Fright Favorites: 31 Movies to Haunt Your Halloween and Beyond by David J. Skal and Turner Classic Movies is a useful primer for casual horror movie fans, and a comfort-food kind of book for the more dedicated. Skal is always a good read, and his capsule analyses are detailed, informative and fun. Each entry is only a few pages long, but Skal still provides a great deal of fascinating information and context for the films he focuses on. It’s what he does.
Fright Favorites is essentially a gift-book, made to be leafed through and enjoyed in small bites. It is filled with an abundance of illustrations–movie posters, stills, behind-the-scenes photos–and thirty one supplemental suggestions, in addition to the main ones, for your viewing pleasure.
The 31 title selections are arranged chronologically, beginning with Nosferatu and ending with Get Out. But the additional films range widely across time, pairing The Birds with Cujo and The Exorcist with The Conjuring.
Many if not most of the films Skal has chosen will be familiar. The classic monsters are all represented–Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, the Wolf Man–as well as the more recent crop of slashers and other, more subtle horrors. However, some of the selections may be a little surprising.
Coming down firmly on the side of science fiction can be horror, he includes The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Them! And leaving horror behind almost entirely, Young Frankenstein, Beetlejuice, and Hocus Pocus also make the list with a nod to their inspirations. There are some wonderful deep cuts, as well, like The Man Who Laughs and The Black Cat.
Fright Favorites: 31 Movies to Haunt Your Halloween and Beyond is an intelligent, engaging overview of some of the most famous horror and horror-inspired films of the last century. Skal takes us on a comfortable, curated stroll through some of the genre’s familiar highlights, where I was reminded about a number of movies I haven’t seen, or haven’t seen in too long. Altogether a highly enjoyable tome, for reference, reminiscing, and beyond.