Friday, April 20, 2012

Butcher Knives and Body Counts.

Title: Butcher Knives & Body Counts: Essays on the Formula, Frights, and Fun of the Slasher Film

Editor: Vince A. Liaguno.

Genre: Non Fiction.  Horror.

Publisher: Dark Scribe Press.

Source: Received at BEA 2011.

All in all: Fans of Horror should have this on their shelf!

SynopsisHe warned you not to go out tonight...  From meat cleavers and machetes to summer camp carnage and sorority house massacres, from final girls and scream queens to demented deviants and dead teenagers, slasher films have turned body counts into box office gold. It s the oft-maligned but surprisingly durable sub-genre of horror films that uses a Freudian rulebook and bases the survival rates of its characters on vice and virtue.   From the earliest black-and-white forerunners of the slasher to the low-budget aesthetics of the 70s, from the 80s golden age to the self-referential gloss of the 90s and beyond,Butcher Knives & Body Counts brings together over 70 filmmakers, editors, actors, and writers to explore the archetype of the slasher film and trace its evolution from formula to franchise. From the inventive kills and the gory intestine spills right down to the last tagline and toe tag, Butcher Knives & Body Counts celebrates the enduring formula, frights, and fun of slasher movies.~Product Description.

My Thoughts:
I came across this quote on Amazon for Butcher Knives: "This is not a groundbreaking academic tome on a subgenre adored by many. It is, however, a collection of love letters to that subgenre. Great book for fans. ~M. Beniak."

I'd like to respectfully disagree with the first sentence.  I don't see why Butcher Knives could not be used as an academic tome.  Who better than to dissect these films, this genre, than people who feel the most passionate about it?  A movie that I may have previously just attributed as a gore fest is presented as much more - a psychological breakdown, a social change, a personal journey - and the personal journey may not have always been for the character but for the viewer.   Themes are explored - childhood trauma, the Final Girl, Sexuality and the emergence of new mythology. 

To explain why one loves Horror can be one of the most difficult conversations.  At least for me.  To prove that it has merit can be frustrating.  Butcher Knives contains a respected group of authors and editors who validate horror.  No apology necessary.  Some essays are so prolific that I felt as if I was sitting in a lecture hall and some are simply personal stories on how a specific movie shaped them.

One essay that stood out to me was the editor Vince Liaguno's Paging Miss Marple, in which he offered the 1945 Agatha Christie film And Then There Were None as the first slasher movie.  Now, I never saw that film.  I never knew it existed, but I remember loving Ten Little Indians (the 1965 remake) when I was little.  To be honest, I haven't thought of that movie in a long time and was excited to come across it in the text.  Could that have been one of my my first forays into Horror? 

Another I enjoyed is Lynn Hanson's view on the movie Scream, in which she points out that no one is safe.  Oh shoot.  She's right.  There's even a poem, more like an ode to Freddy Kruger.

For me, reading this was like discussing Horror with other lovers of the genre.  I loved the insights, the opinions, the personal accounts and the humor.  A connection was made as I came across gems that I had almost forgotten and was able to re-visit and contemplate them as something much more than just a Friday night escape.  This is a book I enjoyed thoroughly and will go back to again and again.


Karen said...

This probably isn't a book for me (I enjoy borrow movies but I don't know many) but your review is amazing. Your love for the genre really comes through!
Weird tidbit of information: I once watched A Nightmare on Elm Street backwards just to see Johnny Depp spit back up & out of the bed. lol

Kate @Midnight Book Girl said...

I probably do need this on my shelf! I just saw Cabin in the Woods and it was just amazing, and it's renewed my faith in horror movies!

Midnyte Reader said...

Karen: Thank you for the nice complement! Hysterical on the Depp trivia!

Kate: I'm looking forward to seeing Cabin.

Karen said...

I just noticed that *horror* got changed to borrow....which makes NO sense. lol

Midnyte Reader said...

Yea, but I knew exactly what you meant. I must speak "Horror" in all languages.

Vince Liaguno said...

Thank you so much for that thoughtful review! This collection was a labor of love, and your review validates that the love those involved in the project came through loud and clear. Thanks again for taking the time to review BUTCHER KNIVES! (And so nice to run into you at BookExpo again this year!!)

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