“THE FRIGHT FILE” (Book Review)
Dustin Putman’s book may be subtitled 150 FILMS TO SEE BEFORE HALLOWEEN, but this compilation of horror-movie reviews is worthwhile for any season.
One might anticipate this volume (published by Haunted Sideshow Press) to be a collection of hard-hitting critiques, but instead Putman (pictured above) does exactly what he set out to do: plant in his readers the urge to watch every single one of the films covered. Boasting a powerful command of the language and an honest passion for movies, he had this reader reexamining these movies in a new light that made me appreciate them all—even the ones I dislike. Even when addressing a polarizing picture like I AM LEGEND, Putman is an optimist and focuses on its emotional values, even as he ensures our trust in his opinion by noting the poorly created CG monsters. He’s not reluctant to specify a film’s weaknesses, but still makes an honest effort to push the positive and offer a serious appreciation of its achievements and strengths.
After just the first few pages, it’s evident that Putman not only loves the genre, he would also make an excellent trivia teammate. Providing extensive information on release dates, box-office numbers, actors, directors, all the way to cinematographers and composers, there’s no question that Putman is more than your everyday film critic. He knows who deserves credit for what and allots it appropriately—paying rare but deserved recognition to the actors in THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, for example—and what’s truly admirable through all of Putman’s acknowledgement of talent is that he doesn’t exaggerate. His ability to reveal aspects of films that are often dismissed or buried in the all-too-common boisterous and cynical reviews is rare, and should be respected when judging a person’s hard work.
The book includes a variety of genre fare, from classics like THE EXORCIST and SUSPIRIA to recent gems like V/H/S/2 and even the animated feature PARANORMAN. He even acknowledges how a ’70s gorehound will experience films differently than a ’90s SCREAM fan. It’s not just a matter of liking horror; we all have our niches, and Putman takes care to address them. This book has something for everyone, and is written by someone who absolutely adores them. Coming straight from the heart, Putman digs deep and expresses all of his feelings for the films, like which parts of MAMA scared him or his overwhelming multitude of emotions during BLACK SWAN.
Putman opens with a sweet introductory trip down memory lane, writing about going to the movies with his brother, who has since passed away, his love for the autumn season and his history of writing about movies. It’s easy to see that this book is not motivated by personal gain or the desire to belittle any filmmakers, but because it’s what he loves doing. A necessary read for any genre fan and a chance to re-examine these films from a devoted perspective, FRIGHT FILE will renew your admiration for the movies you already love.