Pop culture history meets blood-soaked memoir as Adam Rockoff, “a passionate fan of the horror genre in all its forms,” (The New York Times) recalls a life spent watching blockbuster slasher films, cult classics, and everything in between.
Horror films have simultaneously captivated and terrified audiences for generations, racking up millions of dollars at the box office and infusing our nightmares with chainsaws, goblins, and blood-spattered machetes. Today’s hottest television shows feature classic horror elements, from marauding zombies and sexy vampires to myriad incarnations of the devil himself. Yet the horror genre and its controversial offshoots continue to occupy a nebulous space in our critical dialogue. The Horror of It All is a memoir from the front lines of the horror industry that dissects (and occasionally defends) the massively popular phenomenon of scary movies.
Author Adam Rockoff delivers “the sharpest pop culture criticism you’ll find in any medium today,” (Rue Morgue) as he traces the highs and lows of the genre through the lens of his own obsessive fandom, which began in the horror aisles of his childhood video store and continued with a steady diet of cable trash. From the convergence of horror and heavy metal, to Siskel and Ebert’s crusade against the slasher flick, to the legacy of the Scream franchise, and the behind-the-scenes work of horror directors and make-up artists, Rockoff mines the rich history of the genre, braiding critical analysis with his own firsthand experiences as a horror writer and producer. Filled with mordant wit and sharp insight, The Horror of It All “is an amiable and often amusing guide” (Kirkus Reviews) that explains why horror films not only endure, but continue to prosper. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Seasoned horror film critic and filmmaker Rockoff (Going to Pieces) attempts to analyze the genre's high and low points in this series of personal essays that, taken as a whole, is not entirely effective. His book hops back and forth between the author's autobiography and his perspective on horror films (along with heavy metal and other related art forms). These chapters often have little relation with one another, but they can nevertheless be entertaining, as seen in Rockoff's point-by-point breakdown of the 1980s PMRC congressional hearings over "explicit content" in various media. Rockoff's stated purpose is to provide criticism by way of the "collective unconscious," as though his own experiences are representative of the vast majority of horror buffs. However, given that most of his opinions on various films are contrary to prevailing sentiment as made abundantly clear in his objections to the "Horror Commandments" it seems that Rockoff doesn't represent most horror fans, and his knowledge is too deep and his references are too obscure to appeal to the average moviegoer. Without a satisfactory thesis, Rockoff's prose, though amusing, feels directionless.