BOOKS… The Ultimate Book of Movie Monsters by Christopher Carton (2022)



Author Christopher Carton is a guiding light to take us to the heart of a bestiary of movie monsters…


Look at this book cover, and you’ll think of Alien, Dracula, Godzilla, Monsters Inc and Jurassic Park. Then open it and discover so many more in this labyrinth of movie monsters with Carton as your sterling companion lighting the way.


Movie monsters, aliens and other foul creatures (Redux), Clara Darko


Recently in my twice weekly Finnish lesson – when discussing emotions -, I learned the words, pelätä, säikähtää, jännittää, kauhistua, hermostuttaa and uhata. These Finnish words when translated into English – by Google Translate – are defined as to be afraid, to take fright, tense, to be frightened, to ruffle and to threaten respectively. In this book, The Ultimate Book of Movie Monsters, the author Christopher Carton is our handy expert on these movie monsters who have made us feel in these ways and much, much more.

This is the second book from the pop culture guru, Christopher Carton, and I recently reviewed his exemplary first book, A Guide to Video Game Movies (2022). After promoting my post about this book on Social Media, I was thrilled when Carton thanked me personally for my review and wrote some lovely words regarding my review. He then invited me to give my thoughts on this new book, The Ultimate Book of Movie Monsters.

Carton lures you in to discover this maze crammed full of monsters with a captivating cover showing some infamous mythical creatures. Carton switches this fear inducing tone immediately, as he warmly thanks his close family for introducing him to this genre in the movies. Then he switches back to the monster-themed content as you discover his contents page.

Carton divides his book into 10 short chapters and an introduction. The book is a short but succinct 216 pages long. But is an extensive guide to this movie trope in many of its forms. These chapter titles immediately have your adrenaline flowing with thrilling titles. These will appeal to your dark side and will enthral every monster fanatic. These chapters include those titled, The Undead,  Fantasy Fiends… and Friends?, Terror from Above, From the Depths, Colossal Beasts and Ghastly Ghouls

In his introduction, Carton explores briefly how filmmakers have used fear in their movies for over a century. He explores their varying means and methods when using these monster based plots to captivate and terrify us in the name of entertainment. He advocates that the filmmaker’s role is to…

“tap into our psyches and raise hairs on the back of our necks, is by putting us face to face with monsters…”

Carton then delves into short vivid descriptions of the many roles of monsters on screen. This be they be evil, “misunderstood” or fun monsters and he argues that they take a part in every film genre. In his book, he aims to explore the world of,

“some of the most iconic, unique, inventive and terrifying creatures ever to grace a screen”.

Then you join Carton in meeting these creatures, as the chapters begin with the first chapter titled Vicious Vampires. Carton sets the scene for these monsters impeccably with a compelling and creatively written yet eerie description of this fictional monster. This description is a quote from a book or from his imagination as he describes a movie monster in films. As Carton introduces you to this creature, you’ll believe you are confronting this monster in your visual imagination as you read this text.

Following this, Carton gives a shout out to a number of filmmakers’ creations regarding this monster. These monsters are illustrated, in sections describing their different interpretations in films that feature their presence. Each of these subsections has enticing titles and further titles with the name of the monster. Carton then adds their filmmaker or author creator. He also lists the film franchises that these monsters can be found in, along with the years these films were released. He then helpfully – just in case you are a sensitive soul and encounter these monsters in your sleep in a nightmare or dream  – adds these monsters’ strengths and weaknesses.

This introductory description is accompanied by a short introduction to this monster type. It is followed by Carton’s enthusiastic analysis of these monsters in individual films. Subsections demonstrate how these monsters have been portrayed in a wide variety of ways in a number of films. There are a variety of films that were released over the decades from forgotten films and silent movies to the present day described in his always accurate descriptions and reviews.

Carton’s sterling research and subsections with films from every decade concur with his earlier descriptions of monsters where he tells how movie audiences have watched them over recent centuries. His analysis includes vivid descriptions of these monsters, film plots and star cast lists. 

This content introduced this movie blogger to some new films  – as well as reminded me of some great contributions to this sub-genre – and it was illuminating to learn more about each subject. Carton blends facts with his captivating descriptions and analysis. The book follows the same format for each of these chapters, where each concentrates on subgenres including ghosts, dinosaurs, sharks, vampires and zombies.

An example found in this book is found as he discusses Dracula. Carton outlines the contributions of Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Max Shreck and Leslie Neilsen. He analyses notable films such as The Lost Boys (1987) and Carton adds other films such as Interview with a Vampire (1994), Dracula Untold (2014) and Dracula Dead and Loving It (1995). Each film is analysed separately and Carton’s Dracula themed content includes films from every genre such as horror, silent movies, animations and horror and slapstick comedies. 

You can use this book in other ways such as by dipping into individual films separately or reading each chapter as a whole. In both methods you discover Carton’s encyclopedic knowledge – and unspoken love – of each of these critters. For each individual entry, Carton adds a black and white or colour photograph of this monster. This adds a pictorial reference and these well chosen shots compliment his vivid descriptions and analysis. 

Like his previous book, I was captivated by his descriptions of plots – often littered with puns and his humour – and in this book, he additionally captured my imagination with vivid and visual descriptions of monsters. I was happy to see that as well as a chapter looking at Classic Monsters such as those in Gremlins (1984), The Blob (1958) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), that Carton catered for us B-movie lovers.

In this latter chapter, titled The Best of the B Movies, Carton introduced me to some films that I’ve since added to my to-watch list. I’ve also added films describing witches and werewolves in the Cursed Calamities chapter after I recently enjoyed both The Howling (1981) and Silver Bullet (1985) with Darlin Husband so this book came with perfect timing. 

In this book, Carton examines the role, creation and history of fear in movies with examples of films from filmmakers including Alfred Hitchcock, Guillaume Del Toro, Francis Ford Coppola and The Asylum films and franchises like Lord of the Rings, Sharknado and Star Wars. It’s also a treasure trove for every completist with those lists with many sequels, prequels and reboots.

Finally, another thing I learned while writing this post is that the word bestiary is the collective noun for a large number of mythical creatures. So now I’m proposing a sub-genre for us movie aficionados who love monsters be they big or small, comic or scary or from the sky or the sea.

And when creating this collective noun, doesn’t this author’s name contain the perfect word…? I now advocate the use of this subgenre as “a carton full of movie monsters”. I’m sure that many of those heroes and heroines who challenged, killed, confronted and watched these (movie) monsters might agree with this word. This is after they’ve literally faced their monsters and then contained their fears and still entertained us every time.


A disclaimer and personal thank you to NetGalley and for Pen & Sword for giving me an Advance Reader Copy of The Ultimate Book of Movie Monsters (2022) by Christopher Carton. Financial compensation was not received, however, I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own. If you would like your book to be featured or promoted here, please drop a line to me via my Contact Me Page.




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