This year has seen author Grady Hendrix touring the U.S. in support of his bestseller, The Final Girls Support Group, which HBO Max is in the process of developing into a series. He’s also had his mind focused on finishing up his latest novel, How to Sell a Haunted House, a Charleston-based tale that involves haunted houses and evil puppets.
When asked how he’s been doing since we last spoke, Hendrix chuckled. “It’s been good. A little crazy. I did a ton of promotion for Final Girls, which I love … Starting in September, it’s just been this non-stop particle accelerator full of evil puppets and talking about serial killers.”
Hendrix has another book coming out as well, These Fists Break Bricks: How Kung Fu Movies Swept America and Changed the World. Working with film historian Chris Poggiali and with a foreword by rapper RZA, the book documents the boom in martial arts movies in the mid 1970s. Even though he was a burgeoning cineaste who co-founded Subway Cinema in 1999 and the popular New York Asian Film Festival, Hendrix readily admits to he wasn’t too interested in martial arts films until later in life.
“It’s funny, I grew up with Black Belt Theater on Saturday mornings and things like that. But that was always more video wallpaper than something I actually watched … Kung fu movies didn’t happen for me until the early 2000s. I was always sort of dismissive of them. And then in the early 2000s, I watched The Crippled Avengers and it really blew my mind. And I thought, ‘What have I been missing all this time?’”
One day, Poggiali approached Hendrix with the idea of doing a book about the history of martial arts films in the ‘70s and ‘80s akin to Paperbacks From Hell, Hendrix’s book recounting the history of horror paperbacks. Hendrix didn’t initially see a story in Poggiali’s idea, but eventually noticed how the success of Warner Brothers releases like Five Fingers of Death and Enter the Dragon had an effect on more than just box office grosses.
“I realized, ‘No, this has a story too.’ These movies just seem to appear out of nowhere in March of 1973. In America, they got real big, real fast, [and] got real cheap and sleazy real fast,” he said. “We wanted to talk about what was in America before [the movies] came out in 1973 … There was a lot of history there that we wanted to make sure we at least touched on. Because a lot of it was immigrant history. A lot of it was Japanese-American history, a lot of it was Black history, and we wanted to make sure that people knew that this stuff didn’t come out of nowhere, that there were people really carrying the torch for this stuff, before Warner Brothers got on board.”
On Thursday, Hendrix and Buxton Books will bring copies of These Fists Break Bricks and his other novels to the Terrace Theater when he stages his brand new one-man show, The Most Horrible Time of the Year. Expect a spooky sleigh ride full of Yuletide terror, from Charles Dickens to Finland’s bonkers Christmas monsters to morbid Victorian Christmas and, of course, a slew of psycho Santas delivering plenty of ho-ho-homicide, followed by a screening of a creepy Christmas episode from a rarely seen ‘80s TV show.
There’s no question about Hendrix’s Christmas horror go-tos.
“Black Christmas has everything I want in the movie. It’s perfect, as far as I’m concerned. There’s a great [young adult] book published in the ‘90s called Slay Bells, by Jo Gibson. It’s the ultimate kind of sleazy teen slasher in book form.
“One of the great Christmas horror movies of all time is Psycho, which takes place over Christmas weekend. You don’t know it because they don’t make a big deal of it but every shop window has a Christmas display, there’s Christmas trees everywhere. I always feel like Psycho is the sleeper Christmas horror movie.”
His favorites may be nontraditional, but Hendrix is a total sucker for Christmas.
“Christmas is my jam,” he said. “But one of the things I love about Christmas is the fact that there’s this tradition going back to 16th century England of telling ghost stories at Christmas, which I actually think makes a lot of sense. It is such the season for it! So for me, it’s like the peanut butter and chocolate combo. It’s ghost stories and Christmas!”