Even bloodthirsty know-it-alls will unearth fresh meat — and titles worth revisiting — in Hidden Horror: A Celebration of 101 Underrated and Overlooked Fright Flicks (Kitley’s Krypt, 312 pp., $17.95). Edited by Chicago-based blogger and actor Aaron “Dr. AC” Christensen (Horror 101: The A-List of Horror Films and Monster Movies), the book contains enthusiastic essays by 101 different authors, including scribes from Fangoria, Rue Morgue, and HorrorHound magazines.
Topics include cult classics like Phantom of the Paradise (1974); black-and-white picks like 1932’s The Old Dark House; foreign films (1963’s Matango); under-the-radar recent fare (2007’s The Signal); and obscurities worthy of more love (1979’s Tourist Trap). Plus, there’s an intro from director and genre advocate William Lustig (whose 1980 Maniac is one of the book’s subjects), who writes that he hopes the book will guide younger fans away from the mainstream and into “deeper, choppier waters.” I got Dr. AC on the horn to talk about this creepy, fun, and informative read.
SF Bay Guardian There are a ton of film guides out there. What’s different about your books?
Aaron Christensen For Horror 101, which came out in 2007, my initial idea was to do a book called Horror U, with, like, your freshman class of horror films, then each year up to grad school, with really obscure stuff. The problem is that it’s an inverted pyramid; you have your must-see films like Dracula (1931) and The Exorcist (1973), but as you advance in your “studies,” you keep finding more and more obscure horror films that you’ve never heard of. So [the first book] is the basics that you should see if you want to consider yourself a well-rounded horror fan. From there, you should be able to get an idea of what your taste is, what you like. It was my feeble attempt at a public service!
It seemed like it resonated with a lot of people, because it was written by fans and it had a lot of love for these films, as opposed to just critical assessments of them. We were talking about doing a companion piece almost immediately after the first book came out.
The fun of putting Horror 101 together was getting all these different people’s opinions, styles, and voices into one book — and as a result of that book, I’d met even more [writers to contribute to the follow-up]. I think the best thing you can offer any horror fans is the opportunity to talk about a movie that they love that nobody else talks about. For Horror 101, I picked the movies. For Hidden Horror, I basically opened it up to the floor: Tell me the movie you want to celebrate.
SFBG “Celebrate” is key — most of the essays are written from a personal perspective.
AC They’re telling you, “This is what I love about this movie, and why I think you might enjoy it as well, fellow horror fan.” I love all the different stories that come out. The guy who wrote about The Eye (2002) mentions watching Jaws (1975) in a never-ending loop in this little theater in England. That’s not a story I could ever tell!
SFBG Did you have any specific criteria?
AC It couldn’t be one that was commonplace. It couldn’t be Saw (2004), or Friday the 13th (1980). Some were suggested that I thought were fairly well-known, like The Hills Have Eyes (1977), and I was like, “Really?” So that became the job of the writer, to sell me on why it belonged in the book.
I think it’s as subjective as everyone’s opinions. There are some movies in the book that I’m not necessarily a fan of. But that’s not what the book’s about. If I wanted to just talk about the 101 movies that I think are great, that’s the book I would have written. This is an opportunity to highlight the variety of the genre, and of fandom in general. *