As an avid but casual movie fan I rarely read books that dissect movies.
My worry is that by over analysing something I really enjoy - in this case movies - I fear it may strip that thing of its magic and escapism, the two things that keep me returning to the cinema week after week. For this reason, I was apprehensive about reviewing a book that was dissecting a genre favourite of mine, the horror genre.
The book Anatomy of Fear does indeed analyse the horror genre but as a result is all the better for it. Upon reading, after I was a few chapters into the book, one of the first things it caused me to do was to revisit previously viewed movies and view them again, identifying the possible subtext and symbolism I had not previously picked up on with previous viewings.
I suspect other readers will also do the next thing I did, which was to focus my attention on the chapters that included the writers/directors of movies I have previously enjoyed. It is fascinating to read what made the writers, directors and producers tick, what childhood experiences sculpted them, their inherent own personal fears and events throughout their own life and movie experiences that moulded their imagination and development.
However, to only focus on the movies you’ve seen and enjoyed would be to miss the salient point of the book. What this book does is open your eyes to other writers and directors whose movies you may have missed, or indeed purposely overlooked, previously. The book assisted me in understanding the differing types of fear that can affect your viewing and enjoyment of the horror genre. I have never been a fan of slasher horror movies, but now I recognise that this is more due to me not relating to pragmatic fear, representative fear, but being more enthralled by the fear of fear, namely the anticipation of fear and the idea of being afraid.
It becomes quite clear when reading The Anatomy of Fear that almost every movie, whether successful or a critical flop, was borne out of a battle of huge compromises. The depressing pressure of politics and finance paint a depressing future for the horror genre. The increased power and meddling of media and movie executives, who are reluctant to take risks or push originality, is very worrying.
Regarding those interviewed for the book, it does unfortunately have a couple of glaring omissions of some of the premier heavyweight horror writers and directors in history and of this generation, which is a real shame.
Nevertheless, what is included are many fascinating discussions on movie endings that never were, compromises and battles with marketing executives that sometimes inadvertently moulded a movie in ways that none of them ever expected, often for the worst but sometimes for the better.
Small criticisms aside, The Anatomy of Fear is a fascinating read. It is an interesting insight into the imagination, influences, politics and compromises involved throughout the creation of many of our beloved horror movies throughout the generations.
The Anatomy is released September 15th from NorLights Press. More details at www.theanatomyoffear.com
By Clint Magnum