BOOK OF MONSTERS
Firstly, I’d just like to say thanks to both Michelle Vezilj at Epic Pictures, and Dark Rift Films for allowing me early access to an online screener of the new Horror/Comedy “Book Of Monsters”, Written by Paul Butler and Directed by Stewart Sparke (The Creature Below). Book Of Monsters introduces us to reserved teenager, Sophie (Lyndsey Craine) whose still dealing with the mysterious death of her mother. On the eve of her 18th birthday, Sophie’s friends Mona and Beth (Michaela Longden and Lizzie Aaryn-Stanton) attempt to get her out of her comfort zone by spreading the word about their party, and before you know it half the town descends on her quaint home looking for a good time. What begins as a normal night of festivities, takes a turn for the worse when a seductive stranger (played by Steph Mossman) unleashes bloodthirsty monsters on the party. The film also stars Anna Dawson, Rose Muirhead, Daniel Thrace, and Arron Dennis.
Book Of Monsters is a self-explanatory blend of low-budget horror and comedy, clearly inspired by the likes of Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” and lesser known’s like “Night Of The Demons” and “Deadly Spawn”. Production value is noticeably high in most facets. This is DP, Hamish Saks first time on a feature-length film and he takes advantage of some nice early silhouetted light in order to create a smooth and effective hallway tracking shot. All the framing is consistent and a number of soft zooms give the film a slick look and feel. The audio track is bumped up nicely, and if nothing else, Dave Walker’s synth tones are at least unique (in my opinion some work and some don’t). A shout out to Butler, Sparke, and anyone else responsible for casting. Craine is incredibly well cast to play the teenage daughter of Samantha Mesagno, and what’s more, is that young Sophie (played by Jessica Fay) pairs up brilliantly too. The performances are generally serviceable without anyone necessarily transcending what’s on the page.
Butler incorporates a couple of humorous specifics that will no doubt call to mind personal experiences for some. Such as the potential for embarrassment regarding having your parent think that you’re still as eager to spend that special day with them as you were when you were ten (and showcasing that accordingly). Book Of Monsters has a quick run time and proceeds to give you a peek at its “Lovecraftian” inspired shapeshifting monster that’s at the core of the story. It’s conceived practically and looks impressive, so to the evil book and its design. Despite the clear use of familiar stock sounds from the “imp” (remember the fireball throwing demons from Doom?) which I guess was used to elevate that component, I still enjoyed the practical blood and gore regarding said monsters. There are gory moments of dismemberment and beheading, both on the human and monster front, and the climactic action sees a chainsaw come into play (albeit only briefly and mostly off-screen).
Book Of Monsters has its fair share of quick-cut edits of medium shots amidst the action and it can be a little much at times. Stretches in credibility rear their ugly head on occasion as well, most notably with some of the cast well and truly pushing to pass for eighteen years old. The music is often too loud in the mix and the demon squealing sometimes peaks out too. I couldn’t decipher much of the shapeshifter’s dialogue due to the particular filter used and Anna Dawson replaces the phrase “boogeyman” with “bogeyman” – yeah, that was weird (or maybe just English). As I mentioned earlier, the bulk of the performances are good but I found Nicholas Vince’s delivery (as Sophie’s Dad) to be a touch stilted, although that could’ve just been due to his character’s somber guise. The look of some of the various monsters and killers isn’t exactly original either, in particular, the figure of “The Slasher” (who looks like the madman from “An American Terror”). Book Of Monsters desperately aims to take a more lighter-hearted approach to its content but ends up under-delivering on genuinely funny comedic moments. Short of the odd one-liner and perhaps the group constantly pronouncing Gary’s name incorrectly, the humor was lacking overall.
Book Of Monsters doesn’t necessarily come together seamlessly but yet it remains a fast-paced good bit of English horror. It’s a fairly straight forward character raises hell type of deal and Sparke showcases some impressive practical blood and gore that genre fans will enjoy. It’s a slick presentation with solid cinematography, clear audio, and decent performances from a cast with varying amounts of experience. The Lovecraft Esq creations are ambitious and look surprisingly good considering the films modest budget. The design of the one killer does lack originality and some of the films technical facets may have benefited from a little more attention to detail. The balance of humor and horror wasn’t quite at the level I’d hoped for, but the end result is still an entertaining one. Book Of Monsters can be recommended to fans of the genre blend and you can check out the trailer below. The film is now available for purchase through Epic Pictures!
My rating for “Book Of Monsters” is 6/10