Thursday, June 11, 2009


JACK BROOKS – MONSTER SLAYER (2007). Starring Robert Englund. Trevor Matthews. Directed by Jon Knautz.

A film that wears its influences on its sleeve, Jack Brooks – Monster Slayer is a rather unashamed piece of exploitation film making that aspires to the same cult status as, say, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead or Peter Jackson’s Brain Dead.

And fine aspirations they are, too, best revealed in the welter of gore, unstoppable undead and heroic doings that form the climax of the film.

Jack Brooks (Trevor Matthews) is a plumber who suffers from anger management problems, linked to a childhood trauma when he saw his entire family slaughtered by monsters. Added to this is a pushy girlfriend, a night class he hates and a general inability to get on with people.

When Jack’s professor, Gordon Crowley, (Robert Englund, in fine form) needs Jack’s help to fix a busted water pump it sets in motion a chain of events that culminate in Englund being possessed by a very nasty, very hungry (and none too hygienic) demonic force.

As Professor Englund falls further and further under the spell of the demon – eating raw meat, buckets of fried chicken and finally his own dog – Jack uncovers a sinister secret linked to the Professor and the mysterious goings on.

Things come to a messy and bloody head when Professor Englund morphs into a rather endearingly disgusting demon with slimy tentacles, a taste for human flesh and the propensity for creating zombies out of his pupils, unleashing said zombies into the schools corridors in search of… well, whatever such creatures search for.

Only one man can stop them, only one man can grasp the mantle of destiny and become Jack Brooks – Monster Slayer.

Although it’s not really the cult classic that either the promotional material or its makers would have you believe, Jack Brooks – Monster Slayer isn’t without its charms. There’s a goofy, old-fashioned approach to make up and monsters – no CGI here – with men in monster suits, loads of bloody, puss filled makeup and, most wonderful of all, the huge and monstrous puppet that Robert Englund transforms into near the end. Trevor Matthews strikes the right note as Jack, a man who carries his rage as openly as the film carries its influences, and the supporting cast (particularly an hilarious old-man turn from David Fox as the sage and slightly dolally Howard) acquit themselves rather well bringing just the right amount of cinematic life to fairly stereotypical characters.

At a tight eighty odd minutes, the film doesn’t outstay its welcome, but tends to be a little uninvolving for the first hour or so. The pace is livened up by Robert Englund’s scenes which are often disgustingly funny, but there is a sense that the film itself is marking time until the mayhem can properly start.

Of course the relatively short running time means that by the time you find yourself saying ‘right, I get the point, now get on with it’, the film has begun to get on with it.

And as bloodsoaked plumber vs zombies and big monster climaxes go, this is one of the best.

It’s here that the obvious references to both The Evil Dead and Brain Dead shine through. Jack takes on the mantle previously worn so proudly by Bruce Campbell’s Ash as the everyday Joe who suddenly finds himself battling unimaginable evil. Okay, so Jack is no Ash and Trevor Matthews is no Bruce Campbell, but there’s some nice mayhem on display here and if the outcome is never in doubt then at least it’s a fun ride.

An unashamed beer ‘n’ popcorn movie, best enjoyed with beer, popcorn and an open mind.

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