English Gothic by Jonathan Rigby – Book Review

Untitled(1)Jonathan Rigby’s English Gothic was described by SFX as “Essential” they went onto say “Don’t even try to discuss British horror films until you’ve read it” when it was first published back in 2000. I’d have to agree with them and as the owner of a much battered old paperback edition I was delighted to get my hands on the new hardback 2015 edition, complete with a rather stunning shot of the late Sir Christopher Lee from Hammer’s Dracula (1958) on the dust jacket.

Rigby’s book is quite remarkable because it traces the development of the British horror movies on virtually a film by film basis from the silents of the 1890s right up to the present day, without ever being dusty or boring which such a tome could easily have become. On top of that it is beautifully illustrated with production stills and film posters. There’s even a chapter about horror on TV, something that in my opinion has been long neglected, tacked on to the end.

The one thing I didn’t like so much about my 2004 edition was the depressing note on which the book ended. At the time it was Rigby’s opinion that the Brit horror was dead, however this new edition makes full amends for this charting the rise of the British independent sector as it led the escape from cinema’s cemetery with movies like 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead and Hothouse favourites like Lawrie Brewster’s Lord of Tears and John Shackleton’s The Sleeping Room together with Hammer’s resurgence with The Woman in Black.

The Sleeping Room, one of the new films added to the new edition of English Gothic
The Sleeping Room, one of the new films added to the new edition of English Gothic

Any gripes about the new edition? Well the chapter on TV was a bit thin, but maybe there is a bigger book in there.

Warning reading this book will take you to Amazon with an even longer list of films you will have to watch.

Definitely an essential purchase for any horror fan I give English Gothic a 666/666

English Gothic: Classic Horror Cinema 1897-2015 is published by Signum Books price £24.99; UK $34.95 USA; $41 Canada

Other books on Cinema I recommend

Dave Pirie: A New Heritage of Horror – a revised edition of Piries’s groundbreaking study of the British Horror film

Kim Newman: Nightmare Movies – recently revised and expanded Kim’s exhaustive look into world horror cinema from the 1960s onwards is an absolute pleasure to read


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