When it comes to documentaries on the horror genre, it’s difficult to determine how it will be accepted by the horror fans; often depends both on the topic and who incorporates the talking heads on the production. Over the countless years there’s been a few of these, some might recall The Horror Show , to the very classic Terror in the Aisle  hosted by Donald Pleasance and the ultra-rare Creepy Classics  which featured Vincent Price, this one was available at Hallmark stores only. However, of recent there’s been Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror , Demon House , and Cursed Films , hence appealing the fans hungry for recapturing and learning about past gems and glories of the beloved genre. Roth makes sure to keep the memories alive, which welcomes in ever changing trends, and new filmmakers incorporate their own experiences a twist on previous well-known subgenres. He successfully brings the actors and directors of the films, but doesn’t ignore all-important cinematographers, screenwriters, and film historians in a 6-episode series which aired on AMC for the first season and has now expanded to 19 shows spanning 3-seasons.
This documentary covered six topic episodes among them is ghosts, demons, slashers (this one has a double episode), vampires, creatures, and zombies. Among each of the segments had wonderful key guests, who had studied the movies for their social, psychological and at times both political and theological subtle themes. Roth generated well-paced episodes making sure not to gloss over the mainstays in the horror genre but equally providing details to the lesser-known creations regardless and there was a balance from the critical aspects to deep analytical. While the glimpses of the selected films fill up the runtime the episodes take the time to cover films properly noting directing and writing styles that properly reflect the era, they were made in rather than applying today’s standard or morality to then, never overlooking the blips in the genre, including the pre-code work of both Thirteen Women  and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger . I shall give some highlights of few of the segments, but it’s really something one needs to invest the time to discover for themselves. The episode Creatures, noted three eco-horror movies, this also known as ‘animals attack’ or ‘nature/ environmental’ were The Birds , Jaws , and Cujo  they also rattled off many others; it was good to see they touch on areas of the horror genre often omitted when discussing creatures/monsters. The chat over zombie films was nice that they included the early concept, ‘voodoo’ which was White Zombie  that starred Bela Lugosi and then spent an enormous amount of time on stellar Night of the Living Dead  with scholars tearing apart on feeding on Dawn of the Dead  and how these movies influenced the culture of undead films. Roth even had Edgar Wright speak about his film Shaun of the Dead  and then author Max Brooks speaking on the subject. Eli thoroughly enjoyed the Ghosts episode by exciting clamoring over sinister and suspense in Robert Wise’s classic The Haunting , especially noting the banging on the walls and bending of the door, very advanced and unnerving on the audiences. In addition, they note the silent film Haxan  and other incredible movies The Uninvited  and The Innocents . Slasher movies, which after all is big portion of most horror fans steady diet of intake, as previously mentioned received two episodes, it likely still wasn’t enough time, a subject which hopefully revisited perhaps broken down by decade or by country. They discuss how the popularity is roaring with many teenage boys but has an increased level of interest from girls of the same age-group, a refreshing trend. The analysis portion stayed away from criticizing the movies and rather focused on the filmmakers’ intentions but made sure to note the gore factors and body counts. As mentioned, there’s plenty of horror icons throughout the series including a rare interview with Stephen King, and of course Jamie Lee Curtis relating how her role in Halloween  formed women powerful character development and how her mother Janet Leigh starred in legendary shocker Psycho .
The documentary unlikely to inform most diehard horrors of new insights or kernels of information regarding their favorites, however, for those that enjoy a more scattered shot across the entire genre, there’re many interesting individuals incorporated into the show segments, all presented in gothic or creepy backlit scenes. The production values are all stellar and perfect sound always a must-need especially in these talkative segments, allowing a free exchange of ideas, concepts, and suggestions of how the horror genre creates its own drama. There’s a bonus disc included in the Blu-ray version, that contains extended interviews, a sampling of them includes Stephen King, Roger Corman, and Joe Dante, then a few very brief topics, among them how “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” influenced Tarantino and “How Video Games resurrected Zombie Movies”.
First, this History of Horror series is a wonderful blast, covering quite a bit in the 13-mini shows, reminds this reviewer of the series hosted by Christopher Lee entitled 100 Years of Horror  which had more shows 26 of them in a similar vein, however this feature from Roth’s plunges the butcher knife deeper and exposes more graphic details about the horror creations. One may wonder how much further one could tread in this series, simply there’s plenty more corpses to uncovered and do full autopsies of more sub-gernes. Overall, this documentary serves as a fine starting place for those interested in discovering more about the genre, than just the basics.
- Every scream tells a story.
IMDb Rating: 8.1/10
Baron’s Rating: 8.5/10