Noir Publishing are thrilling genre fans everywhere with these excellent publications :
By Steve Earles
Steve Earles previously co-wrote THE DEAD WALK with Andy Black for Noir Publishing, but here takes sole writing credit (Black is thanked for his assistance on the design and editing front). For this outing, Earles has adopted the cinema of Guillermo Del Toro as his subject.
The first thing to remark upon when opening up this paperback book is how colourful and glossy each page is. It's a fabulously attention-grabbing piece, filled with shiny bold images from back to front. However, though amply filled with vivid stills and poster art, that's not to say this tome isn't also generous on the text front.
Earles begins with an enthusiastic introduction to the book, emphasising his admiration of Del Toro's work and the urge he felt to research further into what makes the genial Mexican giant tick. A three-page profile of the director later - an extended Wikipedia entry, more or less - and we're into the great man's films, chapter-style.
For each film, Earles first covers their synopses while making occasional observations on script points. He then works through a second section analysing the movies in more depth. The synopses are perhaps longer than they need to be - each one is several pages in length - and are subsequently very comprehensive (spoilers abound!). But sticking with them is advised as they act as effective reminders, come the analyses that make up the latter half of each chapter.
Earles is clearly and understandably a keen fan of Del Toro (Earles' introduction concludes that watching Del Toro's films is "a fantastic journey, one well worth taking!"). He goes into detail about the themes and social commentary inherent throughout CRONOS and THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, the sublime handling of budget and FX in MIMIC, BLADE 2 and HELLBOY, and even the benefits of having Del Toro produce your film, as is the case with THE ORPHANAGE.
Predictably, the bulkiest chapters cater for PAN'S LABYRINTH and HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY. As is formula with the rest of the book, Earles gives detailed accounts of the films' plots before dissecting them by way of positive reviews, pointing back to influences and drawing on a healthy amount of quotes from the talented director himself.
Del Toro is quoted frequently throughout the book, ensuring that Earles' understanding of his films' themes are backed up by their source. Furthermore, a nice touch is the inclusion of occasional quotes or thoughts from those that have left their mark on Del Toro: Shakespeare, J M Barrie, Franz Kafka and so on.
Acting sometimes as footnotes or sidebars to each chapter are sub-chapters for each film, affording Earles the opportunity to delve a tad deeper into some of these main influences. For his chapter on CRONOS, Earles of course gives us a beginners' nod and a wink at alchemy. For MIMIC, he takes time out to discuss cockroaches (common breeds, eating habits etc) and FX supremo Rob Bottin.
And so on: Earles focuses on Goya and The Spanish Civil War as points of inspiration for PAN'S LABYRINTH; singles out THE STONE TAPE as a forefather to both THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE and THE ORPHANAGE (a nice two-page summation of the Nigel Kneale/Peter Sasdy classic); a single page offers a colourful montage of stills from Dario Argento's INFERNO, cited by Del Toro as an inspiration for the visuals of the first HELLBOY film; HELLBOY 2 gives way to an examination of Ray Harryhausen's undeniable impact on how Del Toro's fantastic monsters are realised for the screen.
Elsewhere, gothic novels, Terrence Fisher and Mario Bava are briefly given credit for contributing further towards Del Toro's formidable oeuvre.
THE GOLDEN LABYRINTH is a good read, constantly engaging and infectious in its enthusiastic appreciation of it's subject. That half of the text is essentially offering summaries of film plots is not an issue as it's still a fine proposition, accompanied by loads of gorgeous colour photographs (over two hundred, in fact). I had to smile though when I noticed a "thank you" to Optimum Releasing for their help (presumably providing films to view). There are plenty of colour reproductions of their DVD covers found within these pages ...
Offering interesting and insightful analyses of each film, along with a wealth of background info from Del Toro himself in quotation marks throughout, the book does provide an entertaining and witty read. How much of it is stuff you didn't already know is debatable, but for the casual fan or newcomer this is as good a place as any to begin.
Disappointingly, THE GOLDEN LABYRINTH doesn't conclude with any idea of where Del Toro may be headed next. Aside from a nod in the profile towards THE HOBBIT and a cursory line about Del Toro producing the forthcoming US remake of THE ORPHANAGE elsewhere, there is little mention of future projects - despite Del Toro being famous for constantly speaking of several pans being on the hob (FRANKENSTEIN, SATURN AND THE END OF DAYS, DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE etc).
Also, Earles doesn't appear to have had access to Del Toro's early shorts such as GEOMETRIA and DONA LUPE, while his broader work in film - special effects make-up artist in the late 1980s and early 1990s, for example - is only mentioned in passing.
Still, minor quibbles aside, this is a highly pleasurable read with an easy flow to it, an agreeable tone and an admirable affection for its subject. At 256 pages in length, THE GOLDEN LABYRINTH is a worthy if not heavyweight summary of Del Toro's career thus far.
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By Andy Black and Steve Earles
First published several years ago, Andy Black's THE DEAD WALK was a worthy book that not only traced the origins of the zombie film but also looked at the genre's more contemporary efforts.
However, with a whole host of new undead films emerging during this current decade, Black's book was suddenly left looking outdated. The solution? Noir Publishing has released this "completely revised, expanded and updated" version that also takes into account a plethora of post-Millennial living dead flicks.
The book opens with introductions penned by Black and Steve Earles, who has contributed towards the new text, both of which were written in October 2008. Black takes time to validate the renewed tome, while Earles opts for a more celebratory approach. It's an agreeable, enthusiastic mix of styles that continues to work well throughout the book.
Beginning with an expanded look at how zombies owe their origins to voodoo folklore, the first thing that becomes apparent is the new glossy colour photographs that adorn each page - including stills from the recent LONDON VOODOO.
The following chapter takes a broad view of "The Monochrome Zombies", looking with humour and warmth at films such as ISLE OF THE DEAD and WHITE ZOMBIE. The lovely photographs and occasional poster art reproductions continue.
From there, we move on to a highly recommended 10-page delve into Hammer Studios' THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, in a chapter that offers a lengthy synopsis along with interesting historical placing and some lovely colour lobby card reproductions.
Next up is the inevitable chapter on Romero's living dead films. Cannily updated to cover LAND OF THE DEAD and DIARY OF THE DEAD along with the original seminal trilogy, this chapter is very much the heart of this book. Although there's little new here for the avid Romero fan to gleam, it is at least written with a genuine passion for it's subject and graced with some truly zombieriffic stills. By far the most exciting prospect of this elongated chapter is the inclusion of an 11-page summation of the original script concept for DAY OF THE DEAD. It sounds fantastic on paper, not that Black or Earles should complain - they cite the existing DAY as the best of Romero's zombie films.
The chapter on Romero ends with an amusingly accurate chastising of Steve Miner's shameful DAY remake.
Then we're into Lucio Fulci territory, with the book seemingly designed to introduce the man to the uninitiated. No matter, there are more excitable synopses and gory photographs to be enjoyed across these pages, as well as brief accounts of Fulci's non-zombie horrors such as THE NEW YORK RIPPER.
A chapter detailing the influence of Ray Harryhausen's walking skeletons of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS on the modern zombie genre suddenly kicks the chronological design of the book out of place, but is colourful and interesting - if too fleeting - regardless.
Then we're off delving into the American zombie horrors of the last few decades, catching up with such epics as RE-ANIMATOR and THE EVIL DEAD films on the way. Better still are the inclusion of write-ups on smaller films such as CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, SHOCKWAVES and - dare I say it - DEATH BECOMES HER.
Chapter 8 explores "The Continental Cousins - Zombies Around The Globe". It covers a lot of ground, but not always in satisfying detail. Still, we get extended background information to support the write-up of the BLIND DEAD films with a sub-chapter on the Knights Templar, and a splendid array of photographs from personal favourite THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE. The expanded part of this chapter also takes in Asian goodies such as STACY and VERSUS.
Chapters on zombies in sci-fi movies (from the BODYSNATCHERS films to I AM LEGEND) and the legacy of THE MUMMY - from Karloff's classic interpretation, through the enjoyably cheesy Hammer effort, to the more recent Brendan Fraser shitfests - are no less well-written but less interesting on a personal level.
Then comes the highlight of the book: the final third, which kicks into fresh territory as our authors examine this decade's resurrection of the undead's popularity. RESIDENT EVIL, 28 DAYS LATER, DOOMSDAY, THE VANGUARD, [REC], QUARANTINE ... it's great to read about such recent films in print. Okay, if you've seen them then there's little to learn here - the book celebrates the films rather than striving to unearth revelations about their productions - but sometimes that's all that's needed: a reference point to turn to; a page to turn to in order to find inspiration for any given night's viewing.
The book ends in style with a great A-Z index of zombie films, allowing Black and Earles the opportunity to briefly summarise and review the films that didn't make their chapters. It's a formidable list of quality (and not so quality) zombie flicks including the likes of REDNECK ZOMBIES, ZOMBIE STRIPPERS, BLACK DEMONS, SCARED STIFF, MORBUS, THE ALIEN DEAD, OUTPOST and many more. It's by no means complete - where are the likes of SCREAMING DEAD, MEAT MARKET etc - but as a list to cross off once you've caught up with these films, it'll keep you occupied for quite some time.
Serving to celebrate and review for the most part, rather than expose untold secrets of the films it discusses, THE DEAD WALK is an enjoyable appraisal of a well-loved and enduring horror sub-genre. It does take time here and there to muse over religious allegories and the social commentary present in the best zombie flicks, but is primarily concerned in telling us how much fun these films are. That's no bad thing.
This new edition is equipped with over 300 stills, many of which are presented in blood-soaked colour.
A great read, highly recommended.
288 pages, RRP £17.99
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The Journal of Horror and Erotic Cinema
Edited by Andy Black
Damn it's been a long time since the last edition of Necronomicon was published, several years in fact…so when Necronomicon Book 5 arrived here at SGM Towers I will admit that it was one of those rare occasions where I actually got excited about kicking back with some genre reading.
For those who have not discovered the delights of Andy Black's sporadically published cult cinema creation they should be aware that this is not yet another simplistic review/comment/illustrate on various genre movies but rather a more gratifying and stimulating read on various aspects of the genre scene by various academic fans. But don't be off out by this as the writing styles and commentary is as vastly different in content as the thematics they discuss throughout.
Kicking off curiously with Adrian Horrock's soap minded overview of mainstream fave Buffy the Vampire Slayer you do wonder whether this is perhaps going to be a misguided attempt at breaching into the mainstream market but as business progresses with pieces such as Melanie Dante's excellent study of the Lustmord genre (sexual murder in art and film - always popular round these parts), Steve Earles fascinating article on the relationship of Quatermass and Carpenter and Black's own delightful overview of the recent upsurge in zombie interest (Repression, Rage and Resurrection!) you soon realise that whilst on the surface Necronomicon Book 5 may have a glossy sheen of the mainstream (the so called tired multiplex 'torture porn' genre is covered in here too) it welcomingly continues to challenge the reader with some stimulating discussion points.
As ever, beautifully illustrated throughout, Necronomicon Book 5 is back and once you've started working through it you'd almost forgive Noir Publishing for the extended break between volumes…but if only they promise not to make us wait another six years before volume six appears. Highly recommended!
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Edited by Xavier Mendik
Let's get things straight here right away, Xavier Mendik's 'Shocking Cinema of the Seventies' is not the sort of genre book that many of you will likely be expecting. Rather than the usual run down of movies from the period with the plot/review/critique scenario this is in fact a very thought provoking cultural study of a varied selection of genre movie themes from a period of cult cinema that often challenged the mainstream movie scene.
Split into to three main sections, 'Shocking Cinema of the Seventies' attempts to question and re-evaluate your opinion of your favourite cult classics but does it succeed in this? More on that later. Part one of this intense tome looks at 'Hollywood on the Edge'; the political conspiracy movies (The Parallax View and The Conversation), the long lost genre of disaster movies (The Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno), The Omega Man and perhaps best of all a reappraisal of the 70's output of the exploitation auteur Michael Winner which will have you seeking out a copy of the infamous 'Death Wish' to revisit viewing.
The second section covers what Mendik refers to as 'The Ethnic Other in Action'; basically an assessment of the racial minorities representation in genre movies (ie Kung Fu and Blaxploitation flicks!) Fans of the excellent Master of the Flying Guillotine will be more than pleased to read Leon Hunt's chapter on the work of the oft ignored Wang Yu, Steven Schneider's overview of the Blaxploitation movie scene is very comprehensive (although perhaps a touch poe faced) and there's an unintentionally amusing chapter on Hammer's cross genre gem 'Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires'.
The third and final section of 'Shocking Cinema of the Seventies' is probably the section that will sate SGM readers the most as it concentrates welcomingly on seventies horror. Here we are asked to look deeper into the underbelly of our genre favourites; Linnie Blake's chapter on the Romero classics is a fascinating extension on what many have been discussing about his work, Johnathon Blake revisits 'Last House on the Left' which although interesting enough has pretty much already been comprehensively exhausted in David Szulkin's essential 'Last House' tome and Martin Jones delivers an engrossing chapter on the 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' called 'Headcheese: Beyond Leatherface'. Wrapping things up is Nick Freeman's reminiscing about the last breaths of the British horror film (with coverage of two of my own favourites 'Death Line' and the underated 'Dracula AD 1972') and Andy Black's assessment of both 'The Sentinel' and Martino's 'Anti Christ'.
As I had mentioned at the beginning, 'Shocking Cinema of the Seventies' is not your usual typical film book affair - don't go expecting to learn anything new about any of the films productions. Although some chapters offer some insight into said movies the lean here is actually towards possible underlying themes of a political, racial or just theoretical nature. And it is with this in mind that will define whether or not this is essential reading for you. There will be those among you that watch genre movies and (perhaps rightly) view them purely as straight forward exploitation entertainment, as the ad campaign for 'Last House' said 'It's Only A Movie' after all? And if you fall into this category then this is probably not the book for you (hey, I'll even admit myself that Hunter's appraisal of Hammer's '7 Golden Vampires' as "a deliberate politically subversive reworking of imperialist myths" is head scratchingly bewildering?!) but if you enjoy having your enjoyment of this genre stimulated then 'Shocking Cinema of the Seventies' is a very satisfying and thought provoking read.
Some of the chapters are simply delightful reading (my own personal highlights being Mendik's Winner coverage and Jone's piece on the Chainsaw series) and be assured that if anything 'Shocking Cinema of the Seventies' will certainly make you think twice when rewatching the films discussed. This one should be on the reading list of every film production course - now discuss...
Hardback £18.99 - OUT NOW
Edited by Andy Black
Get those brain juices flowing again folks as Andy Black and the folk at Noir Publishing are out to mentally stimulate us once again with the latest edition of their (irregular but enthralling) fine genre book come somewhat-weighty magazine. And it is with great pleasure I can report that this latest edition shows that the Necronomicon series grows from strength to strength with this being likely their finest edition yet.
What is important to keep in mind that Necronomicon is not your usual sort of film book - where more often the case of such tomes is to plot a film and critique it, Necronomicon goes for a more stimulating outlook with essays on genre faves that are likely to be the grounds for interesting discussion around the fan scene. Don't be wary though, although Necronomicon takes a more 'enlightened' approach to the genre movie scene, it isn't a stuffy experience as there are plenty of light-hearted diversions that should keep most folks attention throughout.
That said, this latest edition opens quite heavily with 'Antonioni's Blow Up-An Existential Horror Film' but quickly brings you smiling back to earth with Andy Black's 'Snakes Alive', a look at the reptilian genre cinema! And that's the way things ride for the expanse of this fine book - there's coverage of 'Suspiria', the New Flesh workings of Cronenberg, a fun piece on 'Danger Diabolik', there's a fascinating interview with Kenneth Anger and a nice article on 'Venus in Furs' that actually has me wanting to check this (till now mostly avoided) Franco flick (well, Maria Rohm looks hot!)
'Necronomicon Book Four' hits the spot once again with stacks of very diverse great reading that is ideal late night fodder for any self respecting genre fan - check it out!
196 pages - £12.95 - OUT NOW
by Andy Black
A history of zombie films - from the black and white classics of the 30's and 40's right up to the gore classics of the eighties and beyond.
Here's one for all you zombie fans !! Andy Black's 'The Dead Walk' is an exhaustive tome of all things zombie cinema from the dawn of film-making, and what a great read it is too. Starting from scratch with an explanation of the origins of the zombie lore and voodoo, Black then slowly takes us by the hand through 'White Zombie' and all the related films (Universal, Hammer, the Italian gore schlockers) right up to present day in a both informative and wholly interesting read.
Unlike other po-faced genre writers, Black manages to avoid torturing the reader with endless theory and opinion (there's just too much going on informatively for him to find space for waffling on!!) 160 pages of in-depth undead reading, and fully illustrated throughout with some great (and rare) pics from a wide range of genre examples.
Nicely written and a great read all-round (I'm still picking it up on a regular basis for re-read entertainment). Fans of the zombie genre will enjoy this one a lot, even for the reminiscing value that it will indeed bring (and have you digging those old tapes out of the cupboard to watch again). Pick it up now !!
160 pages - £11.99 - OUT NOW
by Ratfink and Pete McKenna
Yeah, I know it's not a horror film book but who cares. In my younger days I was a fan of the goth band Alien Sex Fiend and when this one turned up at SGM I had to give it a read. The book follows the true-life misadventures of young Fiend fan Andy Wilson whose dreams come true when he gets to join his fave band Alien Sex Fiend, and it follows the effect it has on his life both as a musician and a family man.
Entertaining with many amusing anecdotes throughout, 'Once Upon...' should be welcomed by not only fans of the Fiends but anyone who has ever been in a struggling band in their younger days. There are many poignant moments in the book that will strike a chord with any struggling musician. And credit to Andy/Ratfink for managing to stay upbeat when it really does come across that he was in fact dealt a rough deal throughout this period, that said though he made sure he had a lot of fun along the way !!
The book's fully illustrated throughout with nice pics that will tickle any Fiend fan. Although maybe not the definitive rock and roll lifestyle book - it's more honest and real, 'Once Upon...' is a heartily recommended read.
104 pages - £11.99 - OUT NOW
edited by Andy Black
Andy Black's annual tome of all things horror reaches year three with great style. Stuffed to the guddles with a very diverse look at genre cinema including reviews and retrospective looks at gems like Wax Mask, Faceless, the Wicker Man, Les Frisson Des Vampires, Werner Herzog's Nosferatu and the Story of O (among others!)
There is also a look at the work of Mario Bava (Baron Blood/Lisa & the Devil) and the career of the stunningly sexy Soledad Miranda (Vampyros Lesbos/She Killed in Ecstasy).
Brian Yuzna also reveals all in a great interview where he discusses everything from Re-animator to future projects like Dagon.
Loads of intelligent and fascinating reading for die-hard fans of the horror scene.
192 pages with loads of great stills for only £12.95 - Recommended !!
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