Probably the number one question I get asked in life (besides "Yo, Eddy, what the hell is on that sandwich?") is "What's your favorite horror film?" My knee-jerk response is, of course, Halloween -- I'm obsessed with John Carpenter, Donald Pleasence is nothing but fun to watch, and though I have the entire movie memorized, I never, ever get bored of it.
"The evil is gone from here!"
But every once in awhile -- even at this time of year, when all's I wanna do is mainline candy corn and park my ass at every dang midnite-movie spook show in town, and god bless San Francisco, there's a living-dead army of 'em -- I get the urge to raid my bookshelf for some supplementary reading. Bios of horror filmmakers have always been a favorite. Read one with a gruesome enough cover and you just might discourage that fellow Muni rider from leering at you from across the aisle (no promises, though).
Making Mischief: The Cult Films of Pete Walker
by Steve Chibnall (FAB Press)
Self-financed filmmaker Pete Walker is underappreciated and largely unknown outside of cult-cinema circles. Making Mischief calls him "British cinema's closest equivalent to Russ Meyer," probably because he made raunchy pictures like 1970's Cool it Carol (released in the United States as The Dirtiest Girl I Ever Met -- whee!) The book takes a close look at each of Walker's films, with copious black-and-white photographs hinting at the lurid pleasures to be experienced by anyone watching, say, 1974's House of Whipcord. Walker's greatest triumph was probably 1974's Frightmare ("It's more than a bad dream!") about a particularly nasty family o' killers. Hey, what's scarier than an old lady with a power drill? How about a hungry old lady with a power drill?
How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime
by Roger Corman with Jim Jerome (Da Capo Press)
This chatty first-person autobiography is sprinkled with recollections from those who worked with and for the legendary independent filmmaker and producer, including Francis Ford Coppola and Jack Nicholson. Corman ("Bloody Mama is still one of my favorite films") makes good on the book's title, detailing his quickie, low-budget experiences on the sets of films that not only turned a profit, but also became cult favorites (The Little Shop of Horrors, The Student Nurses, The Terror).
The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Andy Milligan
by Jimmy McDonough (Chicago Review Press)
Okay, Andy Milligan (The Filthy Five, Torture Dungeon) was more of a sexplotation director than a horror filmmaker -- imagine a sleazier John Waters, and you're nearly there. McDonough's bio is fascinating, disturbing, and intimate (he befriended the late Milligan and shares personal tales here), and I can't think of a better way to get to know the guy behind one of my all-time favorite titles in the history of cinema: The Werewolves Are Coming! The Rats Are Here!
Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr.
by Rudolph Grey (Feral House)
This is the bio that inspired Tim Burton's dreamily nostalgic look at "the worst filmmaker of all time." The book is way more downbeat but no less entertaining. Dolores Fuller, Bunny Breckenridge, Maila "Vampira" Nurmi, Loretta King -- gang's all here for first-person accounts of filming Wood's earnest and woebegotten would-be masterpieces: Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster, and the immortal Plan 9 From Outer Space. Highly recommended.