This is a So Wizard first for me. I was given a review copy of an actual book! Not a comic, as much as I love comics, I was interested to take on this new challenge. The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema is… well, a movie guide. It’s a really cool one at that.
The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema is written by Michael Vaughn. Truly a fan of all things cinema. A creative cover gives a solid indication as to what you’re in for catches the eye. His intro reads like you’re talking to a friend about their passion for movies. The passion pours through every word as he describes his childhood fascination with discovering the insane movies found in glossy pages. Given the cover and Vaughn’s introduction I thought this book was going to primarily cover horror. I was wrong. There is a big section on horror, but Vaughn extensively finds something for everyone.
The personal introductions add a lot to the write-ups about each film. It’s a reminder how subjective the movie industry is. There is no definitive guide of the “best” or the “essential” because everyone has different tastes. If you’re looking for something a little different this book delivers.
Discovering movies through box art in Mom and Pop rental stores is a thing of the past. There was definitely a palpable level of excitement walking into a video store and being bombarded with countless titles. In the days before personal libraries being in the hundreds and having thousands upon thousands of titles in the palm of your hand, this was how you browsed. This pre-streaming era lends itself to Vaughn’s decision to publish the book traditionally. The high gloss cover and new print smell is something that even the nicest kindle or website can’t replicate.
Genres separate the chapters. The explanations given aren’t clinical but Vaughn’s own take of what these genres have to offer through the lens of Strange Cinema. Given the break down on categories and an index in the back for title by title searched this book deserves a place in your media room or on your coffee table as a go to when the Netflix Recommended is a little too mundane.
The genres outlined in the book have your classics, Action/Adventure, Horror, Comedy. Vaughn digs deeper and adds some groupings of his own. My favorite is the Cars, Trucks, and Choppers section. This is just so telling (in the best way) of the kind of movies recommended in this section.
Taking things a step further many write ups give bonus information. Images, trivia, and even interviews accompany some recommendations letting you dive deeper into the movie before you track it down and watch it. Vaughn talks about bizarre cover art catching his interest and selling the movie on that alone. The covers or posters with each write up could give the reader the same feeling. It’s a forgivable lapse, of course. No telling if there was issues finding print quality images or licensing issues. The coolest addition in the reviews is the movies that offers pairings. Looking for a Strange Cinema double feature? Vaughn has you covered.
The talent behind making the movies features prominently. More names than not will be foreign to even the most varied viewer. Every now and then you get a treat and see a familiar actor, writer, or director. You also won’t be disappointed if you’re looking for a bizarre creator. Takashi Miike and Troma both make their predictable appearances.
As someone who considers themselves pretty widely watched in their movie habit I was shocked at how few titles I had actually seen. Strange Cinema has definitely given me a path to follow when looking for something on the fringe.
Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema: 5/5
**Please excuse the lack of images. We weren’t told what we could and couldn’t post by the publisher. I don’t want to take anything away from the book by oversharing.