The history of our beloved genre has been amassed into one essential tome by J.A. Kerswell, founder of the terrific Hysteria Lives! website. Clocking in at 208 pages and published by New Holland Publishers, Teenage Wasteland is a fast, entertaining and informative read. Kerswell traces the evolution of the slasher flick beginning with the Grand Guigol in France (crowd-pleasing theatre that featured bloody effects and sadistic plotlines), stops by Hitchcock’s groundbreaking Psycho before moving on to the German (Krimi) and Italian (Giallo) thrillers of the 60’s and 70’s, detours into grindhouse and drive-in flicks, and then gets to the meat of the matter with the true birth of the slasher film – John Carpenter’s genre-defining Halloween.
Kerswell explores the slasher move explosion that followed in Michael Myers’ wake during its “Golden Age” from 1978 through 1984, but he doesn’t stop there. Looking at slasher flicks from around the world, direct-to-video DIY jobs, contemporary stabs at the genre, as well as reboots, remakes and reimaginings, he’s also thought to include a glossary of slasher terms, movie body counts, box office receipts, reviews of key slasher movies, and a list of recommended reading and websites (including www.RetroSlashers.net – yay for us!).
Teenage Wasteland is written with a fan’s love of the genre and an obsessive’s knowledge. Kerswell certainly knows his stuff, and he happily doesn’t fall into the trap of blindly praising a movie just because it features a knife-wielding killer and a Final Girl. As a slasher fan, this book is a pleasure to read, and the colourful and perfectly appropriate eye-catching design is an added bonus that encourages the reader to linger over almost every single page.
Teenage Wasteland is a welcome addition to the list of essential books about horror movies that includes Michael Weldon’s Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, John McCarty’s Official Splatter Movie Guide and Stephen Thrower’s Nightmare U.S.A., and it’s the best resource book slasher fans can get their bloody hands on. If you’re lurking on this website, you’re obviously a slasher fan… Why don’t you have this book? Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself trying to source movies like Room 13 and Fright after you’ve been though its pages.