The Scary, Bloody, Gory, Hundred-Year History of Classic Horror Films
By David Konow
(St. Martin's Griffin, Paperback, 9780312668839, 608pp.)
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Categories: Film & Video - History & Criticism
From the author of the definitive heavy metal history, Bang Your Head, a behind-the-scenes look a century of horror films
Reel Terror is a love letter to the wildly popular yet still misunderstood genre that churns out blockbusters and cult classics year after year. From The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to Paranormal Activity, Konow explores its all-time highs and lows, why the genre has been overlooked, and how horror films just might help us overcome fear. His on-set stories and insights delve into each movie and its effect on American culture.
For novices to all out film buffs, this is the perfection companion to this Halloween’s movie marathons.
DAVID KONOW is the author of Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal, and has written for numerous publications and websites including Deadline.com, L.A. Weekly, The Wrap, Turner Classic Movies, Rue Morgue, TGDaily.com, Guitar World, MovieMaker, Fangoria, and more. He lives in Southern California.
“In Reel Terror, David Konow displays undeniable fervor for his subject and its fans, aptly calling his book "a love letter to a great and underappreciated genre.”
“An exhaustive and entertaining film-by-film history of an oft-maligned genre that refuses to die. Horror films are about as old as the medium itself, and Konow (Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal, 2002) begins with Universal Studio's horror triumvirate of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney and continues to well-known modern-day horror films like The Ring and the Saw franchise. Along the way, he dissects dozens of great and not-so-great movies, including those by respected directors who entered horror only briefly (Polanski and Rosemary's Baby, Kubrick and The Shining), by directors who went on to bigger things (Sam Raimi and The Evil Dead, Peter Jackson and Dead Alive), and directors who made horror their genre of choice (George Romero and Dawn of the Dead, John Carpenter and Halloween). For each film, Konow tells the story of how it came into being and why it works. But he is no dry cinephile; rather, he is an informative, knowledgeable fan. So why does a horror film work? We all like to be safely scared, and the right music helps. Would Jaws be Jaws without its trademark music? Obviously, the right makeup and a good story are important. But often, as Konow frequently points out, it's what's not there that counts: Rosemary's baby is never seen; there's not all that much shown in Psycho's shower scene; there's no music in the original Dracula, which makes it that much more unsettling. On the other hand, "Friday the 13th delighted in letting the blood and heads fly." So maybe the rules are there to be broken. It's such details that make the stories of these films so entertaining. Of course, there will be arguments: Is Se7en really a horror film? Where's the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Why do those teenagers keep going into that dark room to be scared senseless? A well-told account of the films that have scared the pants off generation after generation.”
“With an inviting, you-are-there narrative often absent in genre histories, Reel Terror charts the scary/delicious rise of the horror film industry in America. A must for lovers of all things creepy, violent and dark; a useful primer for those just discovering the classics. Chainsaw, anyone?”
—Mike Sager, Esquire, author of The Someone You’re Not
"David Konow is the Dr. Frankenstein of prose, and Reel Terror is his magnificent monster of a book. Konow assembles the skin, bones, and viscera of horror's hundred-year onscreen history, and doesn't miss a bloody stitch. This definitive terror tapestry delivers what Quint promised in Jaws: the Head, the Tail... the Whole Damn Thing."
—KJ Doughton, author of Metallica Unbound
“Reel Terror is a love letter to our much maligned genre. A book which cuts through the hyperbole and tells the history of horror how it is: the trials, tribulations, key events and coincidences which conspired to turn horror from the dirty little secret it was into the commercial and creative juggernaut it eventually became. A book that's thoroughly recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in the history of movie scares. For new and long-standing genre fans alike, Reel Terror is a fascinating read. Written with passion and deep respect, it'll broaden your understanding of how horror developed from the black-and-white Universal classics through to the mainstream smashes of the last decades. It's a thoroughly entertaining book, packed with memories and anecdotes from the people who made the movies and defined the genre. A fascinating look at the history of horror filled with stories, details and memories that remind you why you fell in love with the genre in the first place. Superb.”
—David Moody, author of Hater and the Autumn series
“More than any other genre, the Horror film reflects the zeitgeist of its era. In Reel Terror David Konow expertly connects the dots from Dracula to Psycho to The Exorcist to Paranormal Activity giving the reader an insightful explanation of how the films got made and why we got scared.”
—Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, Screenwriters of Ed Wood, 1408, and The People Vs Larry Flynt
Praise for Bang Your Head:
“This book will nicely flesh out popular music collections and complements Chuck Klosterman's recent memoir-cum-musicological study, Fargo Rock City, and Deena Weinstein's cultural study, Heavy Metal. Recommended.”
“A fine pop-music history.”
—Booklist “So you wanna meet the band? How Bad? David Konow's Bang Your Head deifies heavy metal's amp-loving sinners in spandex, debauched power balladeers such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motorhead, and Metallica, dudes who single-handedly keep the hair-spray industry in business.”
—Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair
“It became acceptable to mock heavy metal with Beavis and Butt-head and Wayne's World. After that, hardly a devil-horn salute or head-bang existed without an inherent sense of ridicule, sending Skid Row and similar bands to the land of Behind the Music. Given some distance from the genre's demise, it's refreshing to read Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal, David Konow's unsarcastic history of heavy metal. Konow tackles the acceptable (Metallica, Guns n' Roses, Slayer) and the absurd (Ratt, Twisted Sister, Cinderella) with the same enthusiasm. Surrounded by hairspray, spandex and a stiletto-clad Tawny Kitaen, Konow delivers an insightful and straightforward retrospective of metal – makeup and all.”
—Jason Buhrmeister, Playboy
“Amusing pop history”
—Tom Nawrocki, Rolling Stone