Every sci-fi movie fan should have a book that chronicles some of the best that the genre has to offer but sadly Robert C. Ring’s Sci-Fi Movie Freak is not one of them. There is no doubt that Ring’s book chronicles a lot of sci-fi films and most notably a lot of classics which have indeed been overlooked over the years (and some even forgotten). Ring’s book is broken up into 5 main chapters which include “Best of the Best,” “Vital Viewing,” “Further Essentials,” “Lesser-Known Gems,” and “The Failures.” This amounts to chapters that more-or-less all sound the same except it’s a manner of opinion which would be in the “Best of the Best” verses “Vital Viewing” verses “Further Essentials” chapter. A more definitive grouping could have been more helpful such as a sub genre designation. Sci-fi is such a diversified genre that there could have been an infinitely better way of categorizing the films into chapters especially since it is a reference book.
Ring does put the films in chronological order within each chapter, which is actually a good thing as the reader gets to watch the progression of the genre from one film to the next up until modern day. He also touches upon a lot of genuine classics but I’m not exactly sure about his tone towards some of the films he’s decided to highlight. His thoughts on It Came From Outer Space (1953), which is in the “Further Essentials” chapter are, “There are plenty of moments of cliché and simplicity, however like the sappiness contained in the opening…that mar the experience for the modern viewers.” He also describes RoboCop (1987), “Though RoboCop has shortcomings as a story, it is a smartly made film. It is packed with stock bad guys and pushes through key elements with a lack of logic…” I sometimes wonder why he bothered to include these entries in the first place rather than pick other films in their place.
I also question some of his choices of inclusion as sci-fi films such as 28 Days Later (2002), 28 Weeks Later (2007), The Host (2006), or The Return of the Living Dead (1985), to name a few. These films obviously don’t really fit into the sci-fi mode and Ring doesn’t really explain why he’s chosen to include these films. This leaves the reader pondering what his criteria is for judging the films.
I do have to give credit to Ring for including a good sampling of animated sci-fi films which usually go absent in these types of books but he does highlight Iron Giant (1999), Akira (1988), Metropolis (2001), and Fantastic Planet (1973), to name a few. For some odd reason Ring felt compelled to included TV specials in his analysis of the genre with Family Guy: Blue Harvest (2007) and The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) which seems more to populate the book with additional Star Wars reference films (he lights four out of the six films already plus the spoof Spaceballs).
For me, there was more wrong with the book than right and with there being plenty of other books on the genre out there this is a book that can be passed by.