The only thing that could possibly make Judge David Johnson a regular at the Monster Club are those animated strippers. Go figure.
Our review of The Monster Club (1980), published January 17th, 2014, is also available.
A tongue-in-cheek trilogy of terror!
Before the movie starts, we're given notice that the original print for the film had vanished, and the studio did what it could to piece the film together using other elements. This a good thing?
Facts of the Case
One night, famed horror writer R. Chetwynd-Hayes (John Carradine) runs into Erasmus (Vincent Price), a crusty old vampire who takes a swig of blood from R's neck. Afterward, as the two shoot the breeze (as disturbingly erotic as that may sound), Erasmus talks the writer into checking out the Monster Club, where a bounty of horror tales await. Unable to resist the chance to mine some new material, Chetwynd-Hayes agrees and soon finds himself at a costume party where all the attendees are wearing dollar-store Halloween masks. (What? Oh, they're supposed to be real monsters? Really? Okay, sorry about that.)
Erasmus sits his friend down, and, amid the backdrop of some really awful New Wave bands torturing their instruments, spins three tales of horror.
The first deals with the exploits of a girlfriend/boyfriend team of thieves, Angela and George. Their gig involves Angela finding a job as a maid in wealthy homes, then joining up with her beau, George, to loot the place.
But the two don't anticipate where their newest scheme will take them…into the home of a Shadmock! This monster is infamous for its whistling ability, the effects of which are so heinous, even the Shadmock is fearful of them.
As Angela slaves away in the house (while George lounges back in the apartment; what kind of shabby deal is that?), the Shadmock develops a "Beauty and the Beast" affection for her. When the beauty confronts the beast and clues him into the fact he's ass-ugly…well, you guessed it, let the whistling begin! I won't dare spoil the ending.
Cut back to the club and more ear-destroying music.
Onto story two, involving a family of vampires, and their son, a pale little nerd who is constantly bullied by his classmates. The kid's biggest problems come in the form of a vampire hit squad led by Pickering (Donald Pleasence, Halloween) and comprised of three middle-aged guys in derbies, holding violins.
The hit squad is more or less a team of notably unsexy and un-nubile vampire slayers, who track the kid in order to get to dad. When the elite unit penetrates the vamp household, a few very cheesy surprises await them.
Cut back to the club, and yet another musical number that will suck your will to live.
The final story tells the tragic tale of Sam, a movie director scouting locations in a foggy, spooky town full of wackos. Turns out these villagers aren't your normal reclusive, hygienically unsound hillbillies, but flesh-eating ghouls. Sam, unable to take the hint that it's a bad idea to be in this town by the fact the townsfolk are obviously deranged, finds himself on the run from the mob, a young girl by his side.
The duo evades their pursuers, who continually pelt them with rocks. Just when escape is within their grasp, the tables are turned.
…and that's your movie.
The Monster Club wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It's not overly long, the stories are interesting enough, and the music and effects are so bad they're inadvertently laughable.
As this is basically a compendium of three stories, I don't think its possible to evaluate the movie as a whole. It really is a "sum of its parts" kind of deal. So, briefly, here's the skinny on the three tales (which I titled myself):
Probably the "scariest" of the bunch, only for the last scene, which really is an effective shot. Up to that point, it's a typical girl-meet-monster mélange, that, because of the brevity of the tale, doesn't drag nearly as bad as it wants to.
The suspense comes from the question: "So what the heck happens to people when this freak whistles?" The answer has lots do with free-flowing body fluids.
My least favorite. Daddy vamp is a twit, who reveals his inanity at the end with a Batman and Robin-quality line. Though the hit squad wasn't all that kinetic, I did find them to be pretty uniquely unassuming old guys hunting their prey with violin cases and all. They turned out to be the best thing about this largely lame-ass story.
Ghouls! Ghouls! Ghouls!
This installment narrowly edges out the rest, for several reasons: 1) Who doesn't love insane villagers? 2) The cool, illustrated story-telling 10 minutes in; and 3) The heart-pounding pursuit and rock assault.
The predictable ending brings the whole affair down a couple of notches though.
The dialogue between Caraddine and Price's characters is mostly filler, but it's far more compelling filler than the overlong musical numbers. Those "monsters" in the club are chintzy as all get-out, too.
Of the whole presentation, the most interesting part is the commentary, delivered by critics Luke Y. Thompson and Gregory Weinkauf. This is far and away the geekiest commentary I've ever heard. The track is littered with pop culture tidbits, obscure movie references, and jokes upon jokes that are witty, but not necessarily amusing.
It is also brutally apparent that these two guys were probably dragged into the commentary and did not necessarily volunteer. One of them admitted that the first time he had seen the film was a day before they laid the commentary track.
Pathfinder Studio rep: "Hey, do you two guys want $100? Watch this movie."
Luke Y. Thompson and Gregory Weinkauf (in unison): "Sure!"
The track was certainly preferable to a rudimentary rundown of back-story and vague "where-are-they-now" musings about the actors. So, three stars to those guys for making the best of an awkward situation.
As far as picture quality goes, I don't know if Pathfinder included the disclaimer at the beginning to lower viewers' expectations or what, but I certainly wasn't offended. The widescreen format is duly noted and appreciated, and the overall look was relatively sharp and clean. The stereo mix is ho-hum, at times too shrill, and at other times not mute enough (RE: painful musical interludes.)
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There is one fairly ingenious sequence in the film. A stripper comes on stage at the Monster Club, and no there is nothing ingenious about her breasts, but rather it's in the middle of her routine, the lights go out, the screen changes to animation and she strips away her skin until she's a skeleton. Weird and kind of cool.
A cauldron of recognizable genre actors and mediocre-to-not-too-shabby narratives, The Monster Club serves up a relatively entertaining stew. Be warned: it is layered with cheese.
The accused are dismissed, and given $20 to go buy some decent costuming at the nearest Target.
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