Book Of Monsters, 2019.
Directed by Stewart Sparke.
Starring Lyndsey Craine, Michaela Longden, Lizzie Aaryn-Stanton, Anna Dawson, Rose Muirhead, Steph Mossman, Nicholas Vince, Arron Dennis, and Daniel Thrace.
Six kickass women must fight off a horde of terrifying monsters at an 18th birthday party.
Stewart Sparke’s Book of Monsters is the horror equivalent of a light beer. Just as Miller Lite physically resembles beer, foams like beer, and bubbles carbonation like beer, Book of Monsters evokes all the midnight qualities of practical creature schlock. Multiple decapitations, cloaked reaper demons, inhebriated lambs to the slaughter – but as light beer boasts half the substance, Sparke’s indie replicates. Storytelling is parbaked “locked in with evil” entrapment and effects overly prosthetic-cadaver cheesy. It’s bloodshed on a budget in this ode to cursed tomes filled with nightmare beasts, but you know what the (one) good thing about light beer is?
It still gets you drunk.
You’re following the metaphor still, right?
Book of Monsters is the light beer. “It still gets you drunk” means there’s still plenty of limb-ripping, head-popping, juicy red explosions to quench your thirst for horror.
Just making sure! Right, back to it.
Meet Sophie (Lyndsey Craine). She’s just turned eighteen. Her besties demand a raunchy party while her dad’s gone, and Sophie can’t deny the pressure. Along with dillweed classmates, a mysterious stranger shows up who beelines for Sophie’s relic childhood storybook her mother used to read. It turns out the weathered pages contain incantations to summon wretched monsters who crash Sophie’s party. Guests start dying, anarchy reigns, and only Sophie can save those still left with brains intact.
Writer Paul Butler has lofty ambitions for Book Of Monsters’ leatherbound mythology, but they’re lost in generic teenage party antics. Classmates are horrendous assholes to one another – a jock throws water in Sophie’s face as a joke – while cops are useless and friendship beats circle the same forgettable genre arcs. Sophie, Mona (Michaela Longden), and Beth (Lizzie Aaryn-Stanton) read from rotten pages doodled like explain-all netherbeast instructions from House Of The Dead II (remember when the journal entries would pop up?). What could the shapeshifter’s weakness be? “NO WEAKNESS!” Oh no! However can the girls…you get me. All very base value squabble, confront danger, band together “chicks with chainsaws” pin-up punkishness.
Onto what matters.
Book of Monsters summons slashers, bug ladies, and cloven hooved maulers who slice apart Sophie’s fiesta like a warm knife through ice cream cake. Take your pick of the most grotesque kills. “Late Arrival” guy who gets halved? Jerkface dudebro whose fingers are severed by a slammed door then his head/spine yanked clean from torso flesh? “Laying On The Floor Guy” who’s stepped on until his head bursts like the cap on a tube of rolled toothpaste? Sparke’s special effects team went to *work* in their warehouse and invented some nasty, nightmarish death sequences. Completely fake and benefitting of jostle-heavy camera distortion – which there’s a lot of – but raucously savage nonetheless.
It’s the age-old tale of indie horror: can you stomach DIY charms – leading ladies who band together, copious piles of disconnected appendages, multiple freakshow masked baddies – in favor of “lesser quality” and humor that’s not always dagger-sharp (“Gotta pee!” mid-attack)? Sparke’s ambitions craft lecherous worm wrigglers, possessed garden gnomes, angry bodysnatchers – it’s all here. Maybe some costumes look like they belong inside your neighbor’s homemade Halloween attraction, but Book of Monsters owns these practical “imperfections.” Warrior male strippers with weaponized electric dildos and all.
It’s the more direct cinematic narrative tugs – Sophie’s motherly bond and loony bin past, ties to the book, virginal sacrifice work – that leave much to be desired.
Book of Monsters, a thirty-rack of Busch Light, and B-movie buds: Stewart Sparke has crafted a quintessential “works better with brews” watch in that’s it’s goretastic, over the top, and you needn’t pay much attention to more intricate workings beyond basic birthday shenanigans. Never as cheeky as it thinks, lackluster development, but costumed hellspawns devour the weak and scenery alike. Oh, but have a remote handy? Sound mixing fails to balance dialogue with guttural monster screeches. Be warned: those shrill screams will pierce even your neighbor’s ears if you’re not careful and watching from home.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd (@DoNatoBomb).