Before I get into the book in a little detail, let me made something very clear. Francesco Borseti’s “It Came From the 80s!” is the best horror reference book of 2016. There is no question about it. If the folks behind the Rondo Awards read this, don’t even bother to have a vote because we already have a winner.
What Borseti has done is gather interviews from 124 filmmakers focusing on 25-30 films (though many others come up in conversation). Through editing, it seems as though the interviewees are just telling some stories, which works out great and is very readable. Borseti says of his film choices, “very little has been written or said about them since they were released. For most of these movies, this book represents the first time much appears in print about them.”
The choice of films is precisely what makes this such a valuable resource. A few are more well-known, such as “Creepozoids” and “Parasite”, but many you may never have heard of or haven’t seen since your local video store threw out the VHS tapes. We could use more books on the big names in horror, but what you end up with is 80-90% rehash with a small amount of new material. In this book, it is very much the reverse. 90% of these stories may never have been known before.
Sticking with the obscure theme, Borseti also went with some obscure choices for interviews. Speaking from experience, it isn’t hard to track down Linnea Quigley, Charlie Band or David DeCoteau. But they don’t appear here. And I appreciate that choice, because it puts the focus more on the writers and effects people that time has forgotten. Do you want stories about Band stealing from his crew? We have that. How about DeCoteau advising a cast member that he should be having more dirty thoughts about his co-star in order to build chemistry? Yep. Perhaps most interesting is just how much overlap there is between the adult film industry of the 1970s and B-horror world of the 1980s. (And this may be bigger than we think, as even folks like Wes Craven have now been revealed to be involved in the porn business.)
While many of those interviewed are proud of their accomplishments and have gone on to bigger things, there is a running theme throughout the book that the 1980s era of low-budget (Charlie Band and Harry Alan Towers) was not the same as the 1960s era under Roger Corman. We hear many stories of actors and directors who went to the “Corman school” and have gone on to be Oscar winners. We don’t really hear about the “Band school”, other than people getting ripped off and promises broken. Band has made a big deal of casting some people before they were stars, but it amounts to no more than a coincidence… by now we should have seen some prodigies owe their careers to Band, and it just hasn’t happened. (We have, however, seen some directors emerge from Larry Fessenden’s circle.)
As a writer, I was particularly interested in how the writers were treated. If they were desperate for money, it might have been alright. The going rate seems to be about $500 just to pitch an idea. That’s a far cry from Hollywood money, but at least they got paid. However, if the writers had any attachment to their scripts, they were in for a shock. Often it would go through two or three writers, get “naughty bits” thrown in, character development taken out… and if you thought of your self as a “literary” writer, you better use a pseudonym because it’s going to be turned into trash.
Anyway, if you’re a horror fan, you love low-budget 1980s junk. Admit it, you do. Terrible movies are your favorite. And I promise you that Francesco Borseti has written the definitive book on the era.
To order a copy of “It Came From the 80s!”, you can go to your local book store or Amazon, or you can order from the publisher directly. McFarland can be found at www.mcfarlandpub.com or you can reach the order line at (800)253-2187.