(Full Disclosure: Although I have a small cameo in this book on the fake poster for Sister Disco, it was not in the preview edition I reviewed and thus did not influence my judgement.)
Fans of the Phantasm series have been pretty aware lately of a writer named Stephen Romano. He's been collaborating with Don Coscarelli on numerous projects (Incident On and Off A Mountain Road as well as unproduced scripts for Bubba Nosferatu and Phantasm V) in addition to having penned several acclaimed books. His latest creation, Shock Festival, is about to hit book store shelves and I've prepared a review for the Archives.
I was e-messaging with Stephen nearly a year ago when he first told me about his plans for the new book. He'd spent a good while of his recent life creating posters, lobby cards, quads, artwork, magazine articles and advertisements for a whole slew of fake movies. Not just any fake movies, but films that would give your local grindhouse theater a run for their money. As he finished telling me his concept, my only thought was: "This is bloody brilliant." His response: "I know, right?" Continue reading for my assessment of the finished product.
Shock Festival has the inital attraction of thumbing through several hundred of the most bizarre, often times hilarious, movie titles you could ever dream of. Titles like 'Attack of the Sadistic Killers' and 'The Underground Toxic Waste Mutants'. But once you've thumbed through it a few times, you start to notice repeating names and companies. If you thumb through it even slower, you realize that there's a story being told about these Z-movie filmmakers. Your final realization as you sit down to read it is that Shock Festival isn't really a book to be thumbed through at all. It's a book to be absorbed.
Phantasm fans will notice cameos in the book by series alumni as well as numerous hidden jokes/meanings. I found several cleverly disguised references to the series throughout and later, Romano even revealed to me some that I had missed the first go-around. Easier to spot than the easter eggs are cameos by the beautiful Ashley Lawrence (of Hellrasier fame) and saucy Gloria Lynn Henry (aka Rocky from Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead) or as the book would have us believe, Gloria Johnson. You see, no one in the world of Shock Festival can share their full names with their real-life counterparts. It's all part of the plan.
The visuals positively make this book what it is. This compliation includes artwork contributed by the awesome David Hartman (an assosciate of Rob Zombie whose work for Don Coscarelli includes Bubba Ho-Tep and the Phantasm series), Michael Broom (Phantasm: Overminds) and Tim Bradstreet (Hellblazer, need I say more?). This may be Romano's show, but he's running with a damn strong supporting cast of artists.
My hat is off and my glass is rasied to Stephen Romano for producing one of the most original works of any medium I've seen in a good while. Well written, even better illustrated, Shock Festival is Z-movie fun from start to finish. Now all he needs to do is get some of these films made. Honestly, when can we finally get a movie called 'The Crawling Slime From Dimension X'?
Check out more about Stephen's book at it's official website.