Tag Archives: The New Horror Handbook

New Horror Handbook for Kindle

I know I should probably be up on these things, but apparently there is now a Kindle edition of The New Horror Handbook.

If you’re inclined to read detailed histories of several horror film directors based on exclusive interviews, then you could do a lot worse than downloading this eBook. (I’m trying the “soft sell” approach.)

On the other hand, if you are a devout devourer of all things paper; if nothing gives you greater pleasure than poring over the written word between two expertly crafted covers, do let me direct you to the print edition of this fine volume.


‘Rue Morgue’ Review of The ‘Handbook’

I was pleasantly surprised by the great review of The New Horror Handbook in Rue Morgue magazine 95 (November). As there doesn’t seem to be an online version of that piece, I’m reprinting Brad Abraham’s piece below:

“It isn’t easy being a horror movie fan in this still-young century; years of repeated abuse in the form of terrible films have left us bloodied, bruised and battered, yet we still go back to the well again and again, hoping that maybe this time it won’t hurt so much. Author A.S. Berman feels your pain, but also gives fans reasons to rejoice because, as his New Horror Handbook illustrates, things aren’t as bleak as they seem.

Comprised of equal parts interview and analysis, Berman hits the ground running with chapters on current genre heavyweights Eli Roth and Greg McLean, discussing what forces drove them to create their most memorable works. Canadian horror gets ample examination with the Ginger Snaps series and Vincenzo Natali’s Cube — in the process Berman reveals just how interconnected the Canadian horror scene is. Likewise France’s New Horror Wave receives coverage in the form of in-depth analysis of Inside and Frontieres, which links them thematically to the current wave of xenophobia washing over that nation (as exemplified by the fear of “the other” in these titles). We would also be remiss in mentioning that there is a chapter devoted to Rue Morgue‘s creation and operation, but for the sake of professionalism we decline comment, other than agreeing that it is quite comprehensive.

Berman is also not afraid to critique and criticize; the Saw sequels get an evisceration that would make Jigsaw proud (ditto the Ginger Snaps sequels). He is equally unafraid to defend controversial figures such as Roth, and while his praise is unlikely to earn the filmmaker many new fans (especially among those who’ve already dismissed his work), Berman raises many valid points in Roth’s defense.

Ultimately The New Horror Handbook succeeds in its goal of demonstrating that even in this first decade of the century, horror is just as vital as ever, especially if you’re not afraid to travel off the beaten path and face what lurks in its shadows.”

Many thanks, Rue Morgue.

‘New Horror Handbook’ in ‘Rue Morgue’

Hey gang. Those of you who’ve put off buying your copy of The New Horror Handbook (see me after class about that) can actually win a copy courtesy of Rue Morgue magazine. Subscribe to Rue Morgue through the latest issue (#95), and you could be one of 15 winners of a copy of the book packed with my blood, sweat and sleepless nights.

I also understand there’s a review in there of the book, though I haven’t seen it yet. Hopefully it’s a kind one, but Rue Morgue is more wittily, brutally honest than it is the type of magazine to coo softly in your ear, so you never know. If they torpedo the book, I’m sure they will at least do it in a clever way. I’m cool with that. So, what are you waiting for?

(Now, about that whole not-buying-the-book thing….)

Halloween Head-to-Head

Movie 1: ‘Trick ‘r Treat’

OK, so Halloween’s on the way, people have been going on and on about Trick ‘r Treat, and finally we had the opportunity to sit down with it yesterday for a proper Halloween movie double-header.

Let me get this out of the way right up front: I don’t get it.

I mean I kind of get it, going for that whole “We haven’t had a decent dumb Halloween-centric flick since Halloween III: Season of the Witch” vibe. But no, I don’t get it.

I really wanted to like this one, if for no other reason than the oddly iconic “Sam,” the burlap-cheeked mascot of the flick. And hell, Brian Cox! Need I say more? Well, yes, apparently.

For those who haven’t caught this “must see,” Trick ‘r Treat has your typical EC Comics/Creepshow setup: a handful of creepy stories tied together by a larger wraparound tale. Some mean kids try to freak out a socially awkward little girl, the school principal gets creepy, the town recluse gets harassed… you’ve seen it all before. It’s slickly produced, the sound is great, it features your usual plastic-perfect stars…and the thing just doesn’t go anywhere.

Continue reading Halloween Head-to-Head

Creepy Ass ‘Children’

“Hey you kids! Get off my lawn, and stay the hell out of my gardening tools!”

A couple nights back, Lady Pain and I settled down with Tom Shankland’s 2008 English infant apocalypse The Children (not to be confused with the 1980s flick of the same name), and got ourselves a creepy, effective little nailbiter for our troubles.

There’ve been plenty of “bad seed” and devil-baby movies in the past, but this one’s not what you’re used to. A handful of ostensibly normal wee ones begin to use the skills they often employ to manipulate adults in daily life to deadly effect, tormenting their parents in a way far more distressing than anything you’re likely to see in a typical slasher.

It’s not that the methods of dispatch are particularly upsetting, but the assured way that they play on adults’ feelings for them is what makes this one so effective. The commentary on “enlightened” parenting (we don’t hit children here), though a tad heavy handed, is also a perfect example of the way the New Horror uses violence and arresting imagery to address larger real world issues. The camera work and its use of nature shots in the dead of winter are particularly effective here.

Sure, Shankland explains the children’s violent streaks away with some mysterious illness that’s infecting the tykes, but this is the only cop out of the movie, and probably instrumental in keeping this production safe from the censor’s ax. It no doubt also helped dampen the protest against the scenes where the adults start fighting back against their deadly offspring. The long buildup to the final showdown may limit The Children‘s rewatchability, but this one’s definitely worth your time.

‘Mother’s Day’ Not Policemen’s Day

A scene from Bousman's 'Mother's Day.' No wonder the Winnipeg constabulary came a runnin'.
A scene from Bousman's 'Mother's Day.' No wonder the Winnipeg constabulary came a runnin'.

Marketing is a very tricky business, especially when it comes to movies. While Paranormal Activity has pretty much won the Most Effective Meme-Passing Award for this year, it’s not the only movie making headlines.

As mentioned a few weeks back, director Darren Bousman (Saw II-IV, Repo) has been pimping the hell out of his remake of Mother’s Day, and doing a pretty impressive job of keeping that flick from slipping head first into the I-Could-Give-a-Rat’s-Ass pit reserved for most remakes. Despite a hectic schedule and countless details to pore over with the production, the dude’s been keeping the Twitter faithful apprised of everything that happens on set, working Facebook like a pro, and now…

Now we’re all a little red faced after the “balloon boy” fiasco of last week. It turns out that, after a long diet of reality TV, we’ll pretty much believe anything at this point. So it’s perfectly natural to question whether Bousman has the ability to pull off a fake police raid on his own movie production in Winnipeg. Personally, I would think even more of him if he did actually manage to make this happen.

What’s that? How did I find out about the police raid, you ask? Why from his Facebook page of course.

To better understand Darren Bousman and how he got his start in this business, check out the chapter on Bousman in The New Horror Handbook.

‘Paranormal Activity’ Experiences Paranormal Box Office


The movie is Airplane. The titular aircraft is experiencing a bad day and somebody’s sitting in their seat, losing their shit, while nuns, boxers and a great many more are lined up to slap some sense into her.

We are that line of disciplinarians, and Hollywood is the squealling passenger. And Paranormal Activity is the slap heard round the world.

Don’t think so? Think again. Paranormal Activity cost $15,000 to make, cost Paramount about $2 million to acquire, and so far has made more than $9 million on an extremely limited release. It’s set to open across the country very soon.


Addendum: After an amazing, viral PR push, Paranormal Activity is now opening across the country on 10/16/09. Click here to find a theater near you.