Welcome to Cooking Cinema with Captain Midnight. Today we’re making something special. You know how sometimes a great gourmet meal just isn’t what you want? Sometimes you get desperate for a really basic meal like pizza, macaroni and cheese, or peanut butter and jelly. You know? There are times when you just want comfort food. I personally like fish tacos. Hey! No snickering back there! What is this? Junior High?
Well, the movie I’m going to talk about now is like comfort food. Or should I say, a comfort film? It’s a real monster of a casserole. Here is what you need: a plumber with anger management issues, monsters, a creepy old house, a local legend, more monsters, a campy sensibility and Robert Englund. Mix thoroughly. Bake until done. Presto! It’s Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. Serve with popcorn and your favorite beverage!
It’s often been said that one should never judge a book by its cover. I suppose that could apply to movies too. Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer has a cover depicting a guy, who looks like a totally ripped refugee from the Redneck Comedy Tour, covered with snakes and wielding a pipe wrench as if it were a sword Meh.
So, one night I’m in the mood to watch something cheap, awful and maybe a little bit funny. I decide that Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is just about the sort of low budget crudfest I was craving. It became apparent before the credits even rolled that I was wrong. This movie is really fun.
The story is simple. Jack Brooks (Trevor Matthews) is just a regular guy just trying to get along, but he has a problem. He’s prone to explosive fits of rage. You see, he had a very strange and very traumatic experience as a kid, which he has suppressed to the point where it provides the fuel for his outbursts. He’s trying therapy. He’s trying to hold the relationship with his girlfriend, Eve (Rachel Skarsten) together. He’s even taking a night class . . . well, because Eve is taking it and wanted Jack to take the class with her. It’s not working out. Jack needs a change, a transforming experience. It’s coming.
After class, the instructor, Professor Gordon Crowley (Robert Englund) asks Jack if he would mind having a look at the pipes in his house. Crowley explains that the pipes are making a lot of noise and driving him crazy. Jack agrees to drive out to Crowley’s place, which is a large creepy old house outside of town, later that evening.
Later, Jack arrives and Crowley shows him around. Crowley is fixing the place up and explains that he purchased the place cheap on account of the murder that took place years ago. Apparently, there is some sort of murder discount in the real estate business that I didn’t know about. Anyway, Crowley shows Jack to the basement where Jack gets to work unblocking rust the main water line. While trying to get the plumbing fixed, something goes wrong. The water pressure goes overboard and breaks a valve seal on the pump. Jack leaves, saying that he’ll have to get a replacement part. At the hardware store, the Old Codger (David Fox) at the plumbing counter recognizes the ancient valve seal and asks Jack where he got it. Jack tells him. The Old Codger then relates a chilling tale involving the house and a cursed item. Crowley stumbles onto the item and inadvertently unleashes the evil. Monster mayhem ensues.
And, yes, there are monsters, quite a variety of monsters. These are trolls, a cyclops, a mutant blob, and a bevy of mutated possessed – things – similar to the deadites from the Evil Dead movies. Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer certainly invites comparison with Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies. Though Jack Brooks turns from a regular guy into a monster killing toughie, he is not a carbon copy of Bruce Campbell’s character Ash. Jack isn’t an egomaniacal blowhard like Ash. Jack is a regular guy, anger issues aside, who is trying very hard to be patient with douchebag classmates, nagging girl friends, and a host of other oddball characters.
Another thing that Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer shares with the Evil Dead movies– top notch practical effects. While nowhere near as shocking and bloody as Raimi’s films, the effects in Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer are every bit as fun to watch. The monsters are a mix of: suits, appliances, make-up and animatronics. There is no CGI. The blood is real honest to good fake blood. When Jack faces off against a monster, it’s not Trevor Matthews doing a “Star Wars Kid” in front of a green screen, but acting with another actor or a special effects engineer in a real location. It’s wonderful.
The cast totally nails it. Trevor Mathews does both the Monster Slayer and the comedy with skill. His postscript to the rant about how he hurt his hand while punching his toaster is total gold. He takes on monster combat with Ash-like verve. Robert Englund, once he gets rolling, is a pleasure to watch. Rachel Skarsten, as Eve, delivers some very campy dialogue with conviction. Her sincerity really brings out the character. And, last but not least, we have the town’s resident douchebag, John, played to a tee by James A. Woods. Every time he was on the screen I wanted to punch him, maybe even more than Jack did. Well done!
Being a horror comedy, there is a fair amount of campy humor to it, but like the great horror-comedies of the 1980′s such as Evil Dead II or ReAnimator, there are some moments that are actually scary. I’m not going to talk about them specifically, becasue that would be rather spoilery. There are also moments that mix both comedy and horror elements together, such as the confrontation with the ravenous mutant blob monster.
As you can tell from the review, I really enjoyed Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. I’m really looking forward to the sequel.
James A. Woods