McFarland & Company are making slasher movie fans everywhere happy with...Going to Pieces *NEW*
The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978-1986
by Adam Rockoff
Films books are a strange thing, many times they are written about topics that only fans of the topic would want to read, which makes sense. But more times than not they seem to be written by people who really have no interest in the topic, or have an intense hatred for the topic they are writing about. A few years ago I read a book on the film BIRTH OF A NATION. I understand that the film is a bit on the controversial side. O.K., maybe A LOT on the controversial side, but still, if you write a book as large as this thing is, on one film, I expect some positive word about the film. I was hoping that there was going to be some history on the film. But nope, the whole thing was a study on the racial doings of the film and how wrong the film was. I was rather upset and confused. If you dislike something so much, why on earth would you want to dedicate so much time to it?
I obviously am not the only person who feels this way about film books. Adam Rockoff says in his intro to GOING TO PIECES that part of his reason for writing his book was that nobody that had written anything on the topic of Slasher films had any real love for the films, or any knowledge. He has the same complaints that I have read many times about film books, erroneous info, too judgmental of a film type that is not meant to be GONE WITH THE WIND, and just plain poor writing. So he wrote a book, but how does it stack up against all the books on the topic? Well, one thing in his favor is that there just aren't that many on the topic, surprisingly. But even if there was a multitude of Slasher books out there, GOING TO PIECES remains a book that must be read, just for the love of the films that pours through.
The book kicks off with your standard intro, but right away you get the feel for Mr. Rockoff's enjoyment of the genre. His story is familiar, as we have read it all before. But this time, instead of his talking about the love he had reading FAMOUS MONSTERS and watching Universal, he is thrilled to say that he grew up on FANGORIA and GOREZONE, much as I myself did. It isn't the late night T.V. spook host that he idolizes for his love, but rather the infancy of cable and the wonderful early days of video rental with those old wonderful covers. He gives those of us who were in our teens in the 80's a little nostalgia, and we know we are being talked to by one of our own kind. That is just what a book like this needs, a person who remembers these films as those people such as David Skal remember the old Universal films, a writer with a serious love, but a kick of the old nostalgia.
After this wonderful intro, the author slides into his definition of the Slasher film. As with any persons definitions of something such as this, there is room for argument. Minor quibbles can be made for some of the opinions on what exactly the killer is made up of, or for what the "Final Girl" is all about, but as a whole we are given a wonderful overview on what exactly a Slasher Film is all about, and Mr. Rockoff makes it impossible to argue over the full blown picture that he gives us.
From there we make a stop at the "Pre-History Of The Slasher Film". This section is probably the best thing I have read in a couple of years. The chapter deals with the worlds fascination of the weird and grotesque. Diving in-depth into the history of Frances Grand Guignol, I kept wishing that the author would just forget about the history of the Slasher film and tell me more about this history! Well researched and well written, this chapter was a surprise to have in the book and kept me thoroughly intrigued.
Also within the "Pre-history" chapter we are given info on the films leading up to our modern Slasher/ Films such as PSYCHO, PEEPING TOM, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and the many Giallo films of the 60's to early 70's get mention, plus when possible, back ground info.
From there on out we are into the history of the Slasher film that we all know and love. Dipping into the histories of the genre with a beginning point of HALLOWEEN. This is an area that some may argue, as films such as BLACK CHRISTMAS, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and WHEN A STRANGER CALLS are not considered to be the real beginning of the genre, as they are considered to being the inspirations. This is a minor point and would only make for a disagreement between people who all love the films. This is hardly a complaint worth having, and the author still gives up plenty of info on the films that started it all.
Throughout the whole book Mr. Rockoff gives interesting tidbits and histories to the films, plus interview bits. We are taken through the history of the films up until when they started to die out, then we jump up to the new wave of films, and surprisingly we are confided in my the author as he tells us he rather enjoys these new films! Something not too many will ever have the guts to admit.
If I had one complaint about the book, it would have to be that the author does talk down to the films he speaks of. If a film is a great film, in his opinion, he will give history and facts about it, but if tit is a film that he doesn't like much, he will brush past it so fast that it is almost not even worth mentioning the film at all. If these films would have been treated with the same care as the ones that he loves, then this book would have been without a doubt the most essential book on the genre, and possibly the most essential for many years to come. But as is, with these omissions, it makes you realize that somebody might be able to better this book.
With that final slight complaint though, make no mistakes about it, this is the book that fans of the genre have been awaiting, a book that loves the films as much as the fans do. Between this book and Justin Kerwell's HYSTERIA site, the fans of the Slasher film have two invaluable resources to cherish!
Review by Carl Isonhart
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