Book Review: Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey / Authors: Joseph A. Ziemba, Dan Budnik / Publisher: Headpress / Release Date: Out Now
Taking its cue from the website of the same name, Bleeding Skull is a literary attempt to pry open the soiled plastic clam case of a decade's worth of low-budget, often forgotten, occasionally brilliant, but always interesting genre VHS releases that were invariably shot on video; this in the days before digital meant almost everything is.
With the website's raison d’être clearly set out, the authors have managed to whittle down the thousands of reviews available into a choice selection of three hundred for this fabulous looking book. Don't go flicking through expecting to see what they think of the likes of A Nightmare On Elm Street or the Friday the 13th sequels. What we have instead are (shit) nuggets from directors such as Don Dohler (Galaxy Invader, Blood Massacre, Fiend, Nightbeast) and Michael J. Murphy (Invitation to Hell, Bloodstream, The Last Night). Relatively well-known films such as Jean Rollin's Zombie Lake and the heavy metal shocker Trick or Treat sit proudly along with the almost unheard of likes of French slasher Ogroff (aka Mad Mutilator) and Tales From The Quadead Zone, an anthology from the makers of Black Devil Doll From Hell (which, unsurprisingly, also appears in the book). It's also great to see the scope of the authors isn't limited to American releases as the infamous British flick Suffer, Little Children (a 1983 film which, despite being made with only domestic equipment by a London acting school, appeared in UK video shops up and down the country) makes an appearance.
Reviewing each film in such a way that even the worst sound interesting and worth tracking down, the authors make a point of not getting bogged down with trivia. This isn't a behind the scenes book, rarely even dwelling on technical shortcomings (let's take those as a given). In keeping with the spirit of the subject, the illustrations (of which there are plenty, in the shape of video covers, stills, newspaper ads and screen shots - literally, as in photos taken from TV screens) are suitably lo-fi but perfectly effective.
Bleeding Skull, like the films it represents may not be for the mainstream, but genre fans will love ploughing through the trash on offer.
A limited edition hardback is available on the Headpress website, and the paperback will be available soon. A perfect Christmas present for those nostalgic for the “good old days” of home video.