Taboo Breakers (2008)
By: CJ on December 2, 2008  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
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Author: Calum Waddell
Publisher: Telos Publishing
Pages: 300
Writing a genre book is never going to be an easy task – for one thing you're writing about a niche area of film for a relatively small audience, and with so many genre books out there it's a hard job to bring something fresh to the table. Thankfully, Calum Waddell manages to do just this – a fresh perspective on 18 independent genre films that changed the face of cinema. The book covers quite an eclectic mix of films and the author casts his critical eye over some movies that you might not expect to encounter in a book such as this – I was quite surprised to see Behind the Green Door covered in such detail, but it has to be acknowledged as a genre film of sorts and is quite unlike any other porn film you may have seen, so I agree that it has a rightful place in this book.

The book itself is nicely laid out, divided into 18 chapters with a selection of colour stills at the centre. Each chapter offers a detailed look at the film in question followed by an interview or two with principle cast or crew members. Many of the films covered contain incendiary material, which is the nature of a taboo breaking film, and the author never shies away from this – sometimes, as in the case of the unsimulated animal violence in Cannibal Holocaust, even damning the practises whilst still retaining a good perspective on things. The book is intelligently written and it's obvious a lot of care and attention has gone into this. Calum manages to write enthusiastically without gushing and also avoids the pitfall of being dryly academic, which would make for a dull read.

For those interested, the films covered are: Blood Feast, Night of the Living Dead, Behind the Green Door, Fritz the Cat, The Tenderness of Wolves, Coffy, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Ilsa – She-Wolf of the SS, Candy Tangerine Man, Halloween, Cannibal Holocaust, Maniac, Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, The Plague Dogs, The Evil Dead, House of 1000 Corpses, Oldboy and Hostel. As you can see there's a wide range of movies covered and each one has been meticulously researched, turning up lots of interesting facts and placing the films within their proper historical context. The writing is never forced and Calum is certainly an authority on his chosen subject. Equally impressive are the people he's tracked down and interviewed – as good a writer as Calum is, it's always nice to hear from the participants themselves, who are able to shed light on the films and their production from a first-hand perspective. Everyone from Jack Hill to Ruggero Deodato get to talk about the films that have generated so much controversy down through the years. Some of these cinematic offerings still court controversy to this very day whilst others, which may have caused a storm in their day, now seem rather tame by modern standards.

All-in-all this is a fine book, well written and full of good information on these groundbreaking movies –  I don't want to give too much away and spoil the fun, though, but suffice to say I learnt a lot of stuff I didn't know before and I've been reading about films for over 30 years! Calum obviously has a deep love of film – but he is also not blind to the shortcomings of some of these films, but writes with respect and is only critical where it is warranted. He's passionate about his chosen subject and it shows on every page of this fantastic work. I can't recommend this highly enough and it is worthy of a place in every film fan's book collection.

The book should be freely available from online retailers, so go grab yourself a copy.
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