Judge Paul Pritchard's career as a sea monster came to an end due to a nasty case of the bends.
Killer Vixens vs. The Creature From The Deep.
Three deadly babes—Beretta (Nelli Scarlet), Blondie (Karli Madden), and Snowball (Kate Watts)—arrive in a small, almost deserted seaside town with the sole intention of laying low for a while. But no sooner do they run afoul of Joseph (Norman Yemm), a curmudgeonly old man who becomes almost hysterical when they take a dip in the sea. Taking no notice of the old man's ramblings, the girls carry on…until they come face-to-face with the town's terrible secret. For beneath the waves lies the Kraken, and waking him from his slumber is a very bad idea.
Even though the concept of El Monstro Del Mar! suggests a fun slice of no-brainer entertainment, writer/director Stuart Simpson's homage to Russ Meyer films and monster movies doesn't quite cut it.
The story, which appears lightweight on initial inspection, turns out to be anorexic. Following a sharp opening, in which we get a near perfect introduction of the leads, the film proceeds to tread water. It quickly becomes evident that narrative and character arcs have been jettisoned completely, as Simpson seems determined to see his movie live and die by the exploitation vibe that informs so much of the film.
However, El Monstro Del Mar! is not without its redeeming qualities. The three leading ladies carry the picture ably, showing a real feistiness. Nelli Scarlet has an especially strong screen presence, and seems particularly in tune with the 1950's creature feature aesthetic. It's a shame we don't get to know these girls more. The flashbacks Simpson uses to help flesh them out are excellent, but it's not enough to make these anti-heroes feel whole.
Say what you will about El Monstro Del Mar!'s lack of substance, but Simpson's artistic sensibilities are clearly a strong point. The film opens in black and white, before exploding into color in spectacular (and grisly) fashion. This penchant for creating striking imagery extends to a trippy sequence that arrives midway through the film, and culminates in a final showdown with the Kraken.
Speaking of which, the film's finale is a complete blast, as the few survivors find themselves making a desperate (and very bloody) last stand against the beast. Regardless of some ropey effects work, the scene is beautifully shot and full of energy. In fact, the visual effects make the whole production a little bit more endearing, recalling Ray Harryhausen's classic stop-motion animation of old.
Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, we get a solid transfer with natural coloring. The Dolby 2.0 stereo track offers clear dialogue, with some impressive sound effects helping to liven things up.
For a low budget monster movie, El Monstro Del Mar! provides an excellent selection of bonus features. Two commentary tracks are both worth a listen. The first is a more technical track by Simpson, Nick Kocsis (Special Makeup Effects Artist), Chris Malone (Production Assistant), Claire Mueller (Costume Design), and Fabian Pisani (Producer). The second and more energetic track features the film's leading ladies offering plenty of fun anecdotes. There are several deleted scenes. A "Behind-the-Scenes" featurette is fairly standard stuff, mostly comprised of various cast and crew prepping for a shot. "Cast Interviews" has pretty much the entire cast discussing the film, having just seen a rough ten-minute cut at the wrap party. "Photo Gallery" is exactly what you'd expect, made up production stills. Two of Simpson's short films are also included. Acid Spiders is very much in keeping with the main feature; a strong female cast facing off against a monstrous threat, this time from outer space. Context is perhaps the more interesting of the two, though its slower pacing benefits from a more mature approach, it lacks the anarchic energy of his earlier short. And we round of the package with El Monstro Del Mar! trailers.
For El Monstro Del Mar to achieve real cult status, it would have needed a much stronger story and more compelling characters. Unfortunately, there is far too little for the viewer to invest in, even if the small moments make this a ride worth taking.
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