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      HOWARD JACKSON: MEAN AND DARK.       

Price: £8.99 

RED RATTLE BOOKS

         

Mean And Dark is the second collection of film reviews from Crime Chronicles contributor Howard Jackson.  It follows his previous collection Horror Pickers, which also examined forty films from around the world.  Mean And Dark, unlike Horror Pickers, is not restricted to horror films.  This time some film noir movies have also been added to the mix.  The reason for including the two genres in Mean And Dark is explained in an interesting introduction that identifies the Billy Wilder classic Sunset Boulevard as the key movie that embraced the two genres. 

Mean And Dark should appeal to fans of both the horror and film noir genres, especially those moviegoers who like critics to provide something more than a recommendation.  The reviews in Mean And Dark are around 1500 words in length.  Academic hair splitting and jargon is avoided.  Instead, there is knowledge of film craftsmanship and some provocative opinion.  This second collection includes the recent and the historical.  Films from the USA, UK, Europe, Asia, and South America are examined.  There are also a couple of reviews of TV productions. The creative sources behind the TV series Line Of Fire and The X Files are investigated to reveal the values that gave those programmes special appeal.  The taste of Jackson ranges from the big budget productions of filmmakers like Robert Wise to the efforts of the financially modest such as the recent horror-festival hit, The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde.   Mean And Dark covers both high culture and pulp.  Macbeth by Roman Polanski and Medea by Pier Paolo Pasolini are included but so is the Hammer shocker The Devil Rides Out.   The reviews identify strengths and weaknesses but also introduce wider themes and political debates. 

Mean And Dark should encourage horror and crime fans to think again about the films they have seen and to seek out those that they may have missed.  Fans of The Omen, though, will be surprised at the hostility shown towards that film.  The comments made sense to me, and a review of The Omen that includes a reference to Samuel Beckett has to appeal.   Mean And Dark reveals a view of the world and human nature that is as gloomy as the Irish genius but the analysis is never miserable for too long.  There is also humour, sometimes quirky and strange, and it makes Mean And Dark an entertaining read. 

Mean And Dark succeeds because it is an interesting selection and because the reviews are well written.  The nature of the list alone provides food for thought.  In his description of movies Jackson can be both harsh and sympathetic, sometimes in the same review.  His analysis of The Innkeepers is a good example.  He highlights good moments and even makes a positive comparison with The Shining.  But he also is honest about what he regards as the flannel.  Mean And Dark can be read cover to cover or dipped into before a late night showing of one of the films.  Either way it is enjoyable, thought provoking and informative. 

By Irene Keith