Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 17, 2022)
An AMC series, apparently the initial run of Eli Roth’s History of Horror went over well. This leads to Season Two of History.
A six-part documentary series, History covers a mix of topics. All six episodes appear in broadcast order on this Blu-ray set, and the synopses come from the AMC website. Host Eli Roth appears across each program.
House of Hell: “Home is where the heart is, unless you live in a house of hell. Whether they're filled with specters or psychos, every house of hell pokes at our illusions of comfort and safety.”
“Zombies” features comments from Roth, filmmakers Rob Zombie, Wes Craven (archival), Mick Garris, Scott Derrickson, and Andrew Douglas, authors Stephen King and Joe Hill, special makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero, critic Jordan Crucchiola, producers Sean S. Cunningham and Ryan Turek, Fangoria editor Tony Timpone, film scholar Chris Dumas, cultural commentator Eliza Skinner, and actors Chris Hardwick, Fran Kranz, Bill Hader and Bill Moseley.
Monsters: “The history of monster movies is also the history of the evolution of special effects technology. But, whatever their size or shape and whatever they represent, for many horror fans monsters are the best part of the genre.”
This episode features Nicotero, Hader, Dumas, Zombie, Roth, Turek, Hardwick, filmmakers Quentin Tarantino, Joe Dante, Bryan Fuller, Brian Henson, Dana Gould, Andy Muschietti, André Øvredal, Edgar Wright and Don Mancini, film scholars Tananarive Due and Jennifer Moorman, author Max Brooks, critic Leonard Maltin, creature designer Neville Page, editor Bob Murakawski, author David J. Skal, director of photography Dean Cundey, producer Barbara Muschietti, and actor Jack Black.
Body Horror: “Sometimes disgusting, but always powerful, body horror films make us question our prejudices against physical difference, our attitudes about sex and gender, our fear of disease and contamination, and how much our appearance determines who we are.”
Here we find notes from Turek, Garris, Hill, Skinner, Hader, Timpone, Gould, Derrickson, Fuller, Crucchiola, Roth, Maltin, Skal, filmmakers David Cronenberg (archival), John Landis, Keith Gordon, Brian Yuzna and Ari Aster, composer Christopher Young, and actors Elijah Wood, Ashley Laurence, Rider Strong, Katharine Isabelle and Jordan Ladd.
Witches: “The witch is a towering figure in the history of horror. The archetypical evil witch is everything mainstream religion tells us a woman should not be - and that unapologetic, very female power frightens men and fascinates women.”
During this episode, we locate info from King, Moorman, Zombie, Crucchiola, Roth, Due, Timpone, Maltin, Garris, Nicotero, Derrickson, Henson, Skinner, Wright, filmmakers Ernest Dickerson, Andrew Fleming and Ari Aster, musician Slash, author Kier-a Janisse, musicologist Morgan Woolsey, and actors Megan Fox, Josh Leonard, Alexandra Billings, Rachel True and Milly Shapiro.
Chilling Children: “Parents are supposed to love their children, no matter how awful their kids may be. The films highlighted in this episode may not solve the mystery of where evil comes from, but they have a terrifically terrifying time raising the question.”
In this piece, we find material with Maltin, Fox, Slash, Garris, Fuller, Aster, Mancini, Hader, Roth, Nicotero, Janisse, Gould, Moorman, Hardwick, Timpone, Turek, Dante, Shapiro, Wright, Gordon, screenwriters Josh Olson and Andrew Kevin Walker, film scholar Jason Middleton, filmmakers Karyn Kusama and Roger Corman, and actors Nancy Allen, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Patty McCormack, Katelyn Nacon, and Laraine Newman.
Nine Nightmares: “’Nine Nightmares’ is a deep dive into nine uncategorizable films that push the boundaries of horror. Great films that entertain us and provoke us. Films that put society under a microscope, making us question not just what we fear, but why we fear it.”
For this show, we locate notes from Roth, Due, Timpone, Dante, Janisse, King, Nicotero, Hardwick, Fuller, Allen, Gordon, Billings, Murawski, filmmakers Jordan Peele, Mary Harron, Michael Dougherty, special makeup effects artist Tom Savini.
Season Two of History so strongly resembles S1 that I feel tempted to simply reiterate my comments from that review. S2 feels like a virtual clone of S1, albeit with some different films under discussion and different participants, of course.
This means that once again, we find a series heavy on movie clips and short on real insight. Oh, to be sure, you’ll probably learn some good info along the way here. Even fans who have good awareness of the films under discussion will probably find some new nuggets.
However, History breezes through so many movies in such little time that a lack of real substance becomes inevitable. Really, we find general thoughts about the flicks involved along with a lot of film clips and not a ton of true depth.
That said, History becomes a breezy enough overview, and S2 might work better than S1 simply because the first year picked off the “low hanging fruit”. The initial batch of shows covered a lot of the best-known horror flicks, so S2 needs to spread to less famous flicks at times.
This seems appealing because the viewer becomes more likely to get exposure to something unfamiliar. Not that S2 delves into obscurities, but it covers films with less pop culture penetration at times, so it can become more interesting than S1.
Don’t expect flawless history, though, as some obvious mistakes pop up along the way. For instance, the series claims Kathy Bates made her debut with 1990’s Misery, but she’d literally already appeared in a good dozen of flicks at that point.
All of this leaves S2 as moderately informative and entertaining but not great. History keeps us with it, but it remains pretty superficial.