In the introduction to “The Horror of it All,” author Adam Rockoff admits he’s attempting to do for horror films what Chuck Klosterman did so expertly with his debut book “Fargo Rock City” for heavy metal music: provide a combination memoir / detailed analysis of a favored … and here’s a word that Rockoff detests … “genre.” And I’m happy to say that Rockoff’s book is the equal to Klosterman’s brilliant and immensely entertaining debut book. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of horror films or not, “The Horror of it All” is an incredibly fun and thought-provoking read. I don’t agree with all of Rockoff’s assertions here (though to be fair, I haven’t been much of a horror fan since the 1980s), but you don’t have to be a horror fan to groove on the depth and passion with which Rockoff discusses horror films and American culture. And while you may disagree vehemently with what he has to say, the man undoubtedly knows his s–t and can talk about it in a way that kept me riveted for its nearly 300 pages.
Yes, horror fans may find a lot to quibble with here, since Rockoff gives contrary views of such horror classics as “The Exorcist,” “Alien,” and “Halloween.” Film snobs may disregard Rockoff’s serious discussion of films like “My Bloody Valentine” and “The Burning.” But I welcome a sincere and intelligent discussion of any film, especially if I think a particular film is crap (mainly because I’m one of the worst offenders of rushing to judgment on most topics). One of the highlights of “Horror of it All” is a chapter that takes down Siskel & Ebert’s legendary condemnation of slasher films, point by point, as if Rockoff is Jim Garrison analyzing the Zapruder film of J.F.K.’s assassination. Also welcome is his objective analysis of the clumsy marriage of heavy metal and horror films, as well as the P.M.R.C. hearings of the mid-1980s. Rockoff actually made me feel sympathy for Tipper Gore for the first time, even though he obviously disagrees with her position.
There’s a lot to chew on here, but if you have an open mind and a good sense of humor, this is a marvelous and very smart critical look at horror films. Dave says check it out!