Book Review: Going to Pieces

Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978-1986
By Adam Rockoff
Published 2002, 223 pages

Going to Pieces is quintessential reading for any Slasher fan. Rockoff provides a textbook collection of information covering the historical influences like the theater of the Grand Guignol leading up to the Slasher era, through its early development in films like PSYCHO or PEEPING TOM, to its perfection in HALLOWEEN, and then thoroughly examines each of the major entries from FRIDAY THE 13th to the lesser known JUST BEFORE DAWN before discussing the expected end to the exploitation of American audiences.

Rockoff has tirelessly researched every possible press kit, newspaper clipping, and interview in order to assemble this definitive work. Prior to its publication in 2002, very little information remained available to the Slasher fan when it came to many of the then out of print titles. Cast and crew members that had not past away had fallen into obscurity, and as Rockoff recalls, many of the directors that had passed took all of the film's stories and histories with them since no one had bothered to record them previously. Now in 2009, we have been given director's cuts of everything from THE NEW YORK RIPPER to MY BLOODY VALENTINE, along with a slew of behind-the-scenes special features. Even armed with all of the information that has surfaced since 2002, Going to Pieces still offers a great deal of insightful information and interviews that detail the productions of films like HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, GRADUATION DAY, HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE, and others that have still yet to receive more than bare-bones releases.

No stone is left unturned as Rockoff cites interviews with genre legends John Carpenter and Sean Cunningham with the same admiration and enthusiasm that he gives to less appreciated but equally talented directors like Fred Walton (WHEN A STRANGER CALLS) or Paul Lynch (PROM NIGHT). Many of these exclusive interviews produce little known facts about the films Slasher fans have grown to love, along with amusing anecdotes about the cast and production difficulties. Additional rare interviews from across the globe have also been cited from prolific filmmakers such as Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci, who made their marks with the closely-related Itialian Gialli.

While the majority of the information is provided in an objective and scholarly manner, Rockoff is sure to sneak in his opinions on the majority of the films (often in less-than-subtle remarks), and for the most part his opinions closely reflect those of the versed Slasher fan. In terms of catagoric coverage, the book manages to cover 90% of what would be considered the "classic" Slasher entries, but considering the enormous catalogue of cheap copycats and cash-ins, I would estimate its total coverage at about 40% of the genre at large. It is an excellent effort that boldly tackles a genre of film that is commonly overlooked or frowned upon in most other Horror literature, making Going to Pieces a must-read for all fans. **Be sure to note, however, that this collection is better left to the Slasher fan that has seen the majority of these films in order to avoid major spoilers and for a greater appreciation of the references and directors mentioned in the text.** Going to Pieces has been adapted into a Documentary film as well in 2007, which offers the same excellent interviews with slightly fewer spoilers, so for those of you that haven't had the opportunity to watch films like THE PROWLER or THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, I recommend watching the documentary first for glimpses into the films, following it with the films themselves, and then immediately transitioning into the book for the most complete background information.

Rating: 9/10.

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  1. Sounds like a book right up my alley, gonna go off now to find me a copy! Happy 2010, dude!!!

  2. Everyone should seek it out, happy reading Wings and here's to another great year!!