________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 9 . . . . January 6, 2006


Scary Movies: Behind the Scenes Stories, Reviews, Biographies, Anecdotes, History & Lists.

A.S. Mott.
Edmonton, AB: Ghost House Books, 2005. 199 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 1-894877-70-5.

Subject Heading:
Horror films-History and criticism.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4


It occurred to me as I was writing this book that had I taken the traditional route to becoming a fan of the horror movie genre, I probably wouldn't have been able to write it. You see, I came to love scary movies not by watching them on television or seeing them during matinees or renting them on video, but from books just like this one. . . . For me, witnessing acts of bloody violence was a sure ticket to the dark streets of Nightmare City (POP. Terror.) Yet, at the same time, in that strange way that so many people are attracted to that which repulses them, I was also fascinated by the films I could not bring myself to watch.


Mott's road to horror movie connoisseurship is an unusual one, and, although he expects readers to view the movies profiled in his book, Scary Movies certainly provides the timid with some necessary preparation for the experience. In it, he profiles six representative works of the genre while referencing hundreds more. And reference, he does – few pages go by without at least one footnote. Mott discovered them when, as a “geeky 10-year-old who visited the public library to find and borrow everything he could on horror movies,” he “discovered the little miracle at the bottom of the page known as the footnote. I love them, and consider them to be thoughtful gifts of bonus information.”

     Footnotes aside, each chapter is packed with exhaustive detail about the casting, scripting, production, and often, the marketing of each movie. There is no question that the author is passionate about his subject and packs an astonishing amount of information both into the text and those ubiquitous footnotes. While Mott is very clear that the six scary movies profiled in this book constitute his list of personal favourites, there is no question that movies such as Psycho and A Nightmare on Elm Street have become representatives of the genre. It's easy to be disdainful of the artistic merits of films featuring gore, slash, and bizarre transformations (such as David Cronenberg's The Fly), but Mott reminds us that the people making these movies did so out of a sincere enjoyment for the craft. A few became rich, and some used them as a springboard to other cinematic work; however, the movies profiled by Mott “were made by people who truly cared about what they were doing and . . . are all in some part responsible for how horror films are made today.”

     Mott's enthusiasm will keep you reading even if, like me, you are no fan of horror, either in movie or book form. It is hard not to admire the hard work and creativity of many of the horror movie-makers, especially in the area of special effects and cinematic technology. Mott is also frank about the degradation of an artistic concept through attempts to spin more cash through spin-offs and endless serialization. At just under 200 pages, (including black and white photos, and the footnotes), Scary Movies will definitely interest horror fans. And, it will definitely have a place in your library's book display at Halloween, when everyone is looking for a scary movie!



Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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