Review: With Creative Creatures and a Few Great Kills, BOOK OF MONSTERS Breaks Through Some Roadblocks to Be A Fun Time
Dread has been on a pretty good streak lately in terms of offering entertainment that I have enjoyed thoroughly for various reasons. Terrifier, their throwback to the grungy and grimy slashers of the 80’s, complete with a great new horror icon in demented Art the Clown, was nasty and vicious in all the right ways, delivering tension and scares while attempting at every angle to make you wince. They also hit a home run with their documentary on the legendary stuntman Kane Hodder, appropriately named To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story. I was completely enamored at learning about this legend in the horror business, whether I knew about the facts already or learning something about this amazing individual for the first time. Now comes their newest release, the women vs. Lovecraftian monsters throw-down aptly named Book of Monsters. Can Dread Central deliver another old fashioned horror flick, or will this end up missing the mark?
Sophie just wants to have a fun 18th birthday party with a few of her friends and classmates, despite her friends attempts to make this the event of the school year. However as chance would have it, the night turns out to be anything but normal. All of a sudden, with the help of a red haired witch creature, six distinct monsters crash her party, which seem to be drawn from the book that her mom read to her as a child, all in an effort to kill and ultimately digest all of the guests on the list. Now Sophie, who believes her mom was murdered by one of these creatures years ago, and her best friends must group together to destroy these creatures from another realm and send them back to the pits of hell before it’s too late. Will she succeed or not live the night?
As I finished up watching Book of Monsters, the thought that immediately popped into my head was “Well that was good, but it could have used that extra….something”. Initially launched as a Kickstarter campaign which allowed backers to choose which monsters would end up appearing in the movie, Book of Monsters is a case of a movie that contains the most streamlined plots in order to facilitate the action and gore to follow. This isn’t considered a knock against the movie, since I have appreciated and loved many movies that follow this template of reduced plot in favor of absurd gore. However, I feel this flick just didn’t go far enough. The first major gore sequence, when the initial monster arrives at Sophie’s party, is filled to the brim with bloody and gory destruction, involving decapitations with the spinal cord attached, bodies split in half, spilling intestines and one unlucky soul who’s chest is crushed until his head explodes. The gore is delivered with requisite glee and excess, but it honestly could have used a few more dollars to really flesh out the details on all the mayhem. Due to this, the gore is ample but comes off as more run of the mill and less graphically inclined that it needs to be to satisfy the horror hounds, probably due to budgetary restraints.
Despite the restrictions due to readily available dollars, there are a few amazing sequences and shots that director Stewart Sparke was able to pull off. The opening sequence, which involves the sudden murder of Sophie’s mother by a grotesque creature under her bed then proceeding to slowly crawl toward the cowering Sophie, is a great pull-you-in opening that a movie can ever hope for, drawing you in immediately for the runtime. A second sequence involving the murder of a policeman on top of a patrol car, with his blood running down the windshield of the car and bathing the other officer and the entire car in a Giallo-like red, is beautifully realized and made me perk up and notice it immediately.
The monsters in the movie also are well done but feel like somewhat of a lost opportunity to really go big with their designs. The creatures are a varied bag, with plain and less realized monsters such as a skeleton deer monster with massive spikes on its back or another with two scythes and a mask similar to the plague doctors during the Black Death. However, two of the monsters, one called a jinn that resembled Samara from The Ring series that could possess other people, and a blob-like creatures with all the heads of the previous victims, are quite inspired in their design and usage, and do make-up for the design shortcomings with the other monsters present in the movie.
The acting was serviceable across the board, with everyone doing their part to be either scared, brave or provide mild comic relief within the madness that was going on. The main protagonist Sophie, played by Lyndsey Craine, did a good job but came off a little too timid across the whole movie, even at the point where her character is supposed to turn into a badass. Only Sophie’s friend Mona, played by Michaela Longden, left a lasting impression on me after the movie ended, presenting spunk, attitude and personality that is lacking from the other actors. As I said previously though, everyone does a commendable job.
In the end, despite my issues with the movie relating to a threadbare plot and not enough truly outstanding gory moments to make up for the story due to clear budget restraints (it was a kickstarted movie and it essentially takes place in one small location), the movie is still a fun 80 minutes to kick around on a Sunday afternoon and have a good time with. It’s doesn’t hit the dizzyingly gory heights of Terrifier, but everyone does seem to be having a good time, moves at a decent clip and doesn’t make you feel like you have wasted your time watching it, and in the end that’s all a horror fan can ask for.