MY FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE is and it isn’t exactly what it says on the front cover. Yes, it’s a collection of 48 essays — some shorter than others — helmed by Christian Ackerman about memorable horror films from the eyes of those who are horror industry insiders.
That said: every. single. one. of these films are films they watched as youths.
These are all tales of pre-teen or teen experience, and there’s a surprising number of overlap. While HALLOWEEN, THE EXORCIST, Romero’s original DEAD trilogy, and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE are all represented multiple times, there are a handful of lesser-known films in there, such as the MST3k-featured classic DEVIL DOLL and THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Also, JAWS — not necessarily a film one thinks of as a horror classic but more of a thriller — repeatedly pops up.
These are all films that spurred an infatuation with horror in their pre-teen brains, films that would lead them towards a career in what is arguably one of the most unfairly least-respected genres.
Some essays are more astute and passionate than others, especially a paean to THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, while others feel almost perfunctory and penned out of obligation. There’s one essay that I will not name that is very obviously the author trolling the audience in a very distasteful way.
While reading this, I was wondering what my favorite horror film would be. Unlike everyone else in this collection, I didn’t latch onto modern horror until my mid/late teens, and even then they were not exactly the films you’d expect: GOTHIC, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES, GINGER SNAPS, WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE, etc. That said, I was and still am a devoted Universal horror fan, especially of James Whale’s work.
However, while I have a handful of rotating favorite dramatic films ever which include Kieslowski’s BLUE and Peter Greenaway’s THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER (arguably a horror film), I simply can’t choose a favorite horror film. Perhaps THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Maybe TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME. Possibly GREMLINS 2, or another sequel: FINAL DESTINATION 2. Tempted to note NIGHT OF THE COMET. However, none of these films — apart from perhaps FIRE WALK WITH ME — had the seismic impact that these essayists felt when watching their favorite horror movie.
Consequently, I feel like I’m missing out a bit. Even though I am a hardcore horror fan, I came about the genre late-in-life. Also? For many personal reasons, I am not a fan of slashers, which consist of most of the creatives’ selections. And that’s fine! Horror is a surprisingly personal genre — hence this collection — and the fear these works instill hit different people in different ways. (For example: see MEN, WOMEN AND CHAINSAWS as well as the collection of essays in LAURA’S GHOST.)
I will note that one major recurring theme throughout these essays is how much these horror creatives and fans appreciate humor in their works. From THE EVIL DEAD to CREEPSHOW to PUPPET MASTER, folks love laughs with their thrills. Why shouldn’t they? Every great work — horror or otherwise — leans on humor and jokes to take a bit of the sting out of all of the shit that is going on around them. It may consist of slapstick, absurd situations, or barbed quips, but every piece should make you laugh at least once.
Yes, this is a qualified recommendation. The insiders are pretty tightly-knit — there are a lot of folks who have been involved with FANGORIA and you see a lot of the same production credits as you go through the work — but almost everyone’s heart here is in the right place, and their effusive love for their favorite films is absolutely infectious. I’ll never tire of hearing people pontificate about what they love and why they love it, and MY FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE certainly exemplifies that sort of glee.
MY FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE Vol. 1 is available here, and there are two more volumes, of which I’m sure I’ll get to sooner rather than later.