Review: Things Take A Few Tense Turns In A Truly Fun, Wild Ride With MONSTER PARTY
Chris von Hoffmann is a name that we need to pay attention to. His last two films are so stylistically captivating yet drastically different, it’s thrilling to see what he will do next. While 2016’s Drifter was a dirty, grunge punk action film that rode in the fringes of horror, Monster Party is a slick, decadent thriller that charms it’s way into the horror realm with some wicked brutality and a third act twist that is balls out genre affair.
The premise is pretty easy. Three teenage thieves who all have less than stellar home lives are looking to upgrade their lives. Iris and Dodge are together, with a baby on the way, and Casper has a drunk, gambling addicted father who’s in deep with some seedy people. After some successful run-of-the-mill breaking and entering in upper middle class neighborhoods, they’ve decided to take a stab at the big leagues and rob a mansion of it’s safe contents during a dinner party. While this group of elite and affluent is snobbish and slightly off putting, the crew doesn’t realize that they are in way over their head.
Monster Party is glossy and sexy as hell, straight out. With stark whites and blues, the set pieces of nearly Grecian ancestry, and a wildly attractive cast, this movie looks good literally from start to finish. von Hoffman and cinematographer Tobias Deml know exactly how to draw the eye, framing shots to induce unease, allowing us to fully understand the societal backdrop we’re tagging along with, that emptiness in the pitch perfectly clean mansion of The Dawson’s. Also a special nod of the hat to Alison Korth and Joanna David, the set designer and costumer designer, for it’s their special eye for decoration, decor and elegance that makes this movie feel much bigger than it is.
von Hoffmann takes his time and doles tension out in parcels, baiting the viewer, before stomping his foot on the pedal and throwing this smooth ride into a twisty, bumpy nightmare. Once the dinner guests arrive, we’re slowly made privy to the reason for this party, as the attendees are all addicts, but these upstarts aren’t craving a drink or a bump, but something much more outwardly violent. von Hoffmann does a great job at showing us the distinct differences between our morally grey protagonists and our deviant villains without ever being ham fisted about it. It’s never a battle of the classes (figuratively) but does turn into quite a brawl, literally, once the ball gets rolling. He’s much more sly about the distinctions made. It’s not just this facet that he controls masterfully, but also allowing us to really hate our crew of antagonists. It’s the exact kind of horror we love to love: a story where we can’t wait to see these miscreants meet a cruel and brutal end.
Now, let’s get to this cast. Robin Tunney and Julian McMahon are our tenured headliners, along with the prolific Lance Reddick, and they all do a fantastic job as locker room leaders for the young cast that is our vessel for much of the film. Sam Strike is our reluctant hero, thrust into the spotlight alongside Virginia Gardener (Halloween, Runaways) as Iris and Brandon Micheal Hall (Search Party) as Dodge. While Hall and Gardener both play thier parts well, Strike really nails down the role as affable lead, he’s quiet and timid but embraces the path he must take with strides and you’ll find it easy to support him and root for him. Our teenage hellions are so savagely malicious that you’ll hate them so intensely that you can feel it inside you, boiling and bubbling over, actively rooting for death. Kian Lawley as Eliot Dawson is equal parts Patrick Bateman and Paul (of Funny Games.) Aided by his equally brutal goons, Chester Rushing and Jamie Ward as Cameron and Jeremy, you’ll be hard pressed to find a group you’ve ever so actively disliked. It’s not in a way that makes you not enjoy the film, though, instead in a way that pushes you further into the story and will have you cheering for our heroes with fervor. The real standout star is Erin Moriarty as Alexis Dawson, who will have you captivated in the first scene. She’s the black sheep of the family and ends up playing against them as one of the most likable “final girl” turns you’ll see all year. She’s charming, gorgeous, and can flip from bold to frightened at the flick of a switch. She’s a willful, bold character that is easily likable.
Another thing Monster Party really gets right is taking some bold choices. You’ll find yourself expecting a certain scene to go one way and when it swiftly changes direction, your jaw will hit the floor. Plus, while it’s hinted at early on, the third act “twist” is so brazenly horror-centric that you have to applaud von Hoffmann twice over. You see, he wrote the film as well as directed it.
It was one of the last films to drop from RLJE in 2018 and is a sleeper hit in the making. It’s sleek, sexy and in a brilliant flare of contrast, full of acts of savagery and violence. Monster Party is a must watch blood-soaked brawl from a promising director, check it out on blu ray and digital platforms NOW.