PREVIOUSLY OUT-OF-PRINT AND NOW BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND: 101 HORROR MOVIES YOU MUST SEE BEFORE YOU DIE.
Who owns the book 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die? What’s on the cover? If it’s a photo of Linda Blair from The Exorcist, the book is now obsolete! It ends its chronological look at the movies editor Steven Jay Schneider has compiled with 1999’s The Blair Witch Project. Now it’s seven years later, that volume is out of print, and there are 12 new modern classics that are part of the list in an updated volume featuring a photo of Jack Nicholson from The Shining on the cover.
The book, available from Apple Press and distributed by Quarto Publishing, claims to be “a whirlwind tour of the best and most influential films that have gripped audiences and filmmakers alike since the very beginning of cinema.” It’s definitely a whirlwind when two pages for each movie are devoted to full-sized photos and the book covers 101 movies in 416 pages. (There may be more than 101 movies; I don’t know if some dropped off the list. With no table of contents, I didn’t count them.)
What can you expect on the two pages for each film that contain text? I flipped through the book, landing on page 173, Night of the Living Dead. The header lists the title, year, country and major credits: Director, Producers, Screenplay, Cinematography and Cast. I then found my magnifying glass to read the left-hand ¾ of the page that has content. (The book is 4 ¾” by 6” in size.) The lower part of the last ¼ of the page contains a comment in bold about the photo on the opposite page.
The first paragraph tells a brief history of the movie: its production and its reception. The second paragraph, which continues on page 174, reveals the bare bones plot and some critical comments by the article’s author, Philippe Met. (There are roughly 40 contributors to the book, including Schneider.) The third paragraph discusses the impact and social relevance of Night of the Living Dead, concluding with a spoiler about the end of the movie. Dividing the page is a quote in large font.
Obviously, it’s not a comprehensive reference book. For me, it’s fun to see a list of horror movies that someone thinks everyone must watch in our lifetimes. Do I agree with the entire list? Of course not. On the other hand, have I seen all the movies? Again, of course not. So it’s a resource I will casually use to discover new films to watch, as if I need help finding new films to watch. By the way, what the hell is Viy, 1967, from the Soviet Union?
As my previous question indicates, 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die offers a distinctly international angle. I believe the book originates in England; Apple Press is a British company and the price on the back cover is printed in pounds instead of dollars. That may be why, of the 12 new movies included, only three are from the United States. And what are those American gems? The Sixth Sense (1999), Saw (2004) and It Follows (2014).
Whether you must see those movies is up to you. Schneider thinks you should see them, though. I like this “little” book. I like its design and its layout. For me, it does a good job of summarizing a movie and explaining why it belongs on the list. It’s probably not intended for hard-core horror historians, but it’s nevertheless a must-have for their libraries. Its value lies instead in what it can offer the casual viewer and at least 101 horror movies to which it can expose them.
Note: Also available from Apple Press and Quarto Publishing is an updated version of 101 Sci-Fi Movies You Must See Before You Die, also edited by Steven Jay Schneider. I did not receive a copy for review, but I assume my thoughts about it would be similar. Both paperbacks have a cover price of $14.95 and can be found online at Barnes and Noble.