Friday, October 17, 2008


On the seventeenth day of Halloween, my boo love gave to me ... seventeen hours of monster karate lessons!


Teenage mutant ninja monsters, a pissed-off white boy, ineffectual psychiatrists, Room 222 rejects, and pukey messes that aren't the script.

More details here.


The title character (Trevor Matthews) is a jack-of-all-trades handyman with a shitty van-load of anger issues fostered by witnessing the death of his family at the furry hands of a forest monster as a kid. Life is falling apart for Jack. His shrink is out of ideas, his girlfriend's got a wandering eye, and he can't control his whiny self-hatred and temper tantrums. He attends night school where his science teacher Mr. Crowley (Robert Englund) asks him for help with his plumbing. Jack goes to work on his basement plumbing and unbeknownst to him, inadvertently releases a weird gas that slowly seeps into Crowley’s bedroom and turns him into a ravenous carnivorous creature with black contact lenses. (I knew I should have invested in those things. They’re everywhere!). Guided by the sickness, Crowley digs up a box in his backyard that contains a beating black heart that he promptly chows down. Meanwhile, Jack's loss of temper intensifies despite meeting a new punk rocker girl and a breakthrough with his counselor. But he’s still pissed and refuses to talk about his parents’ death. Crowley's physical deterioration continues as he eats his pet dog, vomits on the chalkboard, and grows tentacles from his hips. Unfortunately, there's not a giggling Japanese girl in sight. Jack confers with an old fart who owns the local hardware store. Oldie weaves a tale of the bizarre legend of Crowley's house which clues us in to the mystery of his degeneration. Shouldn’t we all know by now that when a scary old man tells you a narrative of his misspent youth that results in dismemberment and/or cannibalism, you should probably heed his advice? But Jack dismisses the cautionary tale and continues doing stuff, mostly not monster-slaying. By now Crowley is a burping, farting, fleshing-eating mess, and his transformation into rubbery movie monster completes. Crowley the Hutt unfurls his tentacled fury upon his students and transforms them into hideous zombies while Jack tries to save his girlfriend and a couple others by doing what any skilled monster slayer would do: lock themselves in a room. A life or death struggle ensues with lots of running, screaming, monster grunting, and unnecessary ethnic stereotypes. Jack and his lady manage to escape, but a song triggers a memory and a feeling deep within Jack and he returns to met out some serious monster killing like the Walmart-bred badass he was born to be.


First off, I love monster movies of all sizes, shapes, and species, (well, except for Species) and I've been more than forgiving for any missteps to the majority of the bad ones. Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is not a terrible movie, but I don't think any less of it because it's evident that there's genuine enthusiasm that went into it that longs for the 80s style and spirit, a recent trend permeating independent horror. I remember with fondness afternoons and nights watching horror goodness raided from the local video store as a cherubic scare monger. The best part was that sometimes I'd find something really good amidst VHS tapes of mostly bad. And Monster Slayer not only wants to bring back that exciting, fuzzy feeling, it also wants to be emblematic of it. Unfortunately, the movie plays out more like a pilot of a cheap TV show than an independent horror movie or a nostalgic throwback. I suppose it's meant to be a comedy, but the laughs weren't coming at you like silver bullets. In fact, the first forty minutes drags significantly with filler and exposition. But the movie does follow a low-budget horror movie rule: save everything for the third act. Unfortunately, they forgot to include a first and second. But they pursue this rule faithfully as the last thirty minutes is an enjoyable, fast-paced gorefest. I was very thankful and appreciative for the lack of CGI and impressed by the traditional camerawork, and make-up and puppetry effects. The main leads are fine, Jack is gruff and ingratiating but bland, and once again Englund pulls through like a trooper. What I took away from this watchable but flawed movie is an enjoyable lack of pretension. It's just a guy slaying monsters because monsters need slaying. Unfortunately, the movie and characters aren't well-rounded enough, the monsters themselves are a little too cartoonish, and the story less than engaging. Monster Slayer's intentions are good, but it fails to bring back that elusive joy of finding a gem in a pile of crap.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not true! This movie is totally fun. I guess you just missed the point.