Book Reviews

MASSACRED BY MOTHER NATURE by Lee Gambin

By • Oct 30th, 2012 •

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Film fanatics with a great sense of humor are going to find themselves utterly transfixed by Lee Gambin’s novel meditation on Ecological Horror Cinema “Massacred by Mother Nature”. This volume of forgotten lore which clocks in at a respectable 222 pages is an absolute must for those die hard fans who lust after “B” movies that deal directly or aindirectly with Mother Nature. All the natural film groups are represented here in neatly done chapters with headings like “And a Frog shall lead them” which references my all time favorite mother nature horror film – FROGS. “The Leader of the Pack” covers for the very first time all the titles that deal with man’s best friend, including a great take on CUJO. The insect fear film is given its due with the clever heading “Insectellectual” This chapter especially gives a lions share of credit to one of the foundling fathers of the insect fear film, the great Mr BIG himself – Bert I Gordon.

This book is well researched with fascinating surreal photos of all the usual suspects of this sub genre including the essential THEM, aa acknowledged classic of the genre from 1954, followed by much needed reappraisals of films with titles like SQUIRM, THE PACK, DAY OF THE ANIMALS, ALLIGATOR and THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS, with, of course, Hitchcock’s TE BIRDS. Lee Gambin has done his homework and what I really respect is his devotion to his material. Each film is given a sharp new interpretation with as many references to other films in the genre as is required to make his point. His section “The animal kingdom reigns supreme” is devoted to his interviews, and this remains one of the highlights of “Massacred by Mother Nature.”

Lee chose to give this book a very specific style of writing much akin to his excellent work for America’s foremost genre magazine Fangoria, for which Lee is currently a major source of information as one of their contributors. The revenge of nature cycle of films that ran throughout the 1950’s until almost the end of this century is, not surprisingly, still residing in today’s CGI laden cinema. The films that resonate the most with Mr Gambin in this sub genre seem to be the ones whose scripts have a commitment more to character than stereotypes. This would include of course THE BIRDS all the way across the board to the witty and surprisingly powerful KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS.

Lee Gambin’s thought provoking book will more than likely provoke you to revisit many of these films again, especially the ones from the fifties involving radiation-induced insect monsters, since we all know these creatures would not have survived: being so large, their air supply would cause them to perish before mankind could even take notice of their existence. These kind of films require a Mr Gambin to make sense of what is really almost impossible to do – make no mistake, this is an elusive genre to describe at best. I am convinced this book will lead to a sequel. As much ground as it covers, it cannot possibly cover everything one volume. Lee wisely remembers that one of the chief pleasures of all these genre outings for an audience is to witness the wholesale destruction they offer the viewer as Mother Nature deals out fear and terror, only to then offer hope and optimism for a careless mankind.

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