Thursday, June 9, 2011

Eyeball Compendium: Sex & Horror, Art & Exploitation

Edited by Stephen Thrower

Eyeball Compendium is a must-have for fans of horror and obscure film, particularly of the European variety. While I've read reviews accusing Stephen Thrower of being too self-important in his writing style, no one can really deny that this was an important film magazine and has some valuable things to pass on to the reader-cum-film aficionado. And fortunately it has a wide variety of contributors with an even wider variety of writing styles and opinions. Like Thrower's other book, Beyond Terror, Eyeball Compendium was published by FAB press and is available for purchase through their website, as well as more mainstream U.S. vendors. I got mine from Diabolik DVD, who have it for a very reasonable price.

The book is made up of issues of Eyeball, which was unfortunately short-lived enough to fit in a single volume. It is divided into sections rather than chapters and instead of being presented by issue, it's sorted by interviews, features and reviews. There is also an introduction by Thrower and a comprehensive index. The magazines deals with horror, but not exclusively. It also focuses on exploitation, cult films, art-house, and basically anything obscure and (mostly) European. The more well-known "classic" filmmakers are referenced on a regular basis, though their work is not reviewed or written about directly (Kurosawa, Bergman, the French New Wave, etc.).

There are only ten interviews, but they are lengthy enough to provide a substantial chunk of Eyeball. The interviewers (usually Thrower) often engage in conversation with the interviewees, occasionally injecting their own opinions into the interview. As a result, the subjects are more diverse than other straight horror magazines. The features section is probably what bothers me the most. It has, in my opinion, some of the best and worst writing in the magazine. While I loved "Death Line - the fantasy DVD extras" by Marcelle Perks, I hated "Notes from the British Underground" from Anna Thew. The main problem is that some of these are presented in concise, direct paragraphs, while others are long and masturbatory.

The reviews, which make up the bulk of Eyeball, are the most evenly written and are my favorite part of the book. There are one or two predictable things, like Argento's Opera, but for the most part the films represent a wide variety of genres, countries, and decades. I found out about a few new things I had never heard of (Wrony), reconsidered somethings I had previously scorned (The Beast in Heat) and had new thoughts about films I saw years ago and hated (Kill, Baby... Kill!). In addition, there are more than a dozen new reviews not included in the original issues of the magazine.

I could read film criticism all day. I know this isn't everyone's bag, but if you are a film fan, you should probably Eyeball in your collection. Though Stephen Thrower can be a bit wordy -- the completely academically naive might have to look up a few terms or references to other directors -- but all film lovers are bound to learn a thing or two.

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