Book of Monsters follows Sophie, who lives in a small English town where nothing but small town things happen. She and her group of friends live a life of routine. Sophie is turning 18, and- in classic coming of age fashion, doesn’t want to end high school just another part of this provincial town. She wants fun, she wants excitement and, just once before becoming an adult, she wants to throw a rager. It’s time to get knees up!
As so often happens in these sorts of flicks, the party starts as a blast and things only get worse as the night goes on. Uninvited guests start to arrive, and things just start getting out of hand. This seems like the worst case scenario for this group of teens, especially if her parents come back to find this mess!
Little did they know, some barf in the living room and people making out in the parent’s room would soon become the very least of their worries. Why? Well, because it just so happens one of those party crashers happens to be a witch. This night is right for the summoning of some very bad nasties from the underworld. These monsters have absolutely no chill and start tearing shit up proper. No, seriously, the very first thing the monster does is tear a teen in half and throw his upper torso across the room.
So, just to recap, a traditional coming of age teen party movie switches gears when monsters arrive and start straight up murdering teens left and right. Can the kids escape? Can Sophie and her friends band together to banish or kill the beast? Luckily for humanity, this group of girls can kick some major ass. Buckle up kids, it’s time to go monster slaying.
“Buckle up kids, it’s time to go monster slaying.”
There is a recent trend in horror that I really love and hope it continues forever. For too long only male visions of horror have dominated the landscape. Sure, we got great characters like Ripley in the Alien series or Sidney in the Scream franchise, but strong female characters have often been the exception rather than the rule. Most women in horror movies of the past were treated like props and vehicles to provide screams and nudity. Strong female characters are starting to become the new normal. About time!
Book of Monsters fits right in with this momentum. The cast is heavily female. They are also young and would typically be written as one-dimensional teen victims. Not these gals. (Played by Lyndsey Craine, Michaela Longden, Lizzie Aaryn-Stanton, Anna Dawson, Rose Muirhead, and Steph Mossman). They face extreme danger with steely resolve and even a bit of fun. Sure, they get the shit scared out of them at first, but once things start getting truly hairy, they don’t run, they fight.
While the budget was clearly small, the filmmakers do well with what they have. The majority of the primary cast, for example, are regular cast members in director Stewart Sparke’s (The Creature Below) features and shorts. They clearly believe in him and his vision and it shows. Having team members who are dedicated to your vision is invaluable and translates on screen.
Sparke did a great job of building a cast and crew that were right for their roles, rather than those with a big resume, who would then require a big paycheck. The stellar creature effects were done by Natasha Banks, who has no other special effects credits. Likewise, first timer Abigail Harding did the creature design work, which is fantastic. Same goes for production designer Sam Hunter and cinematographer Hamish Saks.
All of this gives the film a feeling of a classic indie horror flick. These aren’t the sorts of movies made to be blockbusters. They aren’t made to pad resumes and bank accounts either. They are made because a group of people got together with a common vision and goal and set out to make it happen.
Book of Monsters was independently funded, largely through a kickstarter campaign. This independence and freedom afforded Sparke and team a good deal of room to make this movie what they wanted. In other words, this movie is totally bonkers and totally fun. Sparke isn’t afraid of comedy and it puts that fun center stage. I think many fans of creature features are also b-movie fans. As such, we don’t mind a little silliness and fun with our gore. Book of Monsters is right in line with that spirit. There is such great comedic timing in this movie start to finish. Some super quotable one-liners too.
This lighthearted approach is perfectly paired with extreme gore. The special effects and creature work are fantastic. The blood and guts is coming in at Fulci levels. Intestines fly, heads roll and blood flows! In the end this American Pie meets Zombie is an indie bloodbath with great kills, great laughs and tons of fun.