The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies is a 2012 book by British writer Peter Normanton. It is described on the cover as ‘an A-Z Guide to Over Sixty Years of Blood and Guts’ and was published by Running Press/Robinson.
Most purchasers of this horror movie guide will presumably be satisfied with its thrifty price – currently just £5.59 from Amazon.co.uk and $11.13 from Amazon.com – for 512 pages of fairly detailed text – however their main bone of contention will definitely be with its title; it’s actually a guide to over 250 slasher and splatter movies and therefore includes many movies that clearly don’t involve demented psychos wielding a manner of weapons.
Thus, the first entry is Danny Boyle’s 28 Day Later and the guide then goes on to confusingly include a smattering of aliens, vampires and zombies. One can only charitably presume that Normanton’s original choice of genre-wide splatter movies was simply overridden by the publishers who wanted the cover to proclaim ‘Slasher Movies’? He admits the book is not comprehensive (what tome could be?) and claims to have whittled his selections down from over a thousand he researched?
Ignoring the inaccuracy of the title, what we have is 250 examples of fairly essential movie mayhem – although inexplicably no sequels to key franchises such as Friday the 13th, Halloween and Hellraiser are covered.
Plus, there are a number of obscurities that generally don’t appear in other horror movie guides, such as Nathan Schiff’s The Long Island Cannibal Massacre, Doris Wishman’s A Night to Dismember, Streets of Death (a dud from 1987), Der Weg nach Eden (about an Austrian mortician) and Juan de los Meurtos (2011 gory Cuban black comedy).
Seasoned horror fans may therefore find some of the more outré entries more interesting than those about the usual suspects they have encountered many, many times before.
Normanton’s film overviews are generally well-observed – although plot details are often too detailed and contain spoilers for the uninitiated reader – and usually placed within the historical context of when particular movies were released.
Censorship info is provided for many releases even though much of this is now largely irrelevant considering many older movies are now emerging in fully uncut versions. Interestingly, for a book about films that often revel in the aforementioned ‘blood and guts’ some of the author’s observations can be squeamish to the point of unhelpful.
And although he also over values the effectiveness of certain 80s titles such as He Knows You’re Alone and Happy Birthday to Me at least Normanton has definitive opinions – even if these go against the grain of what most genre critics generally say.
Overlooking the obvious title misnomer, this is a cheap yet fairly informative pocket guide, seemingly written from Normanton’s personal perspective.
The selections don’t always make sense but then neither does the vast array of what sub-genre offerings that come under the canon of cinematic ‘splatter’.
The book includes an introductory retrospective overview of gore and censorship trends and a 500 film chronology of key splatter movies which provides a timely coda to the main review section. Hardly a vital purchase but worth picking up as a cheap and handy reminder of many gloriously gruesome titles that are sometimes overlooked or forgotten completely.
” … a decent book that suffers from an unfortunate progression of missteps starting with the title and cover art. The spoiler-heavy plot summaries and omission of countless slashers (and their sequels) are also disappointing. As a generic horror movie guide, the collection will be sufficient for casual fans of the horror genre…” DVDTalk
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