March 15, 2019 Book of Monsters (Movie Review)
It’s her eighteenth birthday and Sophie is about to sing, “It’s my party and I’ll kill monsters if I want to!” That is, if she can survive the night! In the action-packed Horror-Comedy offering Book of Monsters, a group of young ladies will have to save the day when all hell breaks loose at a party in the British countryside. Epic Pictures and Dread present this blood-soaked good time, which hits Blu-ray and VOD on Tuesday, March 19, 2019.
In honor of her coming-of-age, Sophie’s (Lyndsey Craine: The Creature Below 2016, Long Gone short 2018) father, Jonas (Nicholas Vince: Hellraiser 1987, Mindless short 2016), has lovingly handed the house over to his daughter and her two best friends — Mona (Michaela Longden: Audax 2014, Where Demons Hide 2019) and Beth (Lizzie Aaryn-Stanton: Donner Party: The Musical short 2013, Hindsight short 2018) — so that they might enjoy a nice, quiet girls night. Before he disappears, dad gifts Sophie a special book, one that once belonged to her mother (Samantha Mesagno: 50 Ways to Kill Your Lover series, Freesia 2017) before she died under mysterious circumstances a decade ago.
As the night kicks into gear, it quickly becomes obvious that Mona and Beth have invited the entire school, including mean girl Arya (Anna Dawson: The Creature Below 2016, 1921 2018); Sophie’s unwitting love interest, Jess (Rose Muirhead: Megan short 2018, Development of June short 2018); and poor, poor Gary (Daniel Thrace: Closet short 2014, The Creature Below 2016), whose name no one can seem to get right.
Unfortunately, things run amok pretty quickly as a group of monsters raid the countryside and send the party-goers fleeing for their lives. What follows involves a virgin sacrifice, plenty of intestines, a beheading, death by dildo, one male stripper, grown men screaming like little girls, and a chainsaw. Those with gnomophobia need not apply!
Clocking in at 80 minutes, Book of Monsters was directed by Stewart Sparke (Frostbite: Proof of Concept Film short 2012, The Creature Below 2016) and written by Paul Butler (All Things Die short 2014, Nothing Man 2017). It also features the acting talents of Julia O’Connell, Julian Alexander (What Else. short 2016, Desert Wasteland 2019), Ben Hartley, and more. Additionally, the film’s bevy of monsters are portrayed by Writer Paul Butler, along with Mark Wilkins; Paul Wilkins (Immune 2016, The Creature Below 2016); Arron Dennis (Swashbuckle Your Seatbelts short 2006, Nothing Man 2017); Gian Piero Pottieri (Beyond Horizons short 2018, Argot short 2018); Steph Mossman (Angel of Death 2017, King Lear 2018); and Dave Jameson (Hólmganga short 2015, Scott and Sid 2018).
After a successful run at genre film festivals last year, Book of Monsters picked up an impressive seven awards, including “Best Film” and “Best Special FX” at the New York City Horror Film Festival. It’s interesting to note that the film’s unique Kickstarter campaign had a fun twist: backers could vote on six key elements of the movie, including what form the monsters would take and how they killed their victims. The result is a witty movie with buckets of gore that was brought to life via audience participation; a kind of Choose Your Own Adventure, film style.
Needless to say, there are a zillion visual influences to the monsters contained herein and no two are alike. Whereas many films will create one creature and then multiply it to suit their needs, Book of Monsters goes all out to live up to its title. The five monsters here have a myriad of inspirations behind their crafting, with the hunch-backed Grota being reminiscent of the Skeksis from 1982’s The Dark Crystal, and the Jinn being heavily influenced by 1987’s Predator. Meanwhile, the bizarre little maggot-worms that give birth to the flesh-chomping garden gnomes have a definite Tremors (1990) feel, though that Steampunk birdman/plague doctor doesn’t have an obvious visual reference.
The truth is that Book of Monsters is intentionally cheesy, an homage to 1980s action-packed Horror classics, particularly creature features, injected with Velveeta-licious comedy. So, while the gore factor is pretty damn impressive, the blood and body parts are hardly believable as real. Which might be for the best, because the film includes tons of intestines, at least one beheading, quite a few severed limbs, an exploding head, chopped off fingers, death by microwave, and more. The practical effects are sufficiently downplayed to add to this cheese factor, but it’s all done lovingly and in the spirit of good times.
The ensemble cast all do a wonderful job in their roles, with the bulk of the characters being cannon fodder and not even receiving names. In the obvious lead, Craine’s Sophie is a young woman haunted by her tragic past, bullied at school, and understandably a bit timid. She’s definitely not the type of woman that one would expect to don a chainsaw and kick some monster butt, but Craine gives an entertaining performance in her quirky role. As her sidekicks, Longden and Aaryn-Stanton also do well in their roles. However, brownie points must go to Dawson (Arya) and the male stripper for their ludicrous yet hysterical scene with some blood-thirsty garden gnomes from hell.
So, yes, Book of Monsters is ridiculous and fully enjoyable, never scary or disturbing, but a joy ride of bizarreness that is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. Caked in blood and gore, it’s really a Wisconsin-style cheese-fest with an underlying love of the 1980s embedded into its influences. Can a ragtag group of ladies save the day and set things back to rights before it’s too late? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see! But please remember: beware those disgustingly happy gnomes! Donning our chainsaws, Cryptic Rock give Book of Monsters 4 of 5 stars.