AKA EL MONSTRO DEL MAR [Australia, 2010]
AVAILABLE ON DVD: 22nd October
RUNNING TIME: 75 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
After breaking down in their car in the middle of nowhere, three girls called Beretta, Blondie and Snowball lure another car down to help them, slaughter the two men who were inside it, and steal the vehicle. They head for a beach shack in a small isolated town to lay low for a while, but it doesn’t take long for them to disrupt the tiny fishing community with their loud, brash and ‘don’t take any shit’ attitudes. Worse of all, they swim where they have been warned not to, and in the process awaken the ancient evil that has plagued the town for centuries…..
I sometimes think that the internet and the proliferation of easily-accessed information about any film that is coming out to be found on it is not entirely a good thing. Years ago, one only really found out about films from magazines or even just posters, especially if they were of the exploitation type. I would have loved to have grown up in the ‘50s or the ‘60s where it seemed film advertising was at its most audacious, where you would look at a poster and go “Wow, that looks cool”. Who cares if, in the end, the resulting movie did not quite deliver what was promised on the poster; a good example being The Beast With A Million Eyes, the poster of which certainly suggested a beast with many eyes, but actually just featured an evil alien brain which could infect animals and turn them nasty [so in a way I suppose it does have many eyes]. Of course it wasn’t that different during the age of video either [which I certainly did grow up in], where you would walk into a video shop not really knowing what you wanted to see and it would often be a great front cover that you attract you. One thing is for sure; it’s not the same now at all. You may be able to go into a DVD shop and rent DVDs, but the selection is paltry and almost everything you’ve heard of. And as for the cinema, we now know loads about every film that comes out.
Monstro, which is actually the second feature to come from writer/director/editor/photographer Stuart Simpson [the first being Demonsamongus and a film I’m now going to hunt down!], seems to be a tribute to those days gone by I described above, coming across as a half-remembered echo of a lost exploitation film you may have remembered watching decades ago, or even just heard of. Crazy, murderous vixens meet a vicious sea monster. That’s the premise, so I suppose you could say the film is Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! meets Jaws, reducing the film to its most basic level. It’s clearly made to evoke 50’s monster movies, but also resembles 80’s ones with its attitude and gore [oh yes, there’s plenty of that]. It manages, oddly, to be both knowing and recapture the innocence of films gone by, where filmmakers didn’t always bother about having a strong story or being politically correct; they just intended to get bums on seats and entertain, even if, if you lived in America, you may very well have been spending more time making out with your girlfriend or boyfriend in your car at the drive-in.
As you will have guessed by now, I ‘dug’ Monstro, but to be honest it was more the attitude and vibe of the film rather than its actual content. It’s actually the kind of film that Quentin Tarantino would love and indeed would probably have been able to make well many years ago, but because he has [for me] totally lost his touch he would probably botch it now. It’s a very uneven piece really and certainly doesn’t work all the time. It opens in black and white, with our three anti-heroines hailing down a car in which are two men. The resulting dialogue has a relaxed feel, the scene seems very ‘real’, and the Tarantino feel is most pronounced here, though the talking soon comes to a stop when the women slit the men’s throats. The blood goes all over the place, and the effective brutality of the scene is enhanced by showing the men’s death throes as they struggle to stay alive. The film than goes into colour, which might be a twisted tribute to The Wizard Of Oz, or might not be?
The film interestingly plays with our feelings; are we meant to like these sexy killers or not? I will admit I didn’t find them sexy at all myself though many others will so that’s probably just my odd taste. Monstro gets a little lost in depicting them; the individual characterisations are okay, but the film seems to hint at them being lesbian without stating it, and is disappointingly coy about any sexual content whatsoever. You could say that this is the way it would have been had the movie been made in the 50’s or 60’s, but the gore is far stronger than they would have been allowed to show back then, so Monstro has an inconsistency of approach which helps make it rather uneven. The direction is also very ‘arty’ in a way most films of its type would not have been, with some unusual angles and the odd surreal bit such as a drunken woman [Hannah, the innocent town girl Beretta, Blondie and Snowball try to corrupt] seeing someone’s face as all white and painted. It’s interesting, like Michelangelo Antonioni does grind house, but jars with deliberately grind house-type effects like missing frames.
You cannot deny that Monstro looks good though, certainly better than you would expect with such a tiny budget. The performances are uneven but are mostly by unknowns and I’ve seen a lot worse. Three Australian comedians Scott Bennan, Steven Stagg and Rusty Benson make cameo appearances. Now you probably want to know about the monster, and it’s actually rather good, a many-tentacled thing that is only briefly seen in full but certainly serves its purpose [and reminded me of the terrific Deep Rising]. Usually you just see the tentacles, and they do move a little stiffly, but I was so happy to see a handmade creature I was willing to forgive that. I’ve mentioned before how to me it is often CGI that is unconvincing, not the other way round, and it’s great that in this picture you see a physical thing that people actually built. Hurrah! It’s also an especially vicious monster the way it rips off hands and the like, and gore hounds will certainly be pleased. Though the first half does drags in places, such as an endless scene where the girls are dancing which just feels like padding rather than a necessary part of the film,the second half certainly ramps up the thrills and things climax excitingly. A bit of weight and character developement is added by some focus on Hannah and her struggles with the demons of her past.
There’s a great deal of music in the film and it’s very varied, from surf music to punk rock, though the score has a spaghetti western feel which seems rather off but works. Some of the dialogue is drowned by the music though and I will say that the sound mix is very uneven overall. Because of the minute budget maybe. Monstro, which actually began life as the third in a series of short films from Simpson, is a rather hit-and-miss affair to be honest, but it bursts with sheer love of film and film history. Perhaps this is one movie which would benefit from being remake by Simpson when he hits the big time, but, judging by his skill and enthusiasm, it’s something he will certainly do so in due course.
The DVD from Monster Pictures includes;
* Two Feature length Audio commentaries
* Cast Interviews
* Deleted Scenes
* Behind The Scenes
* Two short films Acid Spiders and Sickie