Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007)

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007)

…I used to be a plumber

After witnessing the brutal murder of his family by a monster when he was young, Jack Brooks has struggled with anger management. He has a dead-end plumbing job, goes to see his psychiatrist regularly and attends night school. The professor teaching his class asks him over to his new house to see if he can fix a problem with the pipes. Jack agrees to help out but unwittingly releases an evil force that possesses the professor and slowly transforms him into a blood-thirsty monster. Can Jack overcome his fear of monsters to rid the world of this menace?

 

All too recently, horror films have turned into mindless remakes, rehashes or belated sequels to older titles. Directors and writers have been too content with homaging the films they grew up on. They’ve been reverting back to a past time (namely the 80s) when horror meant anything goes and that the genre was arguably in its most creative period. The only limitations to imagination were budgets or censors. Can you imagine something as unique as The Evil Dead getting the green light in the 90s or 00s? There’s not a cat in hell’s chance of that!  Along comes director and co-writer John Knautz to blast away that notion with one swipe of his plumber’s wrench.

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is just splendid entertainment. Knautz clearly has a love for the genre but whereas other directors haven’t had a clue how to channel the energy from the 80s horror comedies and seem just content to remake them, Knautz has a vision and knows how to mix the exact same ingredients that made this type of film such a loveable hit back in the day. It’s a homage but it’s also a very clever attempt to re-establish this type of film into the modern genre.

Trevor Matthews is great in the lead role. He channels the seriousness and infectious enthusiasm of an early Bruce Campbell. This isn’t the new Evil Dead by a long shot but it’s a great step in the direction. He tries to play his role as straight as possible but the jokes he makes are genuinely funny (his numerous angry rants to his psychiatrist are brilliant) and the situations he finds himself in are absurdly top drawer. When all hell breaks loose around him, Matthews is the only one to keep a straight face and not ham it up. Robert Englund is also on top form in a comedic turn as the professor who turns into a hideous monster. The role requires Englund to do a lot of physical comedy early on in the film as he struggles to control his monstrous urges. Englund duly obliges with one of his best ever performances and steals the show by a mile. You won’t be able to control your laughter after he first becomes possessed by the evil force and takes his first class, belching and throwing up all over the place.

The best bit of the film is the discarding of CGI and return to good old fashioned make-up effects. The monsters look great and have a realistic look and feel to them that CGI just couldn’t give. They are gooey, revolting and horrifying in equal measure and the film is not afraid to get down and dirty with the grime and slime. Just check out the lard ass monster that Robert Englund eventually turns into. Imagine if that had been done with CGI? It just wouldn’t have the same impact or realism. It’s great to see a film that has shunned modern technology in some aspects (i.e. the CGI) but has embraced advances in other technology to make the monsters look superb. Guys in suits have never looked more realistic.

The only real flaw in the film is the pacing. The film takes a good hour to get everything firmly established and by the time the action kicks in and the monsters begin to fall, it does seem like it’s too late in the day. Apparently it was meant to be the first of many straight-to-DVD sequels (obviously depending on the success of this one) so the origin tale is the focus of most of the film, telling us how Jack Brooks came to be the person he is. The story isn’t that great in all honesty but, coupled with the performances of Matthews and Englund, it’s enough to keep the film ticking over until the final third where he embraces his anger and turns into the monster slayer. This is definitely one film that most horror fans and even non-horror fans could enjoy. It doesn’t pander to fan boys. It doesn’t try to overcomplicate things. And it doesn’t just rehash another film like most horrors have been content to do recently.

 

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer has restored my faith in the system to produce top quality entertaining horror-comedies like they used to. Jon Knautz may have not tried to make the next cult genre flick but I think he has. Long live Jack Brooks and its (hopefully) many sequels. If they show as much creativity, love and entertainment as this, I think we’re in for a good franchise.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

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