on May 7, 2017 :
I raced through this lively account of psychos in the cinema. It never gets bogged down in trying to be too all-inclusive or going in for detailed analysis of the films. Instead it groups them into a range of sub-genres, giving them reviews commensurate with their inherent interest or historical significance while discussing the ways that they have played variations upon recurrent themes. Although most of the films deal with psycho killers of one kind or another, there is also brief coverage of films based around case studies of non-violent mental illness, e.g. The Snake Pit (1948) and Sybil (1976). McCarty gives a fascinating account of the pros and cons of the most famous adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Possible solutions to the Jack the Ripper mystery are discussed as they relate to films dealing with the case. From such archetypal fictional characters as Dr. Mabuse and Freddie Krueger to real world fiends such as Ed Gein (about whom, admittedly, he gets his facts a little wrong) and Charles Manson, McCarty gives an overview of the role they have played in the life of the cinema. There are entertaining anecdotes and controversial opinions (is John Carpenter's best film really Elvis (1979)?) He could easily have gotten bogged down with slasher movies. There are plenty of them, but their formulaic nature makes them less interesting to discuss. So he simply deals with the classics and the popular franchises and recognises the general trends and sources of controversy.
Apparently this book began as the 1986 publication Psychos: Eighty Years of Mad Movies, Maniacs, and Murderous Deeds, which was then updated in 1993 as Movie Psychos & Madmen which was then republished in this form in 2015. I love the new title. The fact that the book hasn't been updated since 1993 of course means that you won't find anything about such significant, more recent, films as Se7en (1995), American Psycho (2000) or Zodiac (2007).
If you are averse to spoilers you should be aware that McCarty does give away the endings of most of the films he discusses. I don't mind this too much as I expect that I'll probably have forgotten what I've read by the time I get around to watching one of the movies I've never seen, and it is kind of handy to be reminded with films I have seen, because my memory of the endings of movies can, conveniently, be as bad as my memory of what I've read in books about them.
(reviewed 11 months after purchase)