The main flaw to “The Fright File” is that author Dustin Putman only offers three films out of 150 made before the seventies. A portion of the list are films made in the seventies, while most of the films are from the aughts and are as recent as 2013. While I don’t mind being given suggestions for films as recent as 2013, I wouldn’t have minded stumbling on to a hidden gem or two. For folks looking for a primer on films that are essential to horror fans, “The Fright File” surely isn’t a bad book. But for horror fans looking to discover something new and completely out of left field, this isn’t really the book to turn to. That is unless you’re a fan of Dustin Putman’s writing, and want to see his thoughts on various horror films.
“The Fright File” mostly lacks variety and originality, and that’s a sad aspect for a five hundred page book that could have been pretty excellent. He suggests the entire “Scream” movie series without fail. I’m surprised he actually loves all four of those pseudo horror films, but lo and behold he considers the painfully bland and safe “Scream 4” as “Whip Smart and auspiciously savvy,” while “Scream 3” is identified as “groundbreaking.” I know, it all boils down to personal opinion, but it felt like Putman was filling the gaps and cheating by padding the list of movies with nothing but movie series. And suggesting “Dawn of the Dead” 2004 while excluding the original? I just don’t understand that reasoning. Again, Putman seems to be in short supply of horror movies to suggest, so most of the list is stuffed with entire or chunks of movie series.
The first two “V/H/S/” movies, the first three “Halloween” movies, and the first three “Paranormal Activity” movies are present. Again, I’m not discounting that he really does love these films, but some variety would have been excellent. And surely, I do really enjoy the “Paranormal Activity” movies and “V/H/S/ 2,” but couldn’t there have been a guideline to only include one essential installment per movie series? Just to up the ante on including lesser known films? “The Fright File” is really not very useful for the seasoned horror buff in the mood for something they’ve never heard of. “The Fright File” almost seems proud to embrace the mainstream and over saturated, and if that’s your bag, then you may just enjoy following the list and watching “Poltergeist” for the thousandth time.
I tore through the list nodding with the recognition of films I’d seen before, many of which, more times than I could count. Dustin Putman is a great writer with some interesting opinions on film, I just wish he’d dug deeper and hadn’t been so obvious about this guide. Where’s “Black Christmas,” or “Black Sabbath” in the mix? Where’s the teeth to this list? Why not add movies with a more provocative or challenging narrative? I don’t know, I can think of better and more important films to watch before Halloween than “We Need to Talk about Kevin,” and “Dark Shadows.” It all boils down to personal opinion in the end, but “The Fright File” really will only serve as a respectable read if you’re a Putman fan, or are in the mood to read about how ambitious “Halloween” was or how original “Nightmare on Elm Street” was. Yet again.