A disappointment. The subject of ultraviolet cinema is a compelling one, especially for horror fans, and this 1996 publication (revised four years later) profiles many of the ultraviolent movies that have been released since the late 1960s. Yet the book ultimately falls far short for a variety of reasons.
For starters its overall scope is too broad and scattershot. Author Laurent Bourzereau is fine as long as he sticks with the likes of BONNIE AND CLYDE and THE WILD BUNCH, the films that, together with A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, STRAW DOGS and THE GODFATHER, brought extreme violence into the mainstream. Bourzereau gets into trouble, alas, when in the final hundred pages he broadens his focus to include horror movies. It’s clear that Bourzereau is well versed in the films of Coppola, Peckinpah, De Palma, etc (which makes sense, as Bourzereau helmed several DVD interview segments with many of them), but his knowledge of genre cinema is evidently a bit shaky.
The book in my view is particularly conspicuous for what it leaves out. Bourzereau covers genre essentials like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH and HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, but mentions equally important genre items like THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and THE EXORCIST only in passing, while CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, SUSPIRIA and ZOMBIE aren’t brought up at all.
To make matters worse, toward the end of the book Bourzereau profiles the notorious Belgian import MAN BITES DOG, making one wonder why equally controversial foreign sickies like NEKROMANTIK and RIKKI-OH aren’t also covered. For that matter, the greymarket VHS underground that thrived during the time of this book’s initial publication, and which focused largely on ultraviolent movies, might have made for an interesting topic but of course isn’t mentioned.
Another complaint I have is that Bourzereau’s analyses aren’t especially deep or probing overall. On the question of whether violent movies should be censored, Bourzereau says only that “the function of these movies is to remind us that violence surrounds us and should not be ignored,” and then moves on. On the mechanics of horror filmmaking we get a quote from producer/director Sean S. Cunningham helpfully claiming “What’s really important in a film is a story.” On whether onscreen carnage can promote real life violence, Bourzereau opines that (quoting BOULEVARD NIGHTS star Richard Yniguez) there are “unfortunately always people waiting to pick a fight, anyway.”
I’m certain a good book stands to be written on the subject of ultraviolet movies, but this isn’t it!