December 8, 2011


100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares
by John Landis
320 pages, DK

Review by Pat Black

Oh, what a cover. It’s the American Werewolf in London, in extreme close-up. Possibly the last thing you ever see, should you stay off the road, and stray onto the moors. I’d recognise those eyes anywhere.

That movie’s director, John Landis, has produced Monsters In The Movies, a labour of love celebrating 100 years of vampires, werewolves, robots, mummies, giant apes, zombies dinosaurs and every other kind of fearsome beastie to bother the big screen.

It’s mostly a picture book, with still images and publicity shots. An American Werewolf in London was a masterclass in blending laughs with scares, so as you can imagine Landis decorates the pictures with some terrific one-liners. The book also boasts sections on “Scary Older Women” and “Comedy Gorillas”.

No jokes are made about the real-time picture of Michael Jackson from Landis’ iconic “Thriller” video on the inside cover, thankfully, though you can crack that one yourself.

For me, the true beauty of this book is in the curiosities – the ancient billboard posters and behind-the-scenes photos of creatures being constructed, or make-up being applied. Tributes are also paid to special effects wizards such as Ray Harryhausen, Tom Savini, Stan Winston, Rick Baker and Rob Bottin.

The chapters are enhanced by interviews Landis carries out with the living masters of horror. John Carpenter, Sir Christopher Lee, David Cronenberg, Rick Baker, Joe Dante and several other directors, actors or monster-makers are featured in conversation with Landis, reminiscing about their favourite monsters as well as their own creations.

This may seem like a silly thing to say about a book which features things designed simply to frighten and terrorise, but there are a few images which you might not find appropriate for your little monsters, should you wish to buy this for them. There’s blood and boobs, though never a surfeit of both. All three. You see what I mean. But it’s a geek treasury, a perfect Christmas present for the monster lover in your life which also looks very handsome on a shelf.

You get extra points if you leave the “Scary Older Women” section open when Auntie Scylla comes to visit. Happy monster-hunting.

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