Review Index

CHAS. BALUN (Fantasma Books; 2003)

The most recent book by one of my favorite horror movie commentators.  Chas Balun, who’s best known as the editor of DEEP RED magazine and creator of the Gore Score rating system, put out the original HORROR HOLOCAUST, a heavily illustrated large format paperback, back in 1986.  It remains a spirited and enjoyable--if extremely dated--overview of the horror/gore movie scene, with special emphasis placed on THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (which Chas convincingly argues kicked off the slasher film cycle) and RE-ANIMATOR (Chas’s pick as “the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE of the eighties”).

     This new version appeared in 2003, a full seventeen years after the original.  It’s a much thicker book overall (253 pages as opposed to the first book’s 96), and has a more contemporary focus.  I prefer HORROR HOLOCAUST 1, with its leanness and fanboy sense of enthusiasm, but you’ll likely have a difficult time finding that book.  BEYOND HORROR HOLOCAUST is more obtainable, and, needless to add, far more up to date.

     As in the original HORROR HOLOCAUST, it begins with a tribute to the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, although this time it shares the spotlight with Wes Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFTI SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is also covered in this opening chapter, which concludes with an anticipatory rave for Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES.  There’s also a welcome trashing of the SCREAM films, courtesy of a quote by Zombie: “I hate that shit with a passion.  It’s a bunch of teeny-bopper crap meant to sell more tacos at Taco Bell.”

     By this point the tone is set.  BEYOND HORROR HOLOCAUST is a rollicking, opinionated, staunchly fan-centered survey.  While it may be more cynical and world-weary than its predecessor, Chas Balun remains every bit the profane, unapologetically splat-happy horror enthusiast he was back in 1986. 

     You may disagree with Chas’s opinions but can’t fault his knowledge: the man knows the horror movie scene inside and out.  There are knowledgeable entries on genre standbys like THE EVIL DEAD, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, HELLRAISER and the aforementioned RE-ANIMATOR, but also more obscure titles like EVIL CLUTCH, THE SUPERNATURALS, PREMUTOS: LORD OF THE DEAD, and AFTER DEATH (which apparently delivers “Exactly what one would expect from scientists trying to cure cancer on a remote island and conjuring zombies instead”). 

     He’s also careful to single out some really shitty movies, including the awful Tom Savini-directed NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake and the German VIOLENT SHIT, an aptly titled film in every sense, and “a stellar, yet stinking, example of splatter fandom run amok.”  Chas also responds to Stephen King’s infamous (false) quote about Clive Barker being the “future of horror”: “He is not, was not and never will be.”  Well said!

     The black and white photographic illustrations (courtesy of HOLLYWOOD BOOK AND POSTER’S Eric Caidin) are voluminous, often taking up entire pages.  Featured are quite a few revealing images from the films Chas discusses, including a set of stills from RE-ANIMATOR that concretely visualize the infamous “Giving Head” sequence.  There are many more fun illustrations, of course, along with plenty of solid writing, in a volume that makes for an excellent introduction to Chas Balun, but is also ideal for anyone in the mood for a good read.