Meditations on Bigfoot, Bayou Beasts and Backwoods Boogiemen of the Movies Stephen R. Bissette Spiderbaby Grafix 2017 Pb, 245pp, illus, £18.82, ISBN 9781975938130
Stephen R Bissette, illustrator of the DC horror comic Swamp Thing, the Bigfoot-themed novel The Mountain King and The Vermont Monster Guide, is no
stranger to cryptids. Cryptid Cinema: Meditations on Bigfoot, Bayou Beasts and Backwoods
Boogiemen of the Movies is a refreshingly informal study of well-known and obscure cryptids lurking on the silver screen.
This well-researched and enlightening initial instalment – Cryptid Cinema is the first in a proposed cryptid-themed series that will cover comics, monsters, sea serpents and neo-dinosaurs – includes revised articles
and essays Bissette wrote for his blog
Myrant and for the excellent POD publications Monster! and
Weng’s Chop. He covers some of the usual suspects (the Yeti, Sasquatch, the Jersey Devil), but his unpacking of lesser-known cryptids proves most absorbing. As he did in Teen Angels and New Mutants (2011), a study of Swamp Thing collaborator Rick Veitch’s seminal 1990s Brat Pack, Bissette provides much-needed analysis of some overlooked films.
Included here are an eclectic group of creatures, from the space alien/Yeti from the bizarre Swedish Rymdinvasion I Lappland (1959; released in the US in 1962 as Invasion of the Animal People),
to a rogue’s gallery of Lovecraftian creatures, including the ‘Demogorgon’ featured in the first season of Netflix’s Stranger
Things (2016). Also featured are human-monster hybrids, with lengthy examinations of two endearing regional efforts: the Z-grade Zaat (1972) and the streamed then direct-to-video
The Glasshead (1998). Bissette also looks at more recent human-monster hybrids, from relatively bigger-budgeted releases, including Kevin Smith’s disturbing Tusk (1998), to the box office bomb Creature (2011), which he considers a modern classic.
While not every topic covered is strictly cryptid cinemarelated, Bissette’s encyclopedic knowledge is impressive and his enthusiasm is infectious. Moreover, this inaugural self-published effort under his recently revived Spiderbaby Grafix imprint is illustrated with rare production stills, newspaper articles, adverts, and movie posters with dozens of fascinating sidebars and asides, making for a page-turner. There is unfortunately no index and the illustrations beg for colour reproduction; reportedly, a full-colour “Library Edition” is in the works. Despite these minor complaints, Cryptid Cinema remains a delightful and informative tour of the cryptid cinematic landscape. Highly recommended for forteans and movie fans alike.