Written by Chas. Balun
Published by Fantasma Books
Splattered with an air of sensationalism across the back cover of Chas. Balun’s latest glorified look at decades of cinematic grue are a number of blurbs praising Balun for his unflinching perspective. The king of splatter, they say. The Howard Stern of splatter. A leading cult hero! These proclamations arrive lovingly from the likes of Fangoria’s Tony Timpone, the Los Angeles Times (huh?), and the late Lucio Fulci; there’s even a dash of Jack Ketchum verbiage to spice things up as well. Industry notables with acclaims such as these appear to have elevated Balun as the genre’s leading, most provocative critic. Fair enough. The man wears his passion on a blood encrusted sleeve. However, I prefer to liken Balun as the archetypal voice of the fan. A conductor of undiluted enthusiasm for all things shocking, cannibalistic, viscera-drenched, and simply terrifying. Geek chic meets hardcore horror omniscience. To say the man knows his stuff is an understatement. His veteran status in horror is demonstrable in the blood, sweat, and even more blood he’s injected into editing the splatter rag Deep Red, his past scribblings in Fangoria and Gorezone, and his inspired art that’s appeared in numerous publications and emblazoned on the chest of Rotten Cotton’s tees.
Beyond Horror Holocaust: A Deeper Shade of Red finds Balun’s macabre musings potent as ever and continuing where they left off in the original Horror Holocaust and the hilariously opinionated Gore Score series. Balun abandons Score‘s video guide-friendly format (in which plot descriptions are limited to a scant few sentences) for six meaty chapters that sharply focus on a bevy of themes: homeland horrors, Italian gorefests, buried treasures, “chunkblowers,” zombies (natch), and, those particular individuals who push the genre boundaries in bold new directions. These chapters never amass to a single unified beast of criticism and facts – similar to what you might find in other tomes that thrust the genre under the magnifying lens of theoretical analysis and a single key viewpoint. Instead, Holocaust is a collection of essays that serve as independent assessments of the aforementioned themes and their often painful, mostly entertaining, metamorphosis throughout the decades.
Balun casts his fishnet deep into the cinematic cesspool and divvies up his findings into their own collective basket. Last House on the Left, I Spit On Your Grave, House on the Edge of the Park, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Twitch of the Death Nerve, and other films that set brutal acts of violence right in your back yard become the subject for a chapter entitled “Hell Comes to Your House”. Elsewhere, Zombie Holocaust, Romero’s Dead trilogy, Maniac Cop 3 (“…Robert Z’Dar as the avenging Porker from Hell is one freaky-lookin’ mo’fo…”), Dead Alive, Night of the Creeps, and any reel of celluloid featuring an ounce of re-animated corroded flesh is instantly eligible for Holocaust‘s look at the ever-growing fascination with the undead in the aptly titled “Dawn of the Zombies”. Nature-run-amok films, necrophilia, rabid grannies, and all-around gut churners each find their respective place amongst Balun’s sharp, ecstatic ramblings and plot summaries too. If available, he sees to it that alternative titles are acknowledged, the year in which they were released is noted, the unkind cuts that may have befell a certain picture are flagged, and just about any other palatable facts Balun has kept on ice in the meat locker of his brain that are ready for thawing and our immediate consumption.
But with so much information and forthright opinion bound in such a slender reference guide, does it all go down smoothly? It agreed with me. Balun is a one-of-a-kind scribe whose references and thoughts are as frenzied and crudely colorful as they are hilarious; and often they paint a mental picture as barf-inducing as the scenes he describes (I submit to you “a man fellating a severed deer hoof”!). To further aid in the visual process, Holocaust is also loaded with black & white stills and poster art that’ll satiate the gorehounds with single, sometimes double, full-page spreads.
You might find Balun repeating himself throughout this read and you may disagree with his take on certain films (he’s overly harsh on Army of Darkness), but Holocaust is immediately going to appeal to the hardcore enthusiasts, the gore connoisseurs, and the fright freaks. You know, guys and gals just like us; and that attraction is there because Balun is one of us.
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