Grumpy Mr. Patterson has a wander along the beach with the rock n roll wenches from hell who take on the mythical Kraken in Monstro, but do the tentacles grab him?
It’s just a shame that acclaimed French cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard is dead. I’ve got a feeling that he would have enjoyed Monstro! That’s not to say that it is an astounding film, or exhibits any special, highfalutin qualities as a work of art or anything. Come to think of it, I have no idea what JB’s taste in entertainment was during his lifetime. It could have been anything for all I know.
But regardless, Stuart Simpson’s debut indie horror flick is so heavy on the pastiche, so deliberately engaged in over the top campiness and hyper-real caricatures, that I like to imagine that everyone’s favourite Gallic poststructuralist would have had a thing or two to say about it.
Monstro!’s grindhouse influences are written large from the outset, when we are introduced to three buxom femme fatales: Beretta, Blondie and Snowball. As it transpires they like nothing more than “jiggling about” and “whooping it up” to rockabilly music, killing dimwitted men and going to the seaside in their classic roadster.
They do like to be beside the seaside, they do like to be beside the sea, as here they can play rounds of Gin Rummy with beers and fags and jump in the sea for a paddle and more bouts of “whooping it up”.
Unfortunately, splashing around in shallow water is a plot contrivance that inevitably triggers the interest of that multi tentacled, murderous sea beast: the Kraken. Obvious comparisons to 50’s creature features are invited at this juncture, as are references to Jaws and any number of its imitators.
I don’t think it was a conscious decision in Stuart Simpson’s semi logical interplay of movie references (how’s that for pretentious? I bet you enjoyed it!) but for me the strongest moment of intertextuality (there I go again) in Monstro! was delivered by the presence of one Norman Yemm.
Here he plays a grizzled, wheelchair bound sea dog called Joseph, but to anyone familiar with 1980’s UK terrestrial TV scheduling, Norman is the unforgettable face of “Norman Baker” from the Sullivans.
The Sullivans was the lens through which I first observed and came to understand antipodean culture. That it was all set in “olden days”, lacking as they did modern technology or consumer items. A really miserable place in fact, that induced feelings of depression, due in no short part to the fact that they were locked forever in an eternal conflict with the Axis-powers. A bit like a Mobius loop or something. But I digress …
Norman and his granddaughter, Hannah, are forced into an unlikely alliance with our all girl gang when collectively they are forced to do battle with the Kraken.While more exciting than an episode of the Sullivans, the denouement (another one for you) of Monstro! is not completely satisfying to a miserable “genre enthusiast” such as myself.
It seems churlish to criticize a micro-budget movie for it’s lack of technical excellence, but the mise-en-scene (yeah, you heard) doesn’t look good. The monster effects are extremely hokey, the coastal setting looks blustery, dark and cold and putting on my misogynist hat for a second, the female cast when bikini clad are equally unappetizing.
By my estimations though, why Monstro! doesn’t quite deliver against the very best of Oz-sploitation movies is that it’s too derivative of it’s source materials. It’s too self-conscious in doffing its cap and delivering a deferential nod to the ghost of Russ Meyer or the influence of the despicable Death Proof. Overall, think less Bad Taste or Evil Dead and more a Dead Next Door as the caliber of this new entry in the horror canon.
It’s not all bad news, however, Monstro! punches well above its weight for a film shot in roughly 15 days. Stuart Simpson and co.’s love for their genre landmarks is palpable and the treatment of this release from Monster Pictures is best in class.
Jean Baudrillard never went on record on whether or not he liked monster movies or burlesque, psychotic lesbians in his choice of DVDs. Sadly, whether Monstro! Would be at the top of his rental list or not, is something we will simply never know the answer to. But I think there’s a fair chance it would be.
The charming Monstro is out on the 22nd of October and you can pick it up here