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STAY OUT OF THE SHOWER--THE SHOCKER FILM PHENOMENON
By
WILLIAM SCHOELL (Robinson Publishing; 1985)

Those wanting an overview of the “shocker” movies that followed Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO could certainly do worse than read this book.  Written by an accomplished novelist, it’s lively and readable, with a wealth of background information on the many films it discusses.  It’s also quite dated, having been published in 1985, and overly negative in its outlook. 

     William Schoell begins the book with a lengthy discussion of the filming of PSYCHO, its monster success at the box office and the considerable furor it ignited.  From there followed William Castle’s outrageous gimmick fests, Dario Argento and Brian DePalma’s legendary psychofilms, William Friedkin’s CRUISING, THE EVIL DEAD, THE TEXAS CHIANSAW MASSACRE and quite a few miscellaneous splatter fests.  Schoell’s wealth of knowledge about these films is impressive, considering that back in the eighties they weren’t nearly as readily available as they are today. 

     Of course Schoell has very definite opinions about his subject matter, and its here that the book runs into trouble.  I can certainly appreciate a discerning point of view, but Schoell is downright crabby.  In his eyes THE EXORCIST is “a rather tedious movie,” JAWS is “cold blooded and distasteful,” VIDEODROME is “likeable but pretentious” and THE SHINING is “tedious.”  NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was apparently “more frightening by reputation than it is in reality” and DAWN OF THE DEAD “overhyped,” while HALLOWEEN was “bloodless and pedestrian.”  

     Clearly this is far from the best resource on shocker/splatter cinema.  For me that award goes to Chas. Balun’s HORROR HOLOCAUST and its sequel; both volumes are distinguished by a sense of real enthusiasm about their subject matter, something STAY OUT OF THE SHOWER sorely lacks.
 


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