Ginger Nuts of Horror
The subtitle for this essay collection is ‘Slashers, Rape/Revenge, Women in Prison, Zombies and other Exploitation Dreck’. So, you know, fair warning; the essays cover some fairly extreme ground, and Berlatsky doesn't shy away from engaging with the subject matter fully. That said, unlike some of the source material, there’s nothing puerile or prurient about the content of this book; this is an intelligent, insightful dive into exploitation cinema.
It’s also not without humour. Berlatsky frequently make me grin, and occasionally chuckle, with a particularly well turned phrase or riff. Given the density and depth of the analysis on offer in this book, that was both no mean feat and especially welcome. Because on the whole, this is deeply intelligent and genuinely insightful writing; the kind that assumes a base level of intelligence and literacy (both in the reading and movie watching scene) on the part of the reader, and moves forward from there.
In doing so, it builds of the seminal texts of this genre of criticism - Men, Women and Chainsaws by Carol J Clover, most obviously - which Berlatsky references frequently, often using a concept expressed there as a springboard for his own musings. I also found enjoyable the unapologetic love that the writer has for his subject matter - without in any way attempting to minimise or excuse the deeply problematic content of this movie genre, he nonetheless manages to launch not merely an apologia or defence, but a full throated appreciation of this often marginalised and frowned upon cinematic form.
That for me is the considerable strength of this collection: Berlatsky’s ability to engage with intelligence, flair and love with ‘trash’ cinema, and in the process not merely transmit that love but also explain the important, even vital role such work plays in the wider context of horror cinema, and the culture in general. It was a pleasure to read, and I will be following his future work with a keen interest.
PS - Noah is partially funding future ebook and essay series via Patreon, with rewards including early access to essays and free copies of ebooks in advance of publication, depending on pledge level. For more details, pelase see https://www.patreon.com/noahberlatsky