A copy of Aaron Christensen’s Hidden Horror: A Celebration of 101 Underrated and Overlooked Fright Flicks arrived on my doorstep, and was devoured no sooner than you could say “cinephile”.
This is a fantastic compendium of genre titles that I guarantee will have even the most seasoned horror fan reaching for his to-watch list. I know I have at least a dozen newly discovered flicks to track down now. I also wager that you’ll turn a page and say, “oh, I remember that; that WAS a good movie” aloud on several occasions, as was the case for me with titles like Night Warning, Razorback, Frailty and Isolation. The films covered span almost the entire history of horror cinema, starting with 1920's The Penalty through to 2008's Eden Lake.
There are several reasons this was a joy to read, but the most prominent was the range of pundits that Christensen assembled for the project. Hidden Horror features published writers, professors, bloggers and filmmakers, thus the styles ran the gamut from academic to conversational. Even though each contributor had his own voice, I was delighted to see that so many of these short essays started with some form of the phrase, “I remember the first time I ever saw…”
This infers a shared experience among all horror fans, which explains why some reviews in particular rang especially true to me. I, like J. Nelson Smith, discovered The Legend of Hell House by way of the band Skinny Puppy’s liberal use of sampling. I had the same problem as Steve De Roover tracking down Maniac when I was finally old enough to watch it due to its sudden scarcity in my suburban universe. I echo Charley Sherman’s sentiments in discovering just how disproportionate Kill, Baby… Kill’s (and Mario Bava in general) influence was/is in relation to its popularity.
I was also glad to see that not only were three solid Canadian films represented here (The Changeling, Curtains & Pin), but they were also being championed by non-Canucks! It warms my heart (especially hard to do during this shitshow of a winter) to know that our genre efforts are making it beyond The Great White North.
In addition to the titles that I’ll be looking up, there are also a scant few I may revisit due to some very compelling arguments from their trumpeters. When I watched Let Sleeping Corpses Lie and The Signal during the last decade, I recall being disappointed, but it is possible that the factors (the redundancy & pace of the former and the fractured tone of the latter) may not be so problematic several years on. I really am impressed with this book overall, as I only outright disagreed with two titles out of the whole book. That’s a stellar average, folks!
Hidden Horror is akin to visiting a video store manned by one-hundred-and-one enthusiastic employees. You may not know what you want going in, but you’re certain to leave with an armful of cinematic gems.