Manual of monsters from cinema and culture – Book Review

monstro-coverI found an advertisement somewhere online for Rue Morgue Magazine’s Monstro Bizarro collection, “An Essential Manual of Mysterious Monsters”.  Maybe it was via the editor, Lyle Blackburn. I pay attention to Lyle’s books because I’ve liked them all so far but I’m not a Rue Morgue reader. This collection of columns looked interesting so I ordered it directly from Rue Morgue. (Later, I saw it on the shelf at BAM bookstore.)

At only 130 pages, I would quibble with the “manual of monsters” moniker but I enjoyed this book. I found that at the end of a stressful day, I was eager to get back to it.

I have a ton of cryptozoology and monster books. Most of the popular books on monsters repeat the same old tired anecdotal tales, complete with dramatic assumptions and error. I was pleasantly surprised to find this book generally did not do that. It focused on the movie and pop culture aspects of the monsters. You do not have to believe that these creatures are real monsters to enjoy this book, you just have to enjoy the idea, which I certainly do. Most of the contributions are from Lyle (by far the best ones). The rest were from Ken Gerhard, Nick Redfern, and David Weatherly.

The first 49 pages (Chapter 1) focused on Bigfoot and on the wave of horror films starring a violent version of the beast that came out within the last few years. This was a fresh view for me and I thought it was highly enjoyable to hear from the filmmakers on their vision of Bigfoot as “monster”. Here’s the thing: I won’t WATCH gory horror movies like this but I like finding out about the making of them. I certainly don’t begrudge people who like them or the crypto-fiction novels. Bigfoot and lake monsters, especially, make for fine fictional narratives.

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All the “Boggy Creek” film efforts in one place.

Chapter 2 included a mish-mash of creatures featuring Mothman and the wolf/dogman phenomenon. Chapter 3 was “slithery” things like lake and river monsters, the death worm, and half-human creatures like the Gill-man from the Black Lagoon and Lizardman. Chapter 4 was a sample of cryptids in pop culture. Chapter 5 were some of the stranger critters like Mokele-Mbembe, Shunka Warak’in, Momo and Kongamato. I think this chapter could have been wrapped into Chapters 2 and 3. As many monsters as possible were mentioned but, out of necessity, it was not comprehensive. The heavy use of illustrations made up for that.

While the organization was a bit odd and the content light fare to read, monster movie buffs will enjoy it. The artwork throughout the book was excellent. I could devour books just dedicated to images of monster toys and art. The film posters were awesome. I wish more were included. The cinema aspect is Rue Morgue‘s forte – it’s the perfect vehicle to explore this topic.

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Ideas for Saturday-night classic horror flix.

There were some places in the collection where it veered back into the standard cryptid fare (10 most famous creatures of cryptozoology, etc.) There were a number of these catch-all lists that covered a vast array of creatures but, generally, the heavy focus was on Bigfoot-type monsters. There was one particular stinker (“Proving Bigfoot”) because of its errors and mischaracterizations, while the rest were entertaining and new, even for a cryptid-veteran like me. I think, perhaps, this was because the rest of the content didn’t lean hard or at all on the “proof” aspect (which is where monster stories always tank).

At $15 for a paperback, it’s worth the price for the artwork alone. It makes for a nifty collectible for cryptozoology buffs.

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