Titan, 2010, 420 pages, C$18.95 tp, ISBN 978-1-84856-371-1
Let’s put it as straight as Vern would: If you’re a reasonably smart moviegoer and you’re not reading outlawvern.com, then you’re missing out on one of the best movie reviewers writing today. His self-assigned beat is, basically, “movies for guys”: action movies, horror movies, thrillers… but it’s always a treat to see him occasionally venture out of that demographic segment. He combines a deep knowledge of film with serious analytical skills and an entertaining online persona. He may still make intentional use of faux-dumb neologisms as “filmatism” and “web sights”, but there’s a lot of keen intelligence behind the plain-speaking outlaw façade. (Accordingly, his only recorded use of the word façade is in a review he has since half-disavowed.) With Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer, you too can get a selection of his best online writing in one handy paper package.
Ignoring the possibility that “Vern” is a pseudonym for someone with an established track record, this is Vern’s second professionally-published paper book: His first was Seagalogy, a surprisingly worthwhile book-length study of the film of Steven Seagal. This time, most of Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer is material reprinted from Vern’s web site, bringing together more than ten years’ worth of content in one handy package that makes for perfect bathroom reading.
Despite the obvious jokes about paying for content you can get online for free, there’s an obvious added value to collections of online content. On an obvious level, Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer comes with a generous amount of organizing, contextualizing, footnotes amending the original text and a bit of copy-editing as well. The book is divided in sections prefaced by original introductions, and the familiar typography is certainly easier to read than outlawvern’s default white-on-black-with-red-highlights site layout. But there’s also a less-obvious value in selecting content for print publication, picking the best or most representative pieces in one single package. The cognitive savings in not having to navigate a web site in order to read scattershot reams of content are usually underestimated by the why-pay crowd: Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer offers a controlled reading experience, coherent mini-theses and the opportunity to send a few honest bucks (um, cents) to the hard-working author.
Divided in thirteen sections, Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer starts and ends firmly in action-movie territory, as the Die Hard-inspired title may imply. When you start a book with a review of 300 and end it with a section dedicated to one Bruce Willis, it’s hard to argue that the book doesn’t deliver for action fans. But there are plenty of big and small delights in-between. Vern is able to write entertainingly about obscure films; few other reviewers can make readers hunt down long-forgotten movies as effectively as he does. (I suspect that his commentaries are more entertaining that some of the movies he describes, but that goes without saying.) Even in discussing films far from the “movies for guys” beat, Vern is reliably entertaining: His takes on films such as Crash (2005), Garfield and The Real Cancun show what happens when a reviewer brings his acknowledged biases to a different kind of film and writes for an appropriate audience. From time to time, his reviews are springboard to larger concerns (such as the place of the American male in contemporary society, or the debate about the Hostel-inspired Torture Porn horror craze). Some sections of the book are meant to form a sustained argument: After suffering through Transformers and being aghast at the “summer movies aren’t supposed to be good” argument, Vern revisits some of the best summer genre movies of the past and, in doing so, pretty much demonstrates that laziness from filmmakers and viewers is no excuse.
The result is quite a bit more valuable than a reprint of online reviews: It’s a great time in company of an articulate, sympathetic and knowledgeable critic who wants, in his own fashion, to raise the level of discourse surrounding popular genre movies. Even in discussing movies that are -at best- forgettable exploitation films, Vern can be counted upon to make one or two observations worth our time. Trust me on this: You want to be reading outlawvern.com, and there’s no better introduction to Vern than Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer.