The Book of Monsters team – director/writer Stewart Sparke, co-writer Paul Butler, lead actress Lyndsey Craine, others – return with a not-sequel that adds on to the franchise. It even begins as if it’s the end of an earlier film, complete with credits crawl, as final girl Jamie Lancaster (Craine) survives a demonic ritual summoning in a cabin in the woods on Halloween (this year’s FrightFest has a clump of films set on Halloween) and comes out of it in a bloodied Red Riding Hood costume clutching a chainsaw, surrounded by the corpses of useless cultists (one is Ayvianna Snow, one of the brides from Wrath of Dracula).
Like ‘von Helsing’ arrested for murdering the Count at the beginning of Dracula’s Daughter or Carl Denham sued for the damage King Kong did to New York at the outset of Son of Kong, Jamie suffers the consequences of what happened previously and is taken to the local cop shop to be charged with multiple homicide – and monsters from the beyond follow her, to pick up on the Lovecraftian cosmic armageddon. It’s mostly a scrappy comedy, continuing the 1980s Charles Band but with Brits vibe of Book, but it uses the fact that it’s going over familiar ground to set up some surprises in the last act which a) is welcome in a comedy horror hijinx vein that’s becoming a trifle stale and b) goes on slightly too long.
The police station is crewed by a sit-com’s worth of characters – soon-to-retire (uh oh) Inspector Landry (Andrina Carroll) – who gets a nasty surprise with her big cake – and bickering double act Dennis (Arron Dennis) and Melvin (Daniel Thrace) plus boffin Casey (Yvonne Okyere) and nips-in-for-a-bit hard bloke Dara (Johnny Vivash) … while the overnight cells are full of cameo crooks (Nicholas Vince as a creep, Rebecca-Clare Evans as Big Jenny) and a drunk hen party which hasn’t turned out well. Bride Blair (Fenfen Huang) has Bruce Lee martial arts moves – though mostly offscreen – and her timid friend Ruth (Juné Tiamatakorn) uses her computer skills to solve a key plot point, ticking off a couple of Asian stereotypes, not that obnoxious white British bridesmaids Chelsea (Michaela Longden) and Crystal (Louella Gaskell) come off any better in the comedy-shortcut characterisation stakes. For much of the running time, it’s a succession of gruesome comedy spot-gags involving monsters and ropey other dimensional effects, anchored by Craine’s head-down-and-survive presence.