Review: Horror Movie Freak by Don Sumner

Review written by Jess Peacock
(Note: Reprinted from Rue Morgue Magazine)

After reading Horror Movie Freak, one cannot help but wonder whether author Don Sumner is aiming at creating a primer for budding scary movie newbies, or making a definitive statement on essential horror viewing for those who consider themselves aficionados of the genre. Formulated as a pseudo-reference text, Horror Movie Freak categorizes movies into various broad sub-categories such as Classics, Evil From Hell, Supernatural Thrillers, and Aberrations of Nature, the last of which loses some credibility at the inclusion of the blatant Jaws rip-off Grizzly.

After an elementary introductory essay entitled Why We Love Horror Movies, which cribs the rules of surviving a fright flick straight from Wes Craven’s Scream, Sumner writes, “Horror Movie Freak is not a listing of ‘best’ horror movies, but rather a collection of ones that fall into a variety of horror subgenres with the simple inclusion criteria that they don’t suck.” Unfortunately, what sucks and what excels can be a tricky road to travel, subject to the tastes and predilections of the viewer. Does James Wan’s mediocre Dead Silence or 2003’s clich├ęd Darkness Falls really rate above the criminally omitted Guillermo del Toro ghost story The Devil’s Backbone or John Carpenter’s classic The Fog (the remake, by the way, gets a nod in the book)?

Toward the end of Horror Movie Freak, Sumner shakes things up a little by looking at the trend of remakes (featuring The Omen, Thirteen Ghosts, and Pulse), pays tribute to the genre’s Scream Queens, and creates a list of ten movies one should watch before October 31st, of which inexplicably includes Bob Clark’s yuletide themed Black Christmas.

Ultimately, Horror Movie Freak fails to satisfyingly flesh out any of the films it highlights with interesting facts, anecdotes, or trivia, which will undoubtedly leave the majority of advanced terror fans wanting. However, with its easily digestible plot synopsis of each featured movie, as well as an abundance of stills, quotes, and marketing materials littering the two-hundred and fifty plus pages, Horror Movie Freak could easily succeed as that Intro to Horror class you’ve always been hoping to enroll your significant other in.