Death By Umbrella: The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons by Christopher Lombardo and Jeff Kirschner (book review).
With a title like ‘Death By Umbrella: The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons’, you have to wonder if authors Christopher Lombardo and Jeff Kirschner realise the implication about the nature of this book. As they explain in the introduction, horror films get accused for inciting real murders yet many of the ways they are carried out can’t be imitated because they use such bizarre weapons. In a tongue-in-cheek tone, they go through not only a hundred of these but several runners-up as well. For each example, you get a quick plot précis and the use of the weapon with a little about the cast. There’s also a wide selection of black and white photos to back the information up.
One thing that did occur to me while reading is that it is possible to play a game with this book as to whether certain weapons were ever used in other films. Case in point is the use of drano as this was the means a pimp in ‘Magnum Force’ (1973) killed one of his prostitutes.
A myth they want to dispel about the USA is that there are now very few places that you cannot get a mobile phone signal and writers need to find other ways to get around this. It’s the same sort of myth that lifts aka elevators have a door roof to get on top from inside. Writers do need to use a bit more imagination. Likewise, they describe a skewer through the throat isn’t exactly fatal if the victim can get to a hospital.
Rather bizarrely, I’ve seen a few of these films on TV over the past few months and I suspect this book might pique some interest in their availability if they take your fancy.
The use of a frozen joint of lamb as a murder weapon in ‘Serial Mom’ (1994) is an old gag because Asimov did a variant of it in one of his 1950s ‘robot’ stories. Mind you, the same can be said about being chopped up by a rotor blade and ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark’ (1981) wasn’t the first to do so on the screen.
As I read, I really wish they had put a date next to the film in each of the headings to put things in context. There’s the odd reference but it does look like they cover more than the past 20 years. I do like their comment about logic lapses in films as to why characters do or don’t do certain things and they use ‘The Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974) family’s absence of toilets and even ‘Love Story’ (1970) where the leads fall madly in love as examples. Now I’m pondering on should ‘Love Story’ now be classed as a horror film? After all, doesn’t one of the pair die? As to actor Donald Pleasence doing the full British breakfast, they need to go back to ‘The Great Escape’ (1963) where he makes a British cup of tea.
Oddly, the death by umbrella isn’t brought up until the final chapter which should leave you in ‘Stitches’. Can’t let them get away with all the gags.
Several films have a yuletide theme making it the kind of book that might be on your buying list this time of year. One other aspect that did make me think is that this book would make a useful guide as to which weapons to avoid or pay homage to if you’re writing a story or film script. It might even inspire using the same things in a different way. One thing I do agree with the authors on is you shouldn’t try these things at home.
(pub: BearManor Media. 173 page illustrated enlarged paperback. Price: $19.95 (US), £13.87 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-59393-391-1)
check out website: www.bearmanormedia.com