Perhaps if I had stumbled over this film as a rental first instead of buying it outright sight unseen, brand new at Best Buy I might feel more kindly disposed towards it. "WTF?" you are no doubt saying at this point. "You've given it 4 stars and you're saying that you don't like the film?" Well yeah, kinda sorta. I made the mistake of buying it on impulse based on the rave reviews on the cover, the blurb on the back, and some cover art that made it look like the greatest thing since RE-ANIMATOR, EVIL DEAD 2, and ARMY OF DARKNESS. And I can't afford to throw my money away like that, but I took the chance anyway. Needless to say the film didn't deliver what I had been expecting/hoping for, which was something along the lines of a story built around a character like the one John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin from CHEERS) played in HOUSE 2. You know, the electrician who is also an "adventurer" on the side? He takes one look inside the walls of the house and drawls matter of factly, "Yeah, it looks like you have some sort of alternate universe in there." Of course I know better than to go into any film with preconceived notions like that, but in this case my mind just ran away with me and I couldn't help it.
The film stars Robert Englund in one of his best performances in ages as a night school science teacher, Professor Crowley, who has in his class our title character Jack Brooks. Now Jack (played by Trevor Mathews who also co-wrote the story on which the screenplay is based) is just loaded with History. It seems at a very tender age he witnessed his whole family's slaughter at the claws and fangs of some sort of man/monster while they were out camping in the woods. The only thing that saved little Jack's life was the fact that he ran. Running wound up taking control of the rest of his life. He ran from all of the important things in life only to have his pent up rage at his own perceived cowardice erupt at unexpected moments. Anyhoo, one night after class the kindly professor asks Jack (a plumber by trade) if he could possibly stop by his house and help him with a problem he's having with his pipes. (Get your minds out of the gutter, that's not the kind of pipes I meant.) Jack's got nothing better to do, so that very night he checks it out. It seems simple enough at first, but isn't that the way it is with every plumbing problem? Before you know it all matter of disgusting matter is hitting the fan and Jack has to order a new gasket and come back in a couple of days. But by then it will be too late! For no sooner has he left than than a noxious ooze seeps from the ground and its fumes start turn the sweet ol' professor into a meat craving monster!
This flick has an awful lot going for it. For one thing there is (as far as I can tell) absolutely no CGI anywhere! Everything is done the good old fashioned way--with prosthetics, puppets, and men in monster suits. Professor Crowley literally erupts into a tentacled creature from hell that sucks the life out its victims and turns them into flesh eating beasts themselves. MONSTER SLAYER is, as it claims to be, a tribute to some of the best flicks from the 1980s, but yet it just doesn't do it for me. The humor it claims to have simply isn't there for one thing, and for me that is a very, very big point indeed. The 1980s was the Golden Age of horror comedy and a large part of the appeal of those flix WAS the humor, whether it was the droll wit of RE-ANIMATOR or the "splat-shtick" approach of Sam Raimi in EVIL DEAD 2. And what's worse JACK BROOKS is a very bland hero! I think the role practically screams for someone who can portray an ordinary everyday man and then rip away all that blandness and channel the comic book spirit of Bruce Campbell when the situation calls for it!
I don't know, I just don't know. Perhaps when I watch this film again in a few months all the wonderful parts, the old school effects and so forth, will triumph over my disappointment. That's why I've given it 4 stars instead of 3. Perhaps they intend to make a series out of this character. That has some great possibilities. Oh no! Don't start thinking about what COULD be again, it will only lead to disappointment.