Monsters in the Movies: 100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares - Book Review

Monsters in the Movies: 100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares - Book Review
A look inside the latest and quite possibly the great book on monster movies; written by John Landis.
Updated: 01-17-2012


book by John Landis, reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
John Landis's new book Monsters in the Movies: 100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares scared me!
I was so intimidated.
To hold it, I felt I needed the strength of King Kong. To read it, I had to have Carrie-like concentration. To look at all the amazing pics, I wanted the eyes of The Fly. If you open this book, prepare to get sucked in because this truly terrifying and terrific coffee-table slab of a book is not for the casual, devil-may-care reader or the flippant page-flipper. But don't be too scared… While Monsters in the Movies is redoubtable reference material of the highest order, it's also just plain fun.
The thing which struck me first and foremost about the book was how personal and conversational it felt… it was not as though I was just looking at a book that could have been written by anyone and just happened to have Landis's name slapped on the front cover for shelf appeal. In his foreword, and throughout the texts (even the little photo captions!) his personality and presence is very much in evidence. He goes to great pains (perhaps too many) to explain that his research, much of it gleaned from the Internet, may not be 100% accurate and may not be the be-all and end-all. He makes sure the reader understands much of what he says is simply his opinion and is gleaned from his own experience and knowledge. Which is, far from a detriment, a real boon to the text. Landis never shies away from the white elephant, even discussing his own contribution to the genre with Schlock!, An American Werewolf In London, Twilight Zone: The Movie, and his latest, Burke & Hare (what's more, he even gives a complete cinematic back-story on the real-life historical figures who are perhaps the most notorious grave-robbers to have ever lived).
The pictures are worth even more than a thousand words. There are literally thousands of photographs in the book and there are so many I have never, ever seen. In some instances, I had to just turn the page quickly and not look too long for fear I'd be making a beeline right for eBay to buy a million stills and posters I want but don't need! Fortunately, the book has them and I can see them whenever I'd like. I definitely plan on poring over the many magnificent images and marveling over them at my leisure (sadly, the copy of the book I reviewed was destined for a contest giveaway).
Landis really thought of everything when it comes to the creepy crawlies that get us by the short and curlies — whether it's a gigantic gargantuan ala Godzilla, or it's an insidious, invisible little something invading the mind of Man, it's covered. From monsters to mad mamas and from ghosts to ghouls, Landis not only gives you his .02 and a bag of popcorn, he also mines the memories and expertise of his fellow filmmakers, including exclusive interviews with everyone from Ray Harryhausen to David Cronenberg and from Rick Baker to Christopher Lee. The best part? Nobody can agree on what a "monster" really is! Fascinating stuff.
Pretty much on sale everywhere at an introductory "nice price" in the $20 range, Monsters in the Movies: 100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares is pretty much a no-brainer (unless you happen to have The Brain that Wouldn't Die, or you're The Man With Two Brains… or maybe you're a zombie in the More Brains! doc… yep, this book covers it all).
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