Book Review: Monster Squad

Monster Squad BookMonster Squad: Celebrating the Artists Behind Cinema’s Most memorable Creatures
Published by BearManor Media, 2017. 430 pages.
By Heather A. Wixson

In the early ’80s, makeup artists that worked on horror movies were becoming real celebrities, just as if they were the main stars of the films they worked on. Seeing names like Savini, Baker, or Bottin in the credits would get fans to go see a film on their participation alone. So many young fans out there were so inspired by these names, that they dabbled on their own with latex, spirit gum, and greasepaint, some more successful than others. Like a lot of us fans during that time, the movies affected us more than most people watching them. Some wanted to be part of the world that were creating this magic. That passion is what drove them to never stop trying, never stop learning, and just never stopping. That era when rubber monsters and outrageous creatures ruled the genre is over three decades ago, with quite a bit being replaced with CGI. But that hasn’t stopped some of these guys from continuing with their craft, still fueled by that same passion to create magic on the screen.

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Book Review: The Thrill of Repulsion

Thrill of RepulsionThe Thrill of Repulsion: Excursions into Horror Culture
Published by Schiffer Publishing LTD, 2016. 280 pages.
By William Burns

When I picked up this book from ebay, from the title I figured it would be another nice addition to my Psycho-Babble section in my library. But once I got it and started to browse through it, I was completely surprised at what this volume actually is about. What seemed to be moments later, I realized I had already read the first couple of chapters!

This tome is a couple of different kinds of books. The first part, which is on films, is what got my attention right away, is the lists. After a brief introduction, we get several chapters of the Top 13 lists, such as The 13 Most Disturbing Films That Aren’t Horror Movies, or The 13 Most Deranged Horror Director Debuts, or even The 13 Most Phantasmagorical Fantastique Films. In each of these chapters, the author lists the top 13 in that particular category that he feels are important and discusses them a bit. Now like with any list, there might be some arguments or discussions with the ones that Burns has come up with, but that is really what these kind of lists are for. But the other part is that possibly for more of novice fan, it gives you a little checklist to make sure you check the recommendations. Even more experienced fans might find a title or two they need to check out. I know I did. Even if you don’t agree with the titles mentioned in the lists, the author felt they were pretty important so they should be at least worth checking them out if you haven’t already. These little lists are a great way to add some titles to your “Need to Watch” list.

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Book Review: Laird Cregar – A Hollywood Tragedy

laird-cregar-hollywood-tragedyLaird Cregar: A Hollywood Tragedy
Published by McFarland, 2018. 329 pages
By Gregory William Mank

The reading goal that I have set for myself is to get through at least one book per month, and for the last couple of years, I’ve happily gone a little past that goal. But thanks to the wonderfully talented Mr. Mank, my average for this year just went up. It usually takes me 3-4 weeks to get through a book, mainly because I have to steal away time to read. But once I started this latest volume, on the actor Laird Cregar, I went through the first half of it in the first two days, finishing it off within a week. I just couldn’t put it down.

I have been a fan of Cregar’s since the very first time I watched The Lodger (1944). I was just amazed at not only how effective and well made the picture was, but also the amazing talent of Cregar. I immediately started to seek out other of his films, especially Hangover Square (1945), again being mesmerized by his performance. I started to read up on this seemingly unknown (to me at least) actor and his life in various books and online, only be to be depressed on how this brilliant performer was treated in his life, by others as well as how he treated himself. A couple of years ago, while talking to Mank at a Monster Bash conference, he mentioned Cregar was going to be the subject of an upcoming book, which I knew I would get the minute it came out. Which I did.

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Book Review: Apocalypse Then

Apocalypse ThenApocalypse Then
Published by McFarland, 2017. 316 pages
Written by Mike Bogue

Anybody who picks up this book thinking that it is just another book of reviews of our favorite giant and mutated monsters from the ’50 and ’60s will be sadly mistaken. Yes, there are plenty of reviews within these pages of movies like Tarantula, The Monster that Challenged the World, Them!, Godzilla, Mothra, and so many more. But there is so much more here, both at face value and much more at a deeper level to really make you think.

Bogue has done an incredible job here going over these movies that many of us love and hold dearly in our fandom. But he also shows how these movies came about, through the use of atomic and nuclear power and the effects that it has. Not just on the cinematic monsters, but what it had done to humanity, and more importantly, what it still does. Even the novice of fans knows about the connections between Godzilla and the bombs that were dropped on Japan in the ’40s. But Bogue goes deeper is how the cinematic influences were different between Japan and the US.

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Book Review: The British Horror Film

British Horror FilmThe British Horror Film: From the Silent to the Multiplex
Published by Fonthill Media, 2017. 222 pages
By Ian Fryer

I’m a sucker for any books on British horror films, especially when they are going to cover Hammer. But then there are still so many other great pictures and talented filmmakers that came out of the UK, so there is much more of a history than just Hammer. Whether it is a good thing or not, but Fryer spends more of the time covering the famous Studio that Dripped Blood. So it’s a toss-up to find that a complaint or not, because they were such a dominating force in that country’s horror film output.

He does do a decent job covering other entries, such as Amicus, Tony Tenser, Pete Walker and the likes, so it’s not just Hammer. Even when we get to the modern day, he mentions quite a few of the people making a name for the genre, like Neil Marshall, Christopher Smith, and Ben Wheatley.

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Book Review: The Unrepentant Cinephile

Unrepentant CinephileThe Unrepentant Cinephile
Independently Published in 2017. 556 pages
By Jason Coffman

So what really is the purpose of a movie guide? I mean, after all, it’s just a collection of reviews by either one or a number of people that watch the films and review them, right. While that is true in its basic element, for me it really comes down to opening doors. Not just showing me some titles that I’ve never heard about, but when done correctly, makes me want to seek them out after reading about them. The reviewer’s thoughts and how they are written are a very important key here, as well as the reviewer themselves. I’ve come across many reviewers that I’ve found simply not getting what they are reviewing, or a few that seem like they haven’t even watched the movie they’re writing about. But when you come across a reviewer/writer that not only knows what he’s talking about, but just has a sheer love of cinema, you tend to take his words to heart, even above and beyond the ‘likes and dislikes’ they may have for a particular title. Jason Coffman is one of those. And this book does exactly what a film guide should do and that is to open the doors and should make your To-Watch list grow. A lot.

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The Wonderful Movie Books of Guillermo del Toro

As a collector of movie themed books, nothing brings me back to my childhood than when you find a book that is not only dedicated to a single title, but one that covers it with so much detail that you literally can just fall right into the film as you’re slowly turning the pages, reading all about the making of the particular title while looking at the wonderful images therein. It’s really magical. Of course, it’s great when you can find one of these books on a movie that you absolutely adore. Or maybe it’s about a particular filmmaker. Or even better, a series of books on this same guy, who has continued to create some of the most beautiful cinematic features over the years. Of course, I’m talking about Guillermo del Toro and the amazing books that have been coming out over the last few years.

cabinetofcuriositiesOver the last five years, there have been at least a half dozen titles that have come out, either from Harper Design and/or Insight Editions, all looking very similar to each other, but are just filled to the brim with tons of information. The first volume was called Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions, and was released by Harper Design in October of 2013. This book was a walk into the creative mind of del Toro and what a wonderful stroll it is to take. It covers the filmmakers early life, gives us a tour of Bleak House, as well as going through some of his movies. Filling the pages are images where your mind can be inspired, from the mind-blowing photos of his collection in Bleak House, to the illustrations and original sketches from the different films, all coming from his notebooks while he was developing these movies. This large hardcover was a bit pricy with the original retail at $60, but it really is a must for fans of his work. Here’s a video he made explaining what this book is all about. Better to hear it right from him, right?

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