Monday, February 2, 2009

Movie #11: Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2008)

I love it when the title of a movie tells you all you need to know about it. So, the short version: it's about this guy Jack Brooks. He slays monsters. The end.

Okay. Let's move into the (slightly) longer version.

JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER wants to get at the heart of the mid 80s horror movies - specifically, EVIL DEAD 2. I don't think JACK BROOKS makes any bones about this - this is an old-fashioned practical effects monster movie, complete with bladders, hidden pockets of blood, and Robert Englund. It's also fairly well-acted, genuinely funny in parts, and sincere in what it wants to accomplish. There's none of the winking, self-indulgent "look at how cool we are" moments that plague other films' attempts (I'm looking at you, HATCHET and BEHIND THE MASK) to replicate the feel of those movies while trying to rise above it in a smug, self satisfied way.

The movie opens on a bunch of African natives being terrorized by a gigantic cyclops monster (yeah, already I'm into this movie). The survivors run to their village, where everyone generally panics and makes their way to a lone hut where, inside, we see a dread locked white guy calmly wrapping his scarred arm in preparation for battle.

But wait: how did this hero get here? The movie jumps back in time and shows us Jack as a child, out on a lovely camping trip with his parents when they're suddenly brutally murdered by a demon in the woods. No explanation: a crazy troll leaps out and kills both his parents. He runs away, and his shame and anger at not being to do anything to save his parents manifests itself in adulthood in sudden bursts of violence. Jack's trying, but life in a small town as a plumber and taking night courses with his obnoxious girlfriend isn't making things any easier for him. Fortunately for him, he'll have the chance to redeem himself when his college professor (Englund) accidentally digs up and ingests (yup, you read that right) the heart of a long buried demon, which transforms him into an enormous, tentacled monster capable of transforming his classmates into bloodthirsty devils.

A ton of credit goes to Trevor Matthews, who stars as Jack, had a hand in the writing, and also plays the troll. He makes the most of every scene, whether it's bashing the head of a devil in with a chemistry set or looking sheepish and unable to get a word in when his girlfriend berates him. And Robert Englund, so often relegated to bad cameos (he was the best thing about HATCHET, though) has the opportunity to have a blast with his role as the hapless professor and he makes full use of it, doling out the charm and the humor, getting the chance to perform a lot of physical comedy once he becomes "possessed" by the evil heart.

Director John Knautz does a lot with the little he's given (Africa looks suspiciously like Canada), making the most of an abandoned school for
much of the movie and shooting everything - monsters and drama alike - with an obvious fun. I wouldn't go out and say JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER is a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but it does what few films have been able to accomplish in recent years: emulate what was good about horror movies back in the day without having to stab it in the back at the same time. Definitely worth a look if you're in the mood for some laughs.

1 comment:

  1. So scared right now. So scared. (Not joking either)