Monster Club, The (1981)

The Monster Club (1981)

A tongue-in-cheek trilogy of terror!

After an encounter with a mysterious old gentleman who turns out to be a vampire, a writer of horror stories is invited to a ‘monster club’ in order to give him some new writing material. Here he is told three gruesome stories: a ‘shadmock’ who has the ability to kill people by whistling falls in love with a woman who wants to rob him; a famous vampire who has fled his previous life as a Count is now a family man with wife and children; and a movie director on a location scout comes across a village inhabited by real ghouls.

 

Milton Subotsky had produced many horror anthologies during his time with Amicus in the 60s and 70s (Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, The House That Dripped Blood, Asylum, Torture Garden, The Vault of Horror, etc) and I’ve pretty much watched them all. So it’s nice to finally get the chance to see this rare swan song of his. The basic formula of the anthology film that he had been wheeling out for years sees a group of short stories linked together by an overall wrap around story, usually with some sort of twist at the end. Throw in a bunch of famous genre actors and you’ve got the classic anthology film. Well maybe not so because, although there was always one decent story, there were always a couple of stinkers thrown in too.

The Monster Club is no exception to the rule. Here we have veteran actors Vincent Price and John Carradine doing the main bits in the wrap around story. And to be honest, it’s actually a decent enough set up for the film. You know right from the start when Price’s vampire character apologies for “helping himself” to Carradine’s neck and blood that the film is going to be light-hearted, even goofy at times. Having an underground club where monsters congregate could have been a gold mine for some decent stories. But instead the club turns out to be some corny nightclub where loads of people dance around in fancy dress masks (OK I know there’s supposed to be actual monsters but the masks look horrible) and listen to crappy 80s bands all night long (who all play their full songs for the benefit of the camera). Poor Vincent Price and John Carradine have to pretend that they’re enjoying themselves here amongst the youths. They do add a touch of class to the proceedings though and their performances aren’t in question. It’s just that I’d envisioned the monster club to be classier and, well more monster-ish. You know, werewolves playing chess with each other, vampires smoking in dinner jackets, zombies serving cocktails, etc. Something more like a social club as opposed to a nightclub.

As for the stories themselves, well they’re not great in all honesty. I would have thought the writers could have come up with something better than the three on display here. Given that it was a monster club, why did they randomly make up some silly monsters to base two of the skits around? Why create the whole ‘monster genealogy’ chart that tells you what you get when a ghoul mates with a werewolf? These lesser creations lack the impact of a well-known monster so it’s no coincidence that the best story on display is the one about the vampire.

The first one about the ‘shadmock’ starts off stupidly, continues to disappoint and then ends on a real low note. It’s just such a pointless story. The pale-skinned hermit who lives in the mansion could have been any monster at all so there was no need to turn him into a stupid whistling beast! He’s a weirdo who feeds his pigeons and…well, that’s all he seems to do in life. The ending to the segment is a bit heartbreaking as the guy clearly thinks he had fallen in love but had to dispose of his wife-to-be because she was going to rob him. Welcome to the real world, pal. Ever heard of those scheming Russian brides who come over and clean you out?

The second story about the vampire is the best because of the silly way the subject matter is presented. It seems that a famous Count from Eastern Europe (never mentioned by name but we can assume its Dracula) has fled to the UK to start a family. He lives with a human wife and they have a little boy. He sleeps during the day and then “goes to work at night” whilst avoiding men carrying violin cases. It seems that these men are the ‘V-Squad’ – a team of vampire hunters led by Donald Pleasance who have been hunting him for years and finally get a chance to kill him when they befriend the little boy and follow him home. There’s a decent effort to put a new spin on the vampire story, simply by having him as caring family man. Pleasance gets little to do including a staking but even in his small role, he still adds some much needed credibility to the segment. Britt Ekland is also here in a throwaway role as the wife.

The third story is basically a zombie film with ghouls as the film director is desperate to find a spooky village to film his new horror movie. He finds a seemingly-deserted town which turns out to be inhabited by some creepy-looking townsfolk who want to have him as their tea. The segment is basically an extended chase scene after about five minutes in but it’s got a superb atmosphere. Clearly filmed on a stage instead of outside, the village seems to have a mystical fog that hovers just above the houses thus giving the whole place an eerie unnatural light. There’s also a decent, if somewhat predictable twist at the end.

 

The Monster Club was one of the dying breaths of the Anglo-Horror cycle and it shows. Running like a silly Halloween party, it’s got some decent ideas and performances but is bogged down by its childishness, obsession with playing as much 80s music as possible to fill the running time and generally poor writing. Good enough to watch but nowhere near the genius of the earlier anthologies.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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