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Nightmare Movies

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Kim Newman
Publication Date: 
Bottom Line: 

Sometime back in the late 1980’s I got my hands on an import copy of Kim Newman’s Nightmare Movies – A Critical History of the Horror Film, 1968-1988. This in-depth tome was the first serious critical analysis of horror cinema that I’d read to that point, and forever changed the way I watched horror films from then on. Unlike the majority of horror cinema books of its era – mostly glossy hardcover coffee table books, filled with gruesome photographs but little by way of meaningful content - Newman’s Nightmare Movies read like a series of well-thought out theses, each focusing on a particular stage in the genre’s evolution from the 1960’s onward. With the original long out of print, Newman’s seminal volume has been updated by the author and re-released by Bloomsbury Press under its new title, Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960’s. 

Clocking in at 633 pages (more than twice the page count of the original!), this massive book landed on my doorstep with a thud a few days back and I’ve not been able to put it down since. Those who’ve already had the pleasure to read (and re-read) Newman’s original edition will be happy to discover that, while the actual writing hasn’t been changed, the whole of the original text has been exhaustively footnoted, with Newman offering updated observations, changes of heart, or, in some cases, flat out apologies. 

The book is also now broken into two sections; the original work, covering 1968 to 1988, and an entirely new section that focuses on the film’s made since the first edition of Nightmare Movies was published nearly a quarter of a century ago.  Here, Newman offers a tremendous amount of insight into the revitalization of the slasher, zombie, and vampire genres, the Asian horror invasion, the birth of torture porn, and much more.

Nightmare Movies is about as comprehensive as one could imagine given the breadth of the subject, but, that being said, there are a few films and directors who are only touched upon when, in my personal opinion, they deserve a bit more attention. Odds are, if he doesn't give your favorite film or director the love you think they deserve, you'll at least find a selection of suggested reading as well as links to many popular websites (save this one, sadly! Grrrrr…) tin one of the books appendices that will lead you to a source that will!  

If you’re at all serious about horror cinema, consider this new edition of Kim Newman’s Nightmare Movies essential reading. This is much more than just a history of the genre; it’s the sort of book that will have you watching and re-watching films with an entirely new appreciation for the craft. Highest possible recommendation! 

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