Thursday, October 9, 2008

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2008)

We’ve seen a lot of horror homages these past few years, from Hatchet to Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. These kind of films relish in winking at the audience, nudging them with past horror movie references and trivia. It is rare for these films to actually transcend their self-referential nature and actually become the films they are emulating.

Now, another film that pays homage to old school monster flicks and Evil Dead-style demonic possession movies has been released…and that film is Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, directed by Jon Knautz and written by the team of Knautz, Jon Ainslio, Trevor Matthews (who also plays the titular role) and Patrick White. The difference between Jack Brooks and other types of “tribute” films is that Jack Brooks actually stands on its own as a bad-ass horror-comedy, action-packed film!

Small town plumber Jack Brooks (Trevor Matthews) has anger issues. He is seeing a shrink, but his sessions don’t seem to be helping much. You see, when Jack was a young boy he saw his whole family ripped apart by a strange creature that can only be described as a monster. Ever since then he has blamed himself and hasn’t been the same. He is enrolled in a biology night class with his nagging girlfriend Eve (Rachel Skarsten), but only because she insisted upon it. One night, he helps his professor (Robert Englund) with some plumbing problems at a crumbling old house the professor is renovating.

The house itself has a sordid history, but the professor finds out exactly how nasty it is when he unearths a large crate in his backyard that contains a skeleton and an intact black heart that supposedly belonged to a demon…that is still beating. The professor just isn’t the same after that encounter and is slowly turning into something monstrous…

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is one of the most fun horror films I’ve seen in quite some time! It packs a sympathetic hero, a great performance from Robert Englund and lots of CGI-free demon-looking monsters into a fantastic storyline that sucks you right in!

The writing team of Knautz, Ainslio, Matthews and White really hit on some great ideas here. I loved the flashback sequences to Jack’s childhood as well as the back story on the black heart. Jack’s character development is also very important and I loved seeing his interactions with his therapist and his aggressive outbursts were hilarious! While it is true that the real “monster slaying” doesn’t take place until the last part of the film, it certainly doesn’t make the first part of the film any less interesting! The story is so cleverly told that the pacing is just perfect! I was enthralled from beginning to end with the fast-paced tale.

As for the acting, it is wonderful across the board! From Jack’s harried therapist (played by Daniel Kash) to his bitchy girlfriend (played by Rachel Skarsten) to the professor (played by Robert Englund who is finally in a good movie!) who’s going through some strange changes, every single actor does a spectacular job. And as for Trevor Matthews who plays Jack Brooks, well, people are right to call him the next Bruce Campbell. While Matthews opts for the Everyman act instead of embracing the campy style of Campbell, the result is still the same…pure awesomeness! You root for Matthews the entire time, whether he is punching out a douchebag scheming on his girlfriend, yelling to his therapist about his anger issues or killing monsters!

As for the blood and guts, there are plenty of sickening scenes. Robert Englund pukes all over himself, for one. Then there are the amazing practical effects. As far as I can tell, little or no CGI was used in the film. The final monster is all prosthetics and/or a man in a rubber suit and it’s a nice throwback to old school monster movies. Everything still looks slimy and gory, especially the monster’s students-turned-demons servants. The final showdown, showing the explosive effects of unstable sodium (hey, they are in science class…knowledge is power!) is extremely satisfying!

I can see Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer spawning several sequels that could actually be good if people take notice of this amazing film. Its throwback to old school monster/demon possession movies will make you feel like a kid again! Jack Brooks is finally a hero we can actually cheer for!

Available from Amazon!

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