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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – Book of Monsters

My notes on Book of Monsters

 

Sophie (Lyndsey Craine) is just about to turn eighteen.  Her best friends Mona (Michaela Longden) and Beth (Lizzie Stanton) insist she throw an out-of-control Weird Science-style teenage party while her gently distracted Dad (Nicholas Vince) is out of town, but she’s not sure … mean girl Arya (Anna Dawson) gives her a hard time about her obvious crush on pretty Jess (Rose Muirhead) and she still has a poor rep in school thanks to once being under psychiatric care for claiming that her mother was murdered by monsters conjured out of a big tome that happens to be still lying around the house.  Nevertheless, things get predictably wild in teen movie fashion with cruel jokes, drunkenness, some snogging, and backchat … until a slinky gate-crasher (Steph Mossman), who might be a monster in disguise, shows up and puts the moves on a virginal twit, carving occult symbols in his chest and splattering his blood on the pages of the book.  Which summons more monsters …

 

The British team of director Stewart Sparke and writer Paul Butler made The Creature Below, a low-key Lovecraftian mood piece, but lighten up here with another all-purpose ‘80s homage.  The stated aim is to homage the likes of The Thing and Gremlins, but of course the more meagre resources available to this crew and the mere fact that it’s a homage rather than an original mean that the results are more likely to be compared with The Deadly Spawn and Ghoulies – which is no bad thing, especially since this has a proudly British, Northern feel to it that contrasts with Yanxploitation efforts.  The teen scene on view here feels a little like the party gone wrong aspect of the recent demon clown movie Stitches, but a game young cast give it their all and we get nice little supporting turns throughout – with Dawson copping all the best bitchy lines and Daniel Thrace amusing as the competent, decent boy in the group whose name no one can remember.

 

The physical effects monsters are mostly lumbering props with intriguingly unusual designs – though it’s one of three FrightFest films using a beaky mediaeval plague doctor mask on one of its menaces – and different modes of attack.  It’s also in a current trend by having a gay heroine but not making too much of a fuss about it – as in Ravers, which FrightFest bizarrely programmed opposite so audiences couldn’t see both.  The general narrative is of escalating chaos, with gruesome gags and doomed if funny supporting characters – the annoyed, subtitled German exchange student (Julia Munder) is a hoot – proliferating so much that the actual plot, which involves the heroine being torn between two possible destinies, gets smudged out a little too often.  Like a lot of low-budget horrors, it signs off with a coda that suggest aspirations towards a franchise – which wouldn’t be unwelcome.  All around the UK, there are encouraging patches of genre activity as creatives like Pat Higgins (The Devil’s Music), Lawrie Brewster (The Black Gloves), Mj Dixon (Slasher House), Tom Paton (Black Site), Warren Speed (Zombie Women of Satan), Drew Casson (The Darkest Dawn) and many others are racking up multiple credits, cobbling together their own cinematic universes.  Sparke and Butler could well carve out their own slice of this cake.

 

Here’s the FrightFest listing.

 

Here’s a trailer.

 

 

 

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