Monstro! DVD Review
Written by Simon Bland
DVD released by Monster Pictures
Directed by Stuart Simpson
Written by Stuart Simpson
2012, Region 2, 75 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 22nd October 2012
Norman Yemm as Joseph
Nellie Scarlet as Beretta
Karli Madden as Blondie
Kate Watts as Snowball
Kyrie Capri as Hannah
Scott Brennan as Jim
Aussie director Stuart Simpson kicks off his schlocky creature feature Monstro! in muted black and white. It’s in this guise that we’re introduced to our trio of femme fatales: the dark and dangerous Snowball, golden haired loner Blondie and Beretta, their brutal leader. We find them pawing about their broken down car, waiting for help to arrive and kicking dirt on the dusty desert road like three Suicide Girls on a photoshoot. When it finally appears, we soon learn that these girls aren’t as helpless as they seem. Having lured a swooning simpleton into their car, Snowball pounces, carving the poor bloke's throat into an ugly red grin. Blood erupts from the man’s severed neck, flecking bursts of vibrant colour onto the car’s interior and our previously two-toned landscape. Iridescent life bleeds in to the screen and before long we’re in full colour. Fancy.
But it’s a little more than fancy, actually. This one sequence sums up Monstro! quite nicely. At its heart it’s a gory-Grindhouse movie, heavily influenced by Rodriguez’ and Tarantino’s aptly titled 2007 double feature and any number of 70’s exploitation films. However along the way Simpson struggles to hide his high-end panache and filmmaking prowess. Sleek and stylish, Simpson certainly knows how to frame his larger than life characters, creating a pristinely polished retro horror. As his three feisty females bop about to boogie-woogie beats, 60’s soul and dirty bubblegum rock, it’s hard not to feel Simpson’s fascination with Tarantino’s effortless cool. For his small team to have facilitated such a breezy tone is undeniably impressive.
Following this artery-slicing opener, we find our bloodthirsty bitches on the lamb. They’re headed to a little cabin in a remote seaside village to drink beer, snort coke and lay low. Once there, they quickly butt heads with Joseph, an elderly local who warns the trio about the mysterious dangers lurking in the sea. Naturally, they write-off this wheelchair-bound geezer as crazy, continuing to skinny dip, party and inadvertently wake up an ageless aquatic mega-squid. Whoops. It’s not long before boats start to disappear and bits of sailors arrive with the tide. Not that this bothers these gore-crazed gals, but when one of their own falls victim to this unseen evil, Beretta decides she wants justice. Returning to Joseph’s tide-side shack, they manage to recruit his innocent daughter Hannah as the latest member of their knife-wielding crew. But the damage is done; the multi-tentacled Monstro is awake and the stage for a sea-shack showdown is set.
With almost no CGI, the hands-on gore approach championed by Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies gets similar loving to that of Tarantino in the first act. This slime-covered conclusion has Raimi written all over it, with our estrogen powered Ash equivalent Hannah strapping on a shotgun and fighting some Burton-esque stop-motion grabbers. But look beyond Monstro!’s borrowed bits and pieces and you quickly notice that the original story element is lacking. While the film looks the part and boasts some dependable performances, the storytelling doesn’t get half as much attention. Why is this sultry trio on a killing spree? Who are they working for? What made them so violent? Unfortunately Simpson offers no answers.
Monstro! was originally intended to be a short but graduated to a feature at the eleventh hour. You can tell too, thanks to its gooey confrontational climax appearing a little too soon. It almost feels like a reel is missing, which ironically is what most Grindhouse flicks are known for, however here it doesn’t feel intentional. Director comparisons and plot pitfalls aside, its difficult to find fault with what Simpson has accomplished with such limited resources. This Australian director woke a fun and frantic monster movie from its slumber and looked great doing it. Bonza!
Video and Audio:
Both great, I had no problem with either.
There's a great selection here including a cast commentary and a crew commentary offering you interesting insights into the film's speedy production. We also have a behind the scenes featurette, cast interviews, deleted scenes, theatrical trailer and two Stuart Simpson shorts, Acid Spider and Sickie. The latter two mini-movies perfectly displaying Simpson's natural progression to big-screen gore.
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