Book Review: Urban Terrors – New British Horror Cinema 1997-2008 / Author: M.J. Simpson / Publisher: Hemlock Books / Release Date: Out Now
The problem with any reference or guide book written about film is that as soon as the author puts fingers to laptop, it's already out of date. For that very reason, this review of every film released during what Simpson dubs the British horror revival is wisely capped at 2008.
Setting out these 114 entries in chronological rather than alphabetical order allows Simpson to comment on not just the technical advances but also the developing cultural and social statements these films often made. As suggested by the book's title, the BHF (British Horror Film – see, you know it's a phenomenon when it's warrants an acronym) made a noticeable shift from the Gothic to a much rawer, urban horror during this time.
While Simpson does not skimp on the more obscure, little-heard-of shockers, the meatier coverage is given to familiar fare such as Dog Soldiers (Sean Pertwee, incidentally, provides a foreword), 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead. Directors such as Neil Marshall, Alex Chandon and Jake West understandably feature heavily, but there's plenty of room for below-the-radar filmmakers like Jason Impey and Pat Higgins.
It's pointed out in the epilogue that if you were to count 114 BHF films backwards from 1997, you would get to around 1972. Count forwards from 2009 and you would get part way through 2011. It is practically a boom time for BHF, as we see more and more no-budget films being made, and surprisingly, some are actually good. This book serves as an interesting overview of what was really the start of the BHF renaissance and, while some of the time Simpson is just quoting other reviewers and sources, the wealth of information and the namechecking of some overlooked gems makes it well worth a read.