GOT TWO EXCITING BOOKS for the "LARB Halloween Roundup" I was supposed to write — Monsters in the Movies by John Landis and Dark Stars Rising by Shade Rupe — and amazingly, they made me think.
I've written horror scripts, a book about horror, appeared in horror films, and have enjoyed a lifetime of imagining and collecting, but suddenly, now, I'm wondering: why am I so excited to get two more books? Just what is it with me and Horror?
And then, suddenly, I got sad. Sad! First thinking, and then sadness? Seriously? I should've let it go, but I couldn't. I rushed in. Jumped, really.
What follows is what I came up with. It's part review. Part exhumation.
First, the books. Dark Stars Rising is an anthology of 25 years of interviews, a series of "conversations from the outer realms," quite literally, now that some of Shade Rupe's early subjects, like Divine and Chas Balun, have long since died. Rupe persevered at the extreme edges of film and art journalism, and finally got this gorgeous paperback in print. His interviews with fellow margin dwellers like Jim (Deadbeat at Dawn) Vanbebber and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (of Throbbing Gristle), are funny and fawning, and well worth a look. If Alejandro Jodorowsky (who directed El Topo and stranger things) and Tura Satana (of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Astro-Zombies fame) are your bag, it's a treat.
Landis' book is also loving, but it's big, glossy and Hollywood-centric. A true fanboy and former director enfant terrible, Landis, at 21, years before making his great American Werewolf in London, debuted with Schlock, a monster monkey comedy he also wrote and starred in. (It's pretty witty.) With Monsters in the Movies, he has produced a granddaddy-of-them-all tome for your coffee table, with hundreds of wonderful photos, softball interviews with other filmmakers, and pithy captions loaded with juicy bits and trivia. The text is pedestrian and laundry listy, but it's a very fun stroll through a genre he obviously adores.
As I greedily pored through these two volumes, making notes, I remembered how important books like these were to me as a kid. Through our moving, Dad losing his job, my parents divorcing, getting hit by a car, Mom coming out of the closet, and that fucking babysitter, the books were, oh, only the most important things in my life. Horror movies, monster movies, gross stuff that was mine alone and got a big reaction whenever I shared any of it.
Ironic was that while I loved the books, they were about movies that were completely and totallyunattainable. Hard to believe but in the pre-digital age, you could not see these movies. You had to dare death by hitchhiking alone to revival houses, or pray for a re-release that might find its way to your town, or stay up until 3 am to catch Karloff's Frankenstein because recording off the TV hadn't been invented yet. In other words, these films only existed for me in my books — a few powerful images, bits of tantalizing story, shreds of trivia about the making or the makers. They hinted at a future full of dark seductive masterpieces, but more than that they promised a whole world of art and creative people OUT THE...