[Review] Haunted Thrills [Horror-on-Sea Film Festival]: Documentary Takes a Loving Look at Pre-Code Horror Comics

I am a lifelong fan of classic horror comic books, especially the EC Comics titles. I have read pre-code horror comics and the later black-and-white fright-fare magazines, but I had no idea of some of the treasures I have been missing out on until I watched the short-film documentary Haunted Thrills (U.S., 2021).

Unlike other documentaries on pre-code horror comics that focus on the controversy surrounding those books, Haunted Thrills, while touching upon that subject, is more of a valentine and tribute to the work of the men and women who crafted and published the often shockingly gruesome and gory tales. Writer/director Mike Lyddon was fortunate enough to interview a few of the legends of pre-code comics — artists Everett Raymond Kinstler, Joe Sinnott, and Victor Carrabotta — before they passed away. These artists discuss intriguing memories of working on the comics. Sinnott and Carrabotta worked for Stan Lee and Atlas Comics in the Empire State Building and share stories about Lee and comics legend Jack Kirby. Captivating stories about how jobs were gained and lost are also part of their recollections. Plenty of other artists and writers are represented, too, with knowledgeable and engaging narration from Lyddon.

The presentation of drool-worthy covers and artwork from pre-code horror comics is a feast for the eyes. Viewers are treated to work from Weird Mysteries, Startling Terror Tales, Black Cat Mystery, Chamber of Chills, and so much more.

Haunted Thrills is must-see viewing for fans of horror, comic books, and naturally, horror comic books. It presses all of the nostalgia buttons while also taking a look at the current clamoring for pre-code fear-fare titles.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Haunted Thrills screens as part of Horror-on-Sea Film Festival, which takes place in Southend-on-Sea, U.K. from January 13–15 and 20–22, 2023. 

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.