Creeping Flesh, it says here, takes its cue from the horror film fanzines of yesteryear. Well, this is true in the sense that it has an almost nerdy taste for the obscure and a desire to elevate vilified, cheap and nasty horror TV programmes and films to a higher intellectual plain.
The phrase ‘not presently available in any format’ crops up under the majority of titles covered in this book. This is in part, the book admits, to a shameful stripping of the BBC’s archives in the 1970s that forced Auntie to destroy a large chunk of its back catalogue. As Creeping Flesh focuses on a lot of little known telefantasy, a good deal of it can no longer be found – a fact that seems to fill the authors with glee at their superior knowledge.
Creeping Flesh in is essence a chronological journey through British horror and fantasy, but it is a bit of a mixed bag. In its pursuit of the obscure, it covers accepted classics that are difficult to get hold of – such as the excellent 1970s BBC horror series ‘A Ghost Story for Christmas’ and Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968) – while also giving a good deal of column inches to Hammer House of Horror (1980) and, bizarrely, Steve Coogan’s Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible (2001). So on one hand there are some genuinely insightful articles and on the other a geeky attempt to breathe life into what are essentially dead ducks – you can almost hear the writer snorting through his nose at the absurdity of the comedy-horror he attempts to intellectualise.
Not that the good writing within the book is confined critiques of good material, but it just becomes a little tiresome reading 2,000 words or so on a film the author has already acknowledged as being a disappointment. For example, it dedicates a chapter to The Fantasist (1986) – Robin Hardy’s follow-up to The Wicker Man (1973) – only to say how bad it was. There’s also some clutching at straws when it comes to comparisons, like when it suggests a scene of a man hunched over in the dark in the BBC’s A Warning to the Curious (1974) to might have influenced the finale of The Blair Witch Project (1999). Probably not though, eh?
There’s also an interview with the BFI’s head of video publishing, which comes across as a thinly veiled rant about why their favourite programmes aren’t available on video. Still, you get the impression that they wouldn’t like them as much if they were.
To be fair to Creeping Flesh, its enthusiasm for the films it tackles is slightly infectious. It manages to create a sense of worth around some truly awful stuff and the humour that surrounds the writing suggests they are more amused than scared by these so-called underappreciated horror classics.