Zombies are the middle children of the otherworldly family. Vampires are the oldest brother who gets to have a room in the attic, all tripped out with a disco ball and shag carpet. Werewolves are the youngest, the babies, always getting pinched and told they're cute. With all that attention stolen away from the middle child zombie, no wonder she shuffles off grumbling, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha."

- Kevin James Breaux

Friday, August 9, 2013

Book Review: KILLING FOR CULTURE by David Kerekes & David Slater

There will be few people that will pick up the book Killing For Culture: An Illustrated History of Death Film From Mondo to Snuff with other than complete distaste and disgust because of its subject matter.  It is, in fact, a book dedicated to the death film and culture as depicted in mondo and snuff films.  The book is written by David Kerekes and David Slater and it leaves no stone unturned when describing the history and influence of mondo and snuff films on culture and the film industry as a whole.

Originally the mondo film was a collection of realistic and horrifying incidents caught on film and showcased for the enjoyment of an audience.  Snuff films were films that depicted the real torture and killing of innocent people for the enjoyment of an audience.  The rise of the mondo film can be seen in such classic hardcore films as The Last House on the Left (1972) and Peeping Tom (1960) when audiences began to experience violence in a different way.  These led filmmakers to believe that if fake violence could draw in an audience then so could real life violence and atrocities.  This gave rise to films such as Faces of Death (1978) and Mondo Cane (1972) and Mondo Bizarro (1966), all well as a plethora of others.  This book outlines the rise and fall of the mondo and snuff films starting with the influence of those early films to the oversaturation of these films in the marketplace up until the video boom (in which these films thrived when they could no longer command an audience at the underground and drive-in theaters).

The real treat of the book whether you are interested in these types of films or not is the fact that Kerekes & Slater do an amazing job presenting the films and facts in chronological order and how they affected the film industry and genre as a whole.  The book doesn’t dwell on the contents of each of the films but does give an overview of each of the films to help illustrate the market for such films especially during its downfall when most of the films comprised of recreated material instead of actual real footage.  There is nothing that is sacred in mondo film as not only violence but sex, racial discrimination, and other atrocities become cannon fodder.

This book is presented as a historical reference for the genre and doesn’t glorify any of the films or filmmakers mentioned because unlike the films themselves this book tries to present “just the facts.”  The chapters on snuff films are rather light considering that officially no authority has ever recovered an authentic snuff film, but just simulated snuff films.  This does not deter the fact that there is an audience out there for snuff films to begin with which just delves into the darker recesses of humanity.

This book is an intelligent read but the subject matter may only be for the film historian and analysts and not the casual movie goers.

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