Paula Guran Reviews Monster Movies by David J. Schow

Monster Movies, David J. Schow (Cimarron Street Books, 979-8-651-97809-0 $14.95, 280pp, tp) September 2020.

David J. Schow culled 30 years of his stories (1983-2013) for 13 to fit the titular theme of new collection Monster Movies. Or, more precisely, as the author states: “What happens to the monsters after the movie is over? That’s the backbeat, the true north for much of this book.” Except it is also a book about those who – like the author – love movies and monsters and, often, are part of the films themselves. Lead-off “Monster Movies” reveals how important such flicks were to a man in his childhood – and maybe his future. A film historian, whose reputation rests on his knowledge of a rare film, sacrifices art to preserve his prestige for posterity in “Murder”. A trio of aging actors who once played monsters meet up in “Last Call for the Sons of Shock”. In “Blood Rape of the Lust Ghouls” a vitriolic movie reviewer finds a portal to another, somehow familiar, world through a schlock movie poster. Peculiar, never-before-seen cinema treasures in “One for the Hor­rors” bring about “a reappearance of fun… sheer and undeniable” and reward a man’s “basic faith in the films – a faith which endured the years, and which he allowed to resurface when given an opportunity.” “(Melodrama)” features a late-night TV horror host – “an anachronistic hangover, ill-designed to outlast the explosion of microchip media – who realizes monster movies were ruined when “[i]t got legit. What was once fringe has now been assimilated, my friend, into the mainstream.” Manphibian is hoping for a comeback in “Gills”, but discovers they want a monster redesign. A disabled veteran discovers just how unusual the staff of a movie theater is in “Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You”. A foot-tall man related to the Incredible Shrinking Man ap­pears in “The Incredibly Dinky Man”. “The Thing Too Hideous to Describe” retires to Kentucky in his eponymous story. Actors playing monsters for “some movie studio’s amusement-park exploitation of Hallowe’en” – Spooky Night – aren’t the only fiends in “The Absolute Last… Horror Nights”. “The Finger”, in which a man inadvertently acquires his own personal monster, however, breaks the monster movie motif, but since “an actual monster movie” was made out of it, the story still fits the bill. The book’s cover is an illustration by 1950s movie poster artist Reynold Brown (1917-1991) commissioned by but never used by the studios. The compilation showcases Schow’s unique, clever, acerbic style as well as his shrewd understanding, vast knowledge, and abiding affection for his subject. It’s a must for anyone so cinematically inclined.

Paula Guran has edited more than 40 science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies and more than 50 novels and collections featuring the same. She’s reviewed and written articles for dozens of publications. She lives in Akron, Ohio, near enough to her grandchildren to frequently be indulgent.

This review and more like it in the November 2020 issue of Locus.

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