Writer/director Chris von Hoffmann breaks out the yellow highlighter early and often in “Monster Party.”
The score is ominous (squeak!), goosed with audio NOS. The reaction shots are routinely wide eyed (sque-eak!). Even pros like Lance Reddick falling prey to von Hoffman’s clunky cues.
And oh, the blood and gore. It’s everywhere in the third act.
It’s a shame because a shocker with this much grindhouse goodness doesn’t need artificial stimulants.
A trio of likable young actors (Brandon Micheal Hall, Sam Strike and Virginia Gardner) play aspiring house burglars. They’re tempted to a take a tricky, but lucrative, gig when Strike’s character learns he needs cash to bail out his Pa.
So they target the home of an uber-rich couple, Patrick and Roxanne (Julian McMahon, Robin Tunney) and their uber-creepy teens.
They picked the wrong one-percenters. That’s clear from the moment they step inside their palatial Malibu home.
The couple are hosting an unusual dinner party, which not only makes robbing them tricky but puts their lives in jeopardy. The film’s central gimmick, which won’t be spoiled here, isn’t played out to anyone’s satisfaction. It still kicks off some seriously demented mayhem.
“Monster Party” holds its big surprise for as long as possible.
Once we learn the secret, the film drops any pretense of storytelling, character arcs or engaging dialogue.
And that’s … fine.
It’s a horror romp, the bloodier, the better. Too bad von Hoffman won’t let the material play out on its own grisly terms. Every element is juiced for our consideration. The only natural performances belong to the shell-shocked thieves. Micheal Hall emerges as the most engaging, his low-key charisma playing off the insanity.
That doesn’t mean von Hoffmann lacks talent, just restraint. Some shots are effectively executed. He handles a few micro moments, call them the grossest of the gross, with pure whimsy. He’s having fun.
So are we, at least sporadically.
You can’t absorb “Monster Party’s” plot without recalling the sleeper smash “Don’t Breathe” from 2016.
That film also focused on young thieves getting more than they bargained for with their latest heist. The earlier film is superior, without question, but when “Monster Party” embraces its silly sense of purpose the chasm between the two shrinks.
Some “Monster Party” plot elements are so wacky you can’t help but cheer their audaciousness. And those fearing a class warfare lecture can let out one long, slow sigh. The narrative strokes here are broad and diffuse, lacking any sustainable bite.
Castle of Horror Podcast : Castle Talk: Chris von Hoffman, dir. of “Monster Party” https://t.co/ByTJnRWSO1
— Castle of Horror (@CastleofHorrorP) October 31, 2018
The only political moment comes when McMahon’s character, out of the blue, promises to make his dysfunctional family great again.
McMahon hams it up, playing down to his cartoonish beard. What holds his family together? Who knows? The assembled cast and crew are too busy splashing blood across the set to care.
The film wraps in an appropriate 90 minutes, but that’s a tad misleading. Von Hoffman embraces so many slow motion shots the actual running time might be a good five minutes off.