All Jamie Lancaster (Lyndsey Craine) wanted to do on Halloween was eat pizza, drink wine and watch a crap horror movie with her boyfriend. Instead, she is playing spin the bottle with a group of her partner’s college friends at an abandoned cabin. However, the stakes are raised when they swap the bottle for the Eldritch blade, an ancient artifact with various keys and symbols that can summon creatures from other worlds… what could possibly go wrong?
Five minutes and four mutilated corpses later, Jamie is the only person left when the police show up. With no creature in sight the authorities suspect that Jamie is the culprit; she is questioned at the police station and held in the cells. There she rubs shoulders with a bickering bachelorette party, a man who simply smiles and ‘Big Jen’. The only solace Jamie has is that she is safe from danger, that is until the Eldritch blade is tested by forensics, who unleash something unholy on the police station. Jamie and the motley crew of prisoners and bumbling police must battle other worldly creatures; she may have started the evening dressed like Little Red Riding Hood, but she doesn’t need a huntsman to save her. The only problem is that her new allies may be more of a hindrance than a help.
How to Kill Monsters takes an absurd Lovecraftian nightmare and simply plays it for all the laughs it can. The comic timing of many of the jokes is very good, and the style and rhythm of some of the gags is in keeping with the style of British sitcoms, which is very difficult to achieve when there is no canned laughter or pausing by the cast to let jokes take effect. And the jokes are even crisper as all involved play everything as straight as an arrow. Trying to map out and sustain comedy against the backdrop of an interdimensional creature feature appears like it might fall flat on paper, but having this absurd premise actually helps the comical approach.
There’s a lot of familiarity about How to Kill Monsters – there are nods and winks to many 80s movies and the story has shades of Assault on Precinct 13, Demons, Evil Dead and From Beyond. The story comfortably bounces from possession to siege to comedy to cosmic horror all whilst being very self-referential, but as there are a lot of elements meshed together, How to Kill Monsters would have benefited from fewer narrative twists and turns, especially towards the end, and there is a sense that it tries to outdo itself a little too much and a be a little too smart of its own good.
The make up and visual FX are ambitious for a low budget offering which was partially crowd-sourced, but they are all so over the top and full of character that it fits the overall tone rather well, and they certainly didn’t aim low when it comes to gore. There are decapitations, melted faces, chainsaw carnage and someone even gets split in two. Director Stewart Sparke accentuates the positives by not showing too much of the creatures, instead he shows what they are capable of. You may also be distracted by the fact that one of the monsters looks like the final incarnation of The Thing from John Carpenter’s 1982 classic.
The rag-tag bunch of characters are likable, the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and it is the epitome of fun. More importantly, Stewart Sparke has done something that is very difficult to do – make an outlandish comedic horror movie that audiences will laugh with, not at. And there are plenty of laughs to be had. Anyone interested in viewing How to Kill Monsters should take some of Jamie’s initial advice – enjoy How to Kill Monsters with pizza and a glass of wine.
Movie Score: 3.5/5