Screaming for Pleasure: How Horror Makes You Happy and Healthy By S.A. Bradley, 266 pgs.

A long time ago, I had the wild notion to do a zine about horror movies. I decided to do a lot of research rather than just jumping right in. So, I read a few film books and they just about killed me. They all had that maddeningly dry and stultifying grad school tone. That sort of ivory tower horseshit ruins both film and criticism. For a while it ruined me…for horror, anyway. If I’d read Screaming for Pleasure rather than titles like Tensions of the Eye: A Critical Analysis of Horror Filmographyand The Landscape of Fear, maybe I would’ve finished that zine. S.A. Bradley’s bug-eyed and fanatical approach to horror was what I was looking for. Bradley writes with the fervor of a fan but is also erudite and compelling. He gets at the psychology of horror not by using the biggest words possible to describe how every camera angle is a phallus. Instead, he relates horror to his own life.

The first chapter deals with what he calls the “First Kiss,” the movie that “hooks” you into “a lifetime of getting scared.” For Bradley, it was 1973’s Don’t Look Now, a childhood experience he calls “scary, overwhelming, and thoroughly exhilarating.” Bradley was drawn to horror because he was raised in a fundamentalist Christian cult that left him with a predisposition for fear of god, demons, and hell. Horror was how he took agency of some of that fear. His deconstructions of horror film interweave these personal stories all the way up to when he’s in his early twenties, just out of the military and drifting from town to town, feeling aimless and disconnected from humanity, unsure of what he wanted to do. This brought him to a small town and a mom and pop video store run by true film fans. Striking up a conversation with the owners rekindled his passion for horror and, finally, led him to his current entrenchment in the horror community, his ultimate redemption. His enthusiasm never waned. He started going to horror cons and making friends, which made him start podcasting (Hellbent for Horror), and then he began writing this book. All this is not to say that Screaming is a thinly disguised memoir, it’s above all, a film theory book. It just has a very personal tone.

I love writing that’s full of zeal and joy at paying dues to whatever dorky thing gives your life meaning, the kind of writing where you don’t even have to be into what they’re writing about, you just dig the earnestness and dedication that comes off the page. Screaming is that kind read. –Craven Rock (Coal Cracker Press, PMB 800, Ste. A, 1250 Fairmont Dr., San Leandro, CA 94578)