"Twenty First Century Horror Films" Book Review
Written by Robert Gold
Published by Kamera Books
Written by Douglas Keesey
2017, 249 pages, Reference
Book released on October 1st, 2017
I collect movie reference books, both technical and recreational, the more in depth the better. I am always on the lookout for something new and I have just picked up a new collection of horror studies that restricts its scope to only films made since the year 2000. Douglas Keesey’s Twenty First Century Horror Films is a collection of thoughtful essays that study over one hundred titles from around the world and breaks them down for themes and meaning. Several titles include excerpts from interviews with the filmmakers in order to receive additional information directly from the source. Many of these movies have never been included in book format before and that in itself is an incentive to check out this new addition.
Douglas Keesey is a professor of film and literature at California Polytechnic State University and the author of Brian De Palma’s Split Screen. In his introduction he considers the appeal of the horror genre and the voracity of its defenders. Pulling quotes from sources as varied as film critic Roger Ebert, author Clive Barker and director Eli Roth, Keesey examines the merits of fright flicks and their place in society. Barker and Roth insist there is something compelling about fear of the unknown and the need to embrace it; Ebert meanwhile was caught off guard by an Australian horror film and revolts against its overall negativity. I am pleased to say that not every title included is given high praise just because it may be frightening.
The book is subdivided into three main categories of movies. Starting with the catch-all Nightmares, this section offers a contemporary look at classic fears like vampires, zombies, witches, etc., but these are further broken down to include newer angles examining more than a dozen other sub-categories, including dolls, family terrors, homophobia in horror and a look at the recent craze of home invasion pictures.
With Nations Keesey offers critical analysis of pictures from nineteen countries including Poland, Iran, Spain and Germany. Each film receives the same treatment as their domestic counterparts with astute insights presented in essay form.
The final section, Innovations, focuses on the latest trends, including the return of 3D, the found footage subgenre, neo-giallo movies and the rise of “torture porn”. Also on hand are essays that compare and contrast the merits and messages of both the original and remake versions of 1970s films, including Carrie, Halloween and I Spit on Your Grave. American adaptations of popular Asian fright flicks are also covered, as are recent technology based horrors.
The book includes an eight-page insert of color photographs from roughly two dozen pictures. An extensive bibliography lists numerous books, movies and websites for readers looking to further explore the world of 21st century horror films. Equally exhaustive is the collection of notes that cite all of the sources for filmmakers’ quotes peppered throughout the book. Lastly, an index offers a quick-access peek at the contents of these essays.
Twenty First Century Horror Films is a fast read and comes highly recommended. Spoilers are plentiful as they are relevant to the discussion, so if you haven’t yet seen a particular title you may wish to simply skip ahead. Keesey does an excellent job in his analysis and while some arguments are a bit obvious, most of the material is surprisingly rich with information.
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