, like the “Bee Sting Cake” from Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, which is a vanilla cake stuffed with honey cream and topped with candied almonds, or Cabin Fever’s “The Close Shave” pavlova with crème Chantilly and berry compote.
I had hoped to try a third recipe titled “Beth’s Night Out” from Contagion, a dish of Chinese pork with rice noodles and bok choy, but our Friday fun screenings are not as frequent and the recipes included tend to make a serving size of six. When I make this dish, I will edit this review with the results.
The Horror Movie Night Cookbook easily earns a solid recommendation for creativity and presentation. The recipes are well-written and generally easy to follow or make substitutions. This is a cookbook I will likely revisit for future movie nights and it comes with a reasonable MSRP of just $19.99. If there is one ding against the theme of the book, it’s that for Psycho we are treated to a simple steak dinner with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. The problem is Norman Bates actually did feed Marion dinner, but it was a simple cheese sandwich with milk, a dish he serves her niece in the sequel, so maybe the author can address this in volume two. Other than one nerdy nitpick, this is a fun book worth checking out.
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