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Cinema Macabre

edited by Mark Morris

introduction by Jonathon Ross

(PS Publishing, £25, 233 pages, signed (by Mark Morris), numbered, limited edition hardback; also available as signed (by Mark Morris and all fifty-two contributors), numbered, limited edition slipcased hardback priced £75, published March 2006.)

Review by John Toon

cover scanAccording to Mark Morris' foreword, Cinema Macabre arose from a conversation in a bar, and that's more or less what the book feels like: a series of conversations in a bar. Fifty writers, critics and film-makers sit down opposite you and recommend their favourite horror film to you. It's not (nor is it intended to be) a "Top 50" list of horror films, definitive or otherwise, but simply fifty people trying to persuade you to watch this great film they've seen.

If you're a film-literate horror fan, perhaps Cinema Macabre will make you rethink your own favourites and consider neglected films in a new light. If you're not, perhaps it will give you a few starting points. There's something in here for everyone: psychological thrillers, orgies of gore, excursions into surrealism. Some of the contributors want to point out hidden meanings to you; some just want to share a visceral thrill or two. The diverse nature of the book does lead to some oddities, though. There's an unfortunate juxtaposition in having Simon Pegg (championing Dawn of the Dead) wax lyrical about the political subtexts of Night of the Living Dead, when Mark Samuels has earlier denied that it has any. Meanwhile, Jo Fletcher demonstrates (successfully) how the musical Carousel is actually a nightmare vision of family abuse.

(Perhaps now is a good time for me to mention The Wizard of Oz. Oh yes, those Munchkins are up to something. Just look at the jerking knees of the Lollipop Guild, and their scowling faces; somebody's getting a savage kicking just out of shot there...)

Plenty to think about here. Cinema Macabre is a great book to dip into, and a valuable resource for the curious. Worth keeping next to the TV -- but possibly not on your bedside table...

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