The CineManiac’s 31 Days of Horror – Day 16: Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer

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“Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is old-school fun.”

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer

Director: Jon Knautz

Writers: Jon Knautz, John Ainslie

Starring: Trevor Matthews, Robert Englund, David Fox

2007

Canada | R | 85 mins

They are big, ugly, grotesque, slobbering, and sometimes found under your bed. They guard treasures, they eat children, they live in caves or in forests. They are monsters. Not only existing in our nightmares or on home video, monsters can be traced back through legends and myths throughout the ages in every

culture. Everyone has looked under their bed or in their closet, and we’ve all been afraid of them at one point or another. But more importantly, monsters in the past in cinema were physical things – people in suits, costumes, make-up, actually giving life to the character. With the advent of CGI, while they can do things we could never have dreamt of physically, these computer-generated monsters lack an actual presence. They lose the fear from our emotional attachment to the characters on screen because we can spot that and subconsciously we know it’s not actually there – it’s not real. But back in the day when the craft of monster making was practiced, even a guy in a crappy rubber suit, take Slithis for example, somehow becomes a fearful reality on screen. And this is what Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer promises us – big, scary, slimy monsters actually created and performed by an actor in a suit. The good ol’ days are back!

Jack Brooks (Trevor Matthews), a plumber by day, has got anger problems stemming back to his childhood. He constantly flips out at the littlest things and is desperately trying to find a solution. Relaxation doesn’t work. Therapy doesn’t work. His girlfriend has enrolled him in a night science class to help keep his mind off things, but it too is not doing the trick. After helping his professor, Gordon Crowley (Robert Englund), with some home plumbing problems something evil is let loose and possesses the quirky professor. Now the night class is more than just about grades, but about survival, and Jack Brooks must man up and face his own personal monsters… as well as some new ones!

Absolutely no CGI was used during any of the effects in Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. Everything is a physical thing on screen interacting with the actors – a man in a rubber suit, a puppeteered tentacle, buckets of slime and fake blood. It’s an achievement in todays independent horror scene where shoddy CGI runs rampant and a worthy homage and love letter to the monster makers of yesterday. The effects are impressive, considering the budget, and will hopefully inspire more filmmakers to go the practical route when it’s possible because it just looks better and adds to the believability they all are trying to achieve anyway. Trevor Matthews is great as Jack, the anti-hero turned monster slayer. Robert Englund is quite comical and slapstick, especially mid-transformation, as the science professor with a now demon heart and it’s great to see him outside his usually typecast villain characters. But attention really has to be paid to David Fox who has a small, but absolutely hysterical and memorable role, as Howard, the old hardware store employee with an important story for Jack. Fox’s performance as Howard is probably the greatest senile old man character ever put to celluloid, hands down, and other then the practical monster effects is a highlight of the film.

But more then just a full blown monster movie, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is well-written, entertaining, and knows who it’s audience is. Really its only problem is the story itself is fairly short, but that does’t really hurt it as it’s not bogged down by unnecessary subplots. Jon Knautz and John Ainslie have created a fun and extremely fast paced monster movie with laughs and scares. In a day and age where practicality gets left behind it’s refreshing to see that talent shine on screen once again. Films like these don’t work with CGI, they’d be relegated to the bargain bin at a dollar store if they did. You wouldn’t even want to fathom what The Evil Dead would have looked like if it was all modern CGI, would you? Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is old-school fun when horror cinema is relying too much on technology to scare us when all they need to do is place a monster back under our beds or in our closets.

copyright 2010 Tyler Baptist

originally printed at http://reeltoreelradio.blogspot.com

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