If you're a horror fan with movie review books like The Psychotronic Video Guide or Slimetime on your bookshelves, consider making space for Bleeding Skull . Drawn from a website of the same name , it compiles write-ups of 300 trash-horrors.
It’s tightly focussed: all the films featured were made or released in the '80s, and the majority are incredibly obscure. In this book, directors like Ruggero Deodato or Joe D’Amato count as big names, outnumbered by technically incompetent enthusiasts knocking out SOV (shot on video) movies in places like Arizona, Denver and Michigan. Most stink, but Joseph Ziemba and Dan Budnik try their damnedest to find the entertainment value – however fleeting - in everything. References to Eric Rohmer and constructivist photomontage indicate that these are smart guys slumming it.
The book's online origins are evident in the style – first person, highly subjective, and proudly “unprofessional”. The writers are more likely to tell you anecdotes about their childhood or discuss how many times they fell asleep while watching than provide context - or make moral judgements (it seems like a depressingly high number of these films involve rape). A good deal of knowledge is assumed on the part of the reader, too (a sentence like “Think of it as an extreme gore version of Dungeon Of Harrow ” isn’t much use if you’ve never heard of Dungeon Of Harrow …). The book might have benefited from a few side-panels on fringe filmmakers, and a little editing for accessibility.
Amusing lists of outlandish ingredients (“Phones exploding into piles of butter. A pair of Spandex jeans. Breasts flopping in the dark”) recur. This becomes formulaic after a while, but the staccato style helps keep synopsis to a minimum, and Ziemba and Budnik’s wanton indiscipline is matched by their knack for a zinger (“On the seventh day, God rested. On the eighth day, Jesus Franco made a slasher. It was a very good week.”/“To call this film insane would be an understatement. Unless you’re wearing a thong while saying it”) The design is excellent, using degraded poster images and blown-up screengrabs to emulate the scuzzy feel of a Xeroxed punk zine.
Whether you’ll get much practical benefit from the book depends largely on whether - like the authors - masochism is one of your main movie-selection criteria, and whether you approach ham-fisted slasher flicks as a species of outsider art. Even obscurer-than-thou horror freaks may conclude that while it’s good someone took it upon themselves to document this sleazy hinterland, it's not territory they wish to explore further themselves.
Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman