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The Making of Horror Movies (ePub)

Key Figures who Established the Genre

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Film, Media & Television P&S History > Social History

By Jennifer Selway
Imprint: White Owl
File Size: 4.3 MB (.epub)
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526774712
Published: 7th May 2021


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Horror films divide opinion. It wasn’t until 1973 that a horror film (The Exorcist) was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture and many respected critics still regard them with amused condescension. The public’s view is also sharply divided. Some cinema goers revel in the thought of being made very, very afraid, while some just don’t like horror films because they don’t want to be frightened.

This guide, which is for both the fan and the more faint-hearted, steers an illuminating path through a genre that has, since the early days of cinema, split off into many sub-divisions - folk horror, slasher movies, Hammer, sci-fi horror, psychological thrillers, zombie movies, among others.

Times change but movie-makers can always find a way to tap into what we fear and dread, whether it’s blood-sucking vampires or radioactive mutations, evil children or the living dead.

This book also gives concise biographies of the many actors and directors who saw their careers – for better or worse – defined by their association with horror movies, and who created a genre that is instantly recognisable in all its forms and continues to find new and ingenious ways of scaring us in the dark.

I absolutely love films and thought this would be a great book to read as horror is a genre I don't know a huge amount about.
Each chapter is focused on a different horror film creator and discusses them as well as the films they created.
The book is a fascinating read and really gets into depth about each person and the impact they have had on the industry, with the last chapter talking about the question 'Do you actually like Horror films?', which is an intriguing question to end the book on.
I would highly recommend this book if you are into horror films, but also if you are interested in films in general and don't know much about this genre, as you will definitely learn more about it and find something of interest inside.

For the Love of Books

As featured in the article: HOW WE HUNGER FOR HORROR

International Express

As featured in the article: How we hunger for horror

Sunday Express

The Making of Horror Movies works great as an introduction to horror genre in films. As a person who loves horror movies (and horror as a genre itself) I had to read this book!
Selway's essay format makes the reading pretty much straighforward. You can tell the author did her research but not only she provides organized information but she also includes anecdotes that adds an entertaining element to the book.

We get to know a lot of details about the directors and actors who participate in different horror movies. For example: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, John Carpenter, among others. And there are plenty references so you can navigate trough the different chapters easily. I recommend this book to anyone who likes horror movies and has an interest in the film industry.

NetGalley, Karen Aban

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I found this book utterly fascinating. I think it's important to pay attention to the subtitle: Key Figures Who Established the Genre. This is not a book about actually *making* horror movies, though you will find a slew of interesting anecdotes, this is a book about the *people* making the movies.

The book includes eighteen chapters, bookended by and introduction and Afterword, and each of those chapters focuses on a different influential figure - actors, directors, producers - in the horror film genre.

The chapters cover:

Tod Browning
Bela Lugosi
Lon Chaney and Lon Chaney Jr
Boris Karloff
FW Murnau
James Whale
Elsa Lanchester
Val Lewton
Terence Fisher
Vincent Price
Peter Cushing
Nigel Kneale
Christopher Lee
Roger Corman
Roman Polanski
Ingrid Pitt
Michael Reeves
John Carpenter

Each chapter acts as a mini-biography, telling all about each person from childhood through their working years and (in most cases), all the way to their deaths. Such a group of heavy-drinking, chain-smoking, adulterous, brilliant, troubled, loved, hated, praised, condemned, and genuinely fascinating people have never been gathered together.

This one is a great read for anyone who loves horror films, from Murnau's Nosferatu all the way up through modern twenty-first century slashers. Lots of truly interesting information here and I certainly learned a thing or two.

NetGalley, Heather Miller

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Loved this book, I love the making of the movies and am a big fan of horror movies. This was a great read and was really well researched and a fun read.

NetGalley, Kay McLeer

It was quite interesting that each chapter looked at a particular actor or director who would explain what/why and their reason for doing various roles and movies. The book includes some of the classic actors such as Bela Lagosi, Christopher Lee, Boris Kaloff and Vincent Price to mention just a few stars. I would recommend this to anyone who likes to get further into their film subjects.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book was very interesting and I loved learning about the people behind the horror movies. This is perfect for those who love horror movies from classic black and whites to now. I will definitely getting a physical copy of this book as soon as I can.

NetGalley, Elizabeth Neill

As featured in

The Sunday Express 23/05/21

4 Stars!
As a fan of the horror genre in general, I found this to be an interesting look at the people behind some of the best horror films ever made. I truly enjoyed learning about the people behind my favorite movies and their contributions within the genre. I may have happily added a dozen or so movies to my "To Watch List".

NetGalley, Tracy Ritter

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic and insightful. I’m currently starting a podcast about the history of genres in horror and this helped my research immensely. Selway is passionate about horror and it shows, which helped the book move along with ease. Overall, I have nothing but absolute praise for this title. I hope to get a hard copy soon to add to my collection.

NetGalley, Insha Fitzpatrick

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Making of Horror Movies: Key Figures Who Established the Genre by Jennifer Selway was quite the pleasant surprise. I love watching horror movies and it's always fun to jump into the classics, so this non-fiction who's who was pretty cool. It offers biographical information on the big names of the genre from actors to behind the scenes figures and discusses their movies. I've definitely added some new to me movies to my watchlist and am thinking of rewatching some of my favorites. On that note, I particularly enjoyed reading the sections on Vincent Price (one of my favorite classic actors), Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee. I appreciated the discussion on Cushing and Lee in [Horror of] Dracula (1958) as it's probably my favorite Dracula movie. You can't go wrong with Cushing as Van Helsing and Lee as Dracula. I also was pleased to see John Carpenter got a section in this book too, even Escape From New York which is my second favorite movie from that director. I never really looked at it as horror until now, but Selway really made the case for it. Overall, the author held my attention with this book. Even though I already knew a good deal of the information she presents, it was still a lot of fun to see all in one place. I'm going to have to look into some of the books in the she referenced in the bibliography. If you're interested in horror movies at all, I highly recommend this book.

NetGalley, Lauren Stoolfire

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

While not strictly a biography, the book includes a ton of biographical information about the actors and directors it includes. It isn’t purely a watchers’ guide to the horror films that it focuses on, it does include a lot on synopsis-style information about the films and how they were made. From Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Cheney Jr. of the classic Universal horror movies of the 1930s and 40s to Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing of the Hammer horror films of the early 60s to Vincent Price of Roger Corman’s AIP films based on the fiction and poetry of Edgar Allen Poe, there is plenty of material that will appeal to fans of all types of “classic” horror.

I gave The Making of Horror Movies five stars on Goodreads. It will appeal to anyone with any interest whatsoever in horror films.

NetGalley, Chris Owens

This author I had never heard of, yet the fellow on the book cover is familiar to me, and probably you. Horror movies are a large part of many of our lives. These movies make up 70-80% of all movies I watch, so this book interested me for many reasons. The book is basically short biographies of horror movie actors over the years. Some I had never heard of.. If you, or someone you buy books for has an interest in horror movies and the participants in those moves, give this book a read.

4 Stars

NetGalley, Jeffrey Wells

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Oh, God, where do I start? Maybe for the fact that I have FIVE PAGES of manuscript notes taken, and a list of 27 MOVIES to watch. I considered myself a horror movie fan, but the fact that I wasn’t familiar with the work of Tod Browning changed everything.
I loved this book from the start; I loved how it’s not about MOVIES but about the PEOPLE BEHIND THEM, and how the author manages to chain a spectacular list of directors, producers, actors, actresses and writers, giving us not biographies per se but notes and details about their lives that makes us understand more about where they come from and, by doing so, how they landed on the horror genre and what they added to it.
The book made me laugh, and I even teared up a bit on some parts. The author’s love for the horror genre is palpable in every page, and I wish they wouldn’t stop at Carpenter’s work: I need to know more about Selway’s opinion about contemporary horror (she gives us some pointers and talks even about Peele’s work, but it’s in an after-note and I need MORE).
The book also made me think about the lack of woman in the industry. My, oh my, we need to change that. After all, as Bela Lugosi said, “it is women who love horror” –
Overall, I must read for any fan of the genre and of the cinema in general, really. Pioneers, rule-breakers & rule-setter, the horror movies gave us all, and we all can feel inspired by this.

NetGalley, bel Riddle

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is such a wonderful and nostalgic book. I read through this book thinking about the old monsters of my childhood that starred in the saturday shocker movie afternoons. The history was very interesting. I would recommend this book.

NetGalley, Annalisa Alberti

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A well thought out and sensitively written text, it does not shy away from the darker sides of the individuals and I learnt a lot I didn't already know. I would recommend this to any horror fan as I think it provides and adds a unique perspective to many peoples collections of horror film memorabilia or knowledge of the genre.

NetGalley, Lorna Vianna

This book brings back the golden age of horror movies to a new generation. It can never be reinvented too many times. You are taken into the private lives of the actors and directors who found one horror movie could change their lives forever. It really brings alive what these actors went though to bring the new development of groundbreaking makeup effects. The story takes you through the Golden age of Hammer studios where budget did not stop enjoyment of these quick turned out films. Many stars who started their careers in horror are still household names to this day. I found it a very enjoyable time reflecting back though the films of my youth and would recommend trying for yourselves.

NetGalley, Charlotte Pawson

Jennifer Selway takes some of the most important leading figures in horror cinema and details how each of them got into the horror genre. From actors, directors, producers and writers, Selway has grouped a stunning mini-biography of artists such as Vincent Price, Christoper Lee, Peter Cushing, Val Lewton, Roger Corman, Nigel Kneale and Elsa Lanchester to name just a few. I found this to be a fantastic book on film but also it would make a must for any horror film fan looking to see how the genre found its feet through the artists and innovators who were there at the beginning.

NetGalley, Darren Jackson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The thing is as much as I love a good scary movie, I admit to not having watched enough classics. They don’t always date well for me. But this book has certainly stirred my interest in them. And I’m delighted to think, once I actually get to rounding out this cinematic love of mine, I’ll be in the know about who’s who and the lives of individuals behind the scenes and the screams. And, considerately enough, the author tells you just enough about the movies to rouse your appetite without giving away too much, so that you can still be surprised, frightened and awed as originally intended by all those featured in this book.
Great read, informative, erudite and engaging. An absolute must for genre fans. Recommended.

NetGalley, Mia D

I love horror movies and found this book very interesting and easy to read.

NetGalley, Shelly Myers

I think the author did a good job of getting the information compiled in a readable and engaging fashion. The recovered English major that I am, I was thrilled to see proper citing of sources, et all. Way too often I see nonfiction materials for a variety of audiences that fail to do so.

A History of the Undead is a well written and researched introduction to the evolution of mummies, zombies, and vampires in western cultures, entertainment, and media.

NetGalley, Sharon Tyler

'The making of horror movies' delves into the key players in creating the genre. The origins of horror movies and how they have expanded and continued to influence the movies we see today. This book was so well researched and easily digestible, with short chapters keeping the reader engaged. I really enjoyed this one and would love to read a follow up with more recent horror movies explored!

NetGalley, Kendal Boyle

Recommended for those who love horror as well as those who enjoy reading about those who make film of any kind. This is an endearing look at the people in the genre, and thus the genre through that lens.

NetGalley, Jack Messer

This book is very well researched and you can tell this just from the content, the author has done a very good job. The book is very informative and contains all the information required to learn about the films, actors, directors, sets etc. Definitely a worthwhile read for anyone who enjoys horror, non-fiction and how films are made.

NetGalley, Chloe Bateman

I really enjoyed this book. Some of the actors I was familiar with, some I was not. Interesting read about actors, directors, etc that are known, some more than others. Best way to describe this book is a mini bio of people associated with horror movies. It was fun to read that Vincent Price found the fly saying “help me” at the end of “The Fly” was interesting. I really think any horror fan will enjoy this book. I know I did.

NetGalley, V NUNEZ

This was a very informative book about different films, directors, actors, etc. I was surprised to find out about movies I didn't know about before.

If you are a horror fanatic and want to learn more about the horror world I recommend picking this book up!

NetGalley, Brittney Green

A must-have for horror movie fans. Selway's journey through horror movies begins with Tod Browning, creator of Freaks, and travels forward through the likes of Christopher Lee, Lon Chaney, Elsa Lanchester, Vincent Price, and John Carpenter sharing details of the individual's life and contributions to horror. Unlike some other nonfiction works I have read, Selway presented lesser written about aspects of the person--the real person with all their flaws. It was an interesting read.

NetGalley, Teresa Grabs

I’m glad I was able to read this! I only know one or two of the big names from the beginning of history, but now I know about so much more. This is a great resource to learn about the big names and the history of the industry. Very knowledgeable and entertaining!

NetGalley, Samantha B

I really enjoyed this book. I am a sucker for any book about the film industry, and I love (/hate - sometimes it is too scary for me) horror. I really enjoyed this look into the classic horror and monster movies. Very informative!

NetGalley, Christine Bolton

Ms Selway has clearly done her research but hasn't just regurgitated it - there's a genuine taking apart and search to understand how horror has evolved..

I'll definitely be seeking out a copy of this when it is published.

NetGalley, Martin Paul
 Jennifer Selway

About Jennifer Selway

Jennifer Selway is a film and TV critic, former editor of the Observer’s TV pages and contributor to the Time Out Film Guide. She is also a playwright and newspaper columnist. She is married, has three grown-up children and lives in Hampshire.

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