While I, myself, tend to get a little squeamish about horror movies, I have a friend who has made sure I know the name John Landis. So, my attention is piqued now that I know he’s written a book called Monsters in the Movies, which spans 100 years of “cinematic nightmares.”
Below you’ll find 13 (lucky!) movie titles that John Landis talks about in his book. And for you New Yorkers, watch out, all of these movie take place in your state.
As is easy to tell from the book, John is crazy about horror flicks, and he shared with us his favorite monster movie set in NYC, in case you want to experience horror as a master prefers. John told us that “My favorite New York-based monster movie is the original King Kong (1933) which captures the energy and excitement of Broadway in the thirties and then unleashes a giant ape into the streets of Manhattan.” – Press release from DK.com
Here are some of Landis’ thoughts on 13 Monster Movies.
C.H.U.D.: Homeless people who live in the sewers are exposed to toxic nuclear waste and become “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers” in this nifty B picture.
Jessica says: I’ve heard of this movie before. I will probably never be convinced to watch it, though.
The Sentinel: John Carradine as Father Halloran, a blind priest who sits in the window of a Brooklyn brownstone that turns out to be the gateway to hell.
Jessica says: I wonder what window treatments he had. Har, har.
King Kong: In King Kong theatrical showman Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) has captured the giant ape, brought him to Manhattan, and billed him as “The Eighth Wonder of the World.” The opening-night audience thrills with anticipation waiting for the curtain to rise on what promised to be the Broadway sensation of the decade. Two women wonder what Mr. Denham has in store for them this time. One remarks that she heard it was “some kind of gorilla.” As two men climb over them on their way to their seats, the other woman replies, “Ain’t we got enough of them in New York already?”
Jessica says: I’ve always liked the original version simply because of the screen siren Faye Wray being in it, and how her name sounds so mysterious. I saw the version of Naomi Campbell and loathed it.
Cloverfield: New York City is invaded by really huge monsters and we watch the whole thing through the video camera of one of the young people who we do not care about who are trying to escape. The special effects are first-rate.
Jessica says: Ah, this movie! You know, I had more fun on AintItCool.com reading the theories before the movie, than actually watching the movie.
Rosemary’s Baby: From the bestselling novel by Ira Levin. With an exceptionally fine cast, Polanski does full justice to Ira Levin’s sly commentary on actors, motherhood and apartment dwelling.
Jessica says: Yea, I think this is probably too well done and would scare me.
Planet of the Apes: Based on the book by Pierre Boulle, Planet of the Apes  featured innovative, Academy Award-winning make-ups by John Chambers and a forceful performance by Charlton Heston as the stranded astronaut Taylor. The film spawned four sequels, two television series, and a remake in 2011. The screenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, and the ambitious art direction by William J. Creber and Jack Martin Smith, combined with Leon Shamroy’s old-school camera work, make the first Planet of the Apes a milestone in movie science fiction.
Jessica says: I’ve seen none of these films because monkeys ALREADY terrify me.
The Hunger: Catherine Denevue is Miriam Blaylock and David Bowie is John, her lover. Blaylock is an immortal vampire, but John has begun to decompose. Bowie aging and dying while sitting in a waiting room is a beautiful and moving sequence. Based on Whitley Strieber’s 1981 novel. Dick Smith is called the godfather of special effects make-ups.
Jessica says: I’ve not heard of this, but I really want to see it now.
Cat People: Cat People centers around a beautiful woman (Simone Simon) descended from an ancient European race. When her passions (jealousy and lust) are aroused, she turns into a murderous black panther!
Jessica says: Another movie I want to see, now. Cats!
The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms: Ray’s Beast From 20,000 Fathoms was the first of the many monsters unleashed by the atomic bomb. Based on the Ray Bradbury short story, “The Fog Horn,” in which a lonely, prehistoric beast rises from the sea mistaking a lighthouse foghorn for a mating call, the enormous success of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms provided the incentive for Toho Studios in Tokyo to produce their own gigantic beast-rising-from0the-sea-movie, Godzilla, in 1954.
Jessica says: I love that Landis provides so much trivia and info in his reviews.
I Am Legend: The third movie made based on Richard Matheson’s outstanding novel ‘I Am Legend.’ There is some terrific stuff in this film and Will Smith gives a strong performance. The realization of a Manhattan empty of people is very well done.
Jessica: Maybe I should see the other two movies, since the Will Smith version was so cool.
Ghostbusters / Ghostbusters II: The sequal to Reitman’s blockbuster comedy Ghostbusters. Co-scripter Dan Aykroyd (with Harold Ramis) originally conceived the premise as a vehicle for himself and close friend John Belushi. Both movies have rousing scores by Elmer Bernstein and Randy Edelman.
Jessica: Which is the one with the giant marshmallow!?
Maniac: Tom Savini is noted for his gory make-ups in Maniac
Jessica: Ha, is he working on Dexter season 6, by any chance? Cause they really … yea.
GREMLINS II – THE NEW BATCH: Gremlins is a wonderful mix of the sweet and the sinister. Christopher Lee as Dr. Catheter has something unpleasant on the end of his arm once the gremlins go out of control in Joe Dante’s live action cartoon sequel to his own Gremlins.
From B-movie bogeymen and outer space oddities to big-budget terrors, Monsters in the Movies by legendary filmmaker John Landis showcases the greatest monsters ever to creep, fly, slither, stalk, or rampage across the Silver Screen!
Jessica: These things are creepomatic!
Landis provides his own fascinating and entertaining insights into the world of moviemaking, while conducting in-depth “conversations” with leading monster makers, including David Cronenberg, Christopher Lee, John Carpenter, and Sam Raimi— to discuss some of the most petrifying monsters ever seen. He also surveys the historical origins of the archetypal monsters, such as vampires, zombies, and werewolves, and takes you behind the scenes to discover the secrets of those special-effects wizards who created such legendary frighteners as King Kong, Dracula, and Halloween’s Michael Myers. With more than 1000 stunning movie stills and posters, this book is sure to keep even the most intense fright-seekers at the edge of their seats for hours!