Compiling a list of every British horror film released since the year 2000, watching every listed film, and providing release information and concise reviews of those films seems like an incredibly arduous task. Hence, we’re very grateful that MJ Simpson has done just that for us in 21st Century British Horror Films, Volume 1: Dog Soldiers and Doghouses (kind of a mouthful, but it’s a reference title so that’s just fine). The book is a painstakingly comprehensive list of films broken down by year, with short insights into each film’s watchability and historical relevance, if there is any.
21st Century British Horror Films, Volume 1 succeeds at exactly what it sets out to do– it’s a clear and informative list, and if read thoroughly it manages to impart kernels of knowledge about the surrounding British horror film industry. For example, I wasn’t familiar with Paul Hyett by name prior to reading, but his recurring presence as the years passed in pages made his relevance obvious and gave me a springboard from which to research his work. If nothing else, the recurring players of the British horror scene are made apparent and will be new to a lot of readers– Simpson shines a light on both films and filmmakers that otherwise would have likely languished in relative obscurity for a very long time.
This being a reference book, and a strictly formatted one at that, you shouldn’t expect this to be an entertaining thrill ride. That said, there are a lot of moments of genuine levity and wit in Simpson’s reviews, not least of which whenever he waxes poetic on the misogynist horror porn of one Trevor Barley, whose rampant use of pseudonyms does nothing to spare him the author’s well-deserved wrath. Then again, that may also be one of my misgivings about the book– because it fits the definition of horror (loosely) Simpson has covered a lot of just, outright pornography in the name of completionism. It’s passingly funny to read about things like Cathula, but it feels a bit like stretching the definition of what needed to be included. This list maybe just a tad too comprehensive, but I suppose that’s better than the alternative.
As I was reading I also noticed that I really wanted to see the author go a little bit deeper into film history, especially for tentpole titles. As nice as it would have been to see that here, it turns out that Simpson has another book called Urban Terrors which covers a similar timeframe and appears to be, well, basically that. What I’m getting at is that 21st Century British Horror Films, Volume 1 works well enough on its own but may also be considered a companion piece to Urban Terrors and the author’s blog if you’d like to see more in-depth coverage or historical analysis. I won’t lie, I didn’t add all that many titles to my “to watch” list (of the 300 or so covered I’ve jotted down about a dozen) but reading this felt a bit like a guided tour of a video rental horror section, albeit a geographically fixated one. If nothing else, you have to respect the amount of legwork that went into putting together something like this.
You can find 21st Century British Horror Films, Volume 1 HERE
You can also check out MJ Simpson’s blog, British Horror Revival HERE
Rating – 8 out of 10