I still cannot believe in less than 24 hours I will be seeing John Carpenter perform his music from his movies LIVE in NYC (the show is already SOLD OUT). When I got the first soundtrack to his music back in the early 80s (HALLOWEEN), I would have never thought it possible. But it is tomorrow night. All of us in New York City area are in for a massive cinematic musical treat! Can’t wait.
by David Konow
St. Martin’s Griffin – 2012
$18.99, 608 pages
I’m a lifelong fan of horror films. I’ve read too many books to count and watched thousands of scary movies. So when I went to start reading this written literary work I was looking forward to it, but I didn’t expect much. When something covers the entire genre from start to present day is usually too general in nature to really make a dent with me, but boy was I wrong about this essay.
What I like most about Reel Terror is David Konow’s conversational writing style. The man definitely knows his horror history and is able to share countless fascinating stories about films and the people who made them. The second best thing about this tome is that Konow writes about how the movies were made rather than reviewing the films.
I heard quite a few things about many of the horror classics that hadn’t before and the way Konow tells it, made me not want to put the book down.
I really appreciated the amount of time and attention given to movies like THE EXORCIST. There were quite a few instances where quotes from Father O’Malley (who served as an advisor on the film) and the man responsible for the marketing of the film had me laughing hysterically.
There are chapters on; TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, JAWS, CARRIE, THE OMEN, HALLOWEEN, DAWN OF THE DEAD, PHANTASM, ALIEN, THE FOG, FRIDAY THE 13TH, THE EVIL DEAD, RE-ANIMATOR, SCREAM, THE SIXTH SENSE to name just a few, which are all just simply stellar reading. Konow is able to connect us to the people behind the films, rather than just being a glorified studio press kit. I think it makes the stories more intimate and brings the people behind the movies closer. He cuts the veneer of the normal corporate B.S. out of the loop.
To tell you the truth Reel Terror is one of the best books of its kind. If I could only recommend one paperback for you to pick up this Halloween or even the rest of this year, it would absolutely be Reel Terror.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Scream Queen
by David Grove
Bear Manor Media – 2010
$32.95, 510 pages
Author David Grove puts his powerful magnifying glass over Jamie Lee Curtis’ career between 1978 and 1982 to focus on her scream queen years. This was a glorious period of time where the actress used her talent and considerable charm to make five horror films and a suspense-thriller.
Grove not only hones in on Curtis, but provides the most comprehensive literature I’ve read about the making of Halloween, The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train, Road Games and Halloween II. Thank goodness he did this because I was more than interested about all of them.
Reading about Jamie Lee Curtis’ upbringing shed light into her somewhat fragile psyche during her teenage years. Not only was she the daughter of a famous Hollywood couple (Janet Leigh & Tony Curtis) but she was self conscious of her gray colored, crooked teeth. Because of this she never felt beautiful like her mother and felt out of place in high school. Plus she did not have a close relationship with her father, which certainly left an emotional void in her heart.
But of her emotional make-up and her unconventional good looks actually contributed immensely to her break-through role as Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s Halloween. It’s kind of like the movie god shun its light down upon this little production with a cine-magic combination of new star, rest of the cast, hard-working talented crew and a visionary director. John Carpenter was looking to make a cinematic mark. Debra Hill contributed greatly to the screenplay and was perfect at overseeing the production. The charismatic cast spotlighted Jamie Lee and Donald Pleasance, but PJ Soles, Nancy Loomis and Nick Castle’s performance as “The Boogeyman” were just as important. Add Charles Bornstein & Tommy Lee Wallace’s ace editing and a music score that’s recognized the world-over and you have one of the all-time great films. Groves takes us back to when Halloween was put together. You get to experience principal photography by the shooting schedule, with cast & crew comments along the way.
You would think that being in a film as financially successful and critically acclaimed as Halloween would have had Hollywood knocking on Jamie Lee Curtis’ door. But that didn’t happen. The first film she was offered was to re-team with John Carpenter & Debra Hill for The Fog. Curtis really liked how the role of Elizabeth Solley was different than Laurie Strode and that she would get the chance to work with her mother, though they only share one scene.
Grove tells how Curtis actually sought out the role in Prom Night. This makes sense and was actually a smart move because she didn’t have anything going and it afforded her the opportunity to work out of the country in Canada.
I thoroughly enjoyed Grove’s detailed coverage on how Terror Train was made. Jamie Lee made it shortly after finishing Prom Night. It was great hearing about how they made the film in Montreal, Canada with first-time director Roger Spottiswoode.
The author describes how Road Games was the actress’ first step at breaking away from the scream queen roles she had been playing. He tells how she enjoyed going down under to film in Australia, even though there was a local backlash towards her after the producers of that film had Curtis replace the original Australian actress for the role. Jamie Lee enjoyed working with director Richard Franklin (who was friends with John Carpenter at from their USC days) enough that they who later discussed about possibly doing Psycho II together, but both ultimately decided against it.
Even thought Curtis wanted desperately to make a clean break from being a scream queen, she did Halloween II because she felt she owed it to Carpenter & Hill for giving her a career. Plus she felt responsible to play Laurie Strode for all the fans. Little did she or anyone else know it would be the last time that she would work with John Carpenter & Debra Hill.
Grove does talk about the television work Jamie Lee did before Halloween and the roles she would perform after Halloween II, but really it’s her scream queen years that are rightfully this book’s focus.
If you have any affinity for Jamie Lee Curtis and her scream queen films, you will be thrilled with the wealth of information this book provides. For those who aren’t familiar, this tome will educate you about the best scream queen to ever grace the screen.
Through David Grove’s intricate research and massive scale interviews, he’s put together the puzzle pieces of how these movies were made over three decades ago. He spends a considerable amount of time detailing the making of each movie and for this reason; this book is worth the price of admission. Since Halloween is my favorite film, while reading the many pages about that masterpiece film had me glued to this book and gave me great satisfaction.
Because the way the movie climate has chanced, I doubt we will ever see another actress take away the crown Jamie Lee Curtis will forever own as Scream Queen.