Shadow Play: Philosophy and Psychology of the Modern Horror Film (Book)

Shadow Play:  Philosophy and Psychology of the Modern Horror FilmWritten by Willy Greer

Published by Midnight Marquee Press

Welcome to Willy Greer’s corner of horror and cult cinema adoration. His newly published book Shadow Play offers an appealing page flipping experience for the die-hard horror fan. To a lesser extent, Shadow Play a personal memoir from adolescence into adulthood, with Greer offering up some of the turning points in his life that cemented his love for the genre.

More significantly, Shadow Play is a review/critique compilation of new and old genre flicks Greer has taken a special interest in over the years, filtered through Greer’s assertion that being into scary movies has a complex and meaningful psychological significance. Summed up, it’s a horror review tome served up with more personal insight and rationale than your typical detached compilation of film and video reviews.

Mr. Greer contends that being into this horror stuff is a potentially therapeutic pursuit that may even hold the key to unexpected positive influences in our world. The title of the book refers to some Carl Jung palaver about ignoring or avoiding that which you fear at your peril, for a great, malevolent shadow will emerge and dog you for your mortal existence as a result. Greer adheres to this philosophy throughout the presentation of this book and makes an entertaining case for how he rationalizes his genre fixations.

Enough about that. Shadow Play is not just a philosophy book for horror fans. For the most part, it’s actually a damn fine little compendium of notorious and noteworthy genre films, some well known, others more obscure, spanning the ages of obscure VHS trash to modern Cineplex mass audience horror. As a reference tome, it would make a worthy, unique add-on to your cross-reference stash, those books you pull and hit the dog eared pages to find more info or perspective on a horror film of interest. My copy of Shadow Play now sits on my shelf alongside Kim Newman’s Nightmare Movies (still the ultimate in my opinion), Stephen Thrower’s Nightmare USA, Chas Balun’s The Gore Score, and L.A. Morse’s Video Trash & Treasures 1&2.

Greer’s book might not be anywhere near as dense in terms of content as some of those books, but it’s got a cool selection and probably at least a handful of films you’ll want to see after reading it if you’re not the ultra-completist who has seen every version of every thing yet (from Greer’s critique, I am now compelled to check out this trashy ’78 flick Alien Prey, among several other new and older titles I missed or skipped for whatever reason).

And it’s a point-of-view book, so you’ll have your own preferences coloring your reading experience. I found myself raising a confused eyebrow at some of Greer’s assertions (like his suggestion that 28 Days Later is somehow on par with the original TCM as a grueling viewing experience) and thinking “Damn straight!” at other observations of his (like Greer’s thoughtful inclusion of a significant non-horror flick like Irreversible, or his noting of Chas Balun’s odd, rather inexplicable meltdown over Nacho Cerda’s Aftermath). Basically, reading this book is a lot like discussing genre favorites and trends with a cool, articulate fellow fan over some cold ones, with all the expectedly passionate and preferential arguments in tow.

I should mention – in this book, Greer reports something I found myself shaking my head in disbelief over. He gets into some uncomfortable personal details here and there in his reviews and critiques, one of which is him deciding watch Aftermath, Aftermath: Genesis, Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood, and Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, one after the other in sequence, under circumstances that I can say with 100% certainty that I would never, ever venture to try myself.

If you want to read more about fighting shadows the Willy Greer way, grab a copy at your preferred bookseller stocking specialized genre content, or hit up the source at Midnight Marquee Press or even on Facebook.

4 out of 5

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.