Published by DK Books
If you’ve ever tried to dream up ways to combine all the classic monsters that first graced the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland with some of the badass new creatures that filled the gore-soaked pages of all those old-school Fangoria magazines we all grew up loving, then John Landis’ recent book, Monsters in the Movies: 100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares, should prove to be right up your proverbial alley, horror fiends!
Just about every monster you could ever remember from the last hundred years of genre cinema is represented. Granted, there aren’t a lot of newly uncovered goodies to find here, but I can’t remember the last time we were given such a thorough collection like Landis has assembled here, and the book is just too damned enjoyable to really nitpick at as a whole.
Landis, himself a master of wit and the horrendous after directing such films as An American Werewolf in London, Schlock! and Innocent Blood, provides his own commentary throughout by way of photo captions and chapter introductions. It’s often candid and in some instances opinionated, but either way it definitely provides the reader with an extensive journey through Landis’ eyes on the film history of monsters and madmen.
Landis never gets too deep or over-critical of the films and the monsters he features in Monsters in the Movies, and while there’s no doubt that taking that route would have made it a more complete book, the iconic filmmaker tells you from the start that analysis wasn’t his intention here but rather to entertain us visually. And in that department Landis definitely succeeds with the 320 pages of awesomeness assembled for Monsters in the Movies.
Readers will also enjoy Landis providing his own fascinating and entertaining insights into the world of moviemaking while the filmmaker conducts candid and in-depth “conversations” with some of the best monster makers out there, including David Cronenberg, Ray Harryhausen, Rick Baker, Joe Dante, Christopher Lee, Guillermo del Toro, John Carpenter, and Sam Raimi discussing their thoughts on some of the most iconic movie monsters ever. And while it would have been easy for Landis to go into these conversations just to lather his subjects up with nothing but high praise for their overall contributions to the horror genre, the filmmaker actually goes deep and even asks some challenging questions from his peers, which this writer found rather refreshing.
Monsters in the Movies also features a fun little section called “The Monster Carry” celebrating the iconic image of monsters carrying their female prey away where Landis asks you to name as many of the movies as you can, making for a nice diversion for readers. He also explores the historical origins of the numerous archetypal monsters through a multitude of chapters that cover the likes of Vampires, Werewolves, Mad Scientists, Zombies, Ghosts, Mummies, Myths/Legends/Fairy Tales, Dragons/Dinosaurs, Monstrous Apes, Nature’s Revenge, Atomic Mutations, The Devil’s Work, Space Monsters, Monstrous Machines, Human Monsters and The Monster Makers.
At the beginning of each section, Landis provides readers with a two-page overview about the subject or topic that features a brief summary with the touch of humor we’ve come to expect from the filmmaker, and throughout each chapter he digs even deeper into some fascinating sub-categories, including a look at the various incarnations of big baddies like Jack the Ripper, Dracula, The Wolf Man and Frankenstein, as well as several overarching genre themes like Dystopia, Scary Older Women and Monsters on Four Wheels just to name a few. It’s that kind of attention to detail that really sets Monsters in the Movies apart from reading like an overglorified A to Z encyclopedia of the horror genre’s favorite monsters- it’s evident here that Landis truly revels in his love for the subject matter he’s exploring.
With over 1,000 brilliant pictures and beautifully reproduced film posters for fans to gaze upon for hours on end, Landis’ Monsters in the Movies knocks it out of the park as an entertaining, thorough and easily digestible exploration of the iconic (and sometimes not-so-iconic) monsters, madmen and things that go bump in the night that have terrified us on the big screen for 100 years and counting. Monsters in the Movies is an absolute must-own for any horror fan out there!
4 1/2 out of 5
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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