If I had to make a list of extraordinarily influential horror films of the last forty years, titles like "Friday the 13th," "Night of the Living Dead," "Halloween," and Tobe Hooper's seminal screamfest "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" would stand at the top. These three films have, and continue to have, a massive influence on filmmakers. In fact, I'm willing to bet that most beginners hoping to break into the world of horror movie making lens a variation of one of these four films as their first feature. Oftentimes, such efforts lead to disaster. The market can only withstand so many cheap 'n cheesy flicks before collapsing under the sheer weight of banality. But once in a while a diamond in the rough appears, a magical effort that manages to take a tired formula and infuse it with something approaching brilliance or, if not brilliance, at least a modicum of originality. Enter the low budget gorefest "Monster Man," a ripoff of Hooper's masterpiece if there ever was one. Sure, it's derivative, but it's also a fabulously fun film for horror fans everywhere. I compliment Michael Davis for crafting this extremely sick piece of celluloid.
"Monster Man" introduces us to two losers by the name of Adam (Eric Jungmann) and his abrasive buddy Harley (Justin Urich) tooling down the highway in a car. The purpose of this road trip revolves around Adam's hope that he can intercede in the coming nuptials of a long sought after love. Harley apparently came along for the ride in order to torture his pal with a running string of bad jokes, childish insults, and general pronouncements berating his pal for pursuing a woman who has never had an interest in Adam. This back and forth banter runs on and on for what feels like forever, which left this viewer with a decidedly negative impression of the film. I need not have worried, however, as "Monster Man" soon kicks into high gear with the introduction of two interesting elements. One, some cretin in a monster truck that makes the semi from "Duel" look like a moped arrives on the scene to torment our unfortunate travelers. Predictably, Harley manages to anger this road rager in the waiting--witness what he does to the truck at the gas station--which leads to several frightening encounters on the highway. Two, Harley and Adam pick up a gorgeous hitchhiker named Sarah (Aimee Brooks), whose voluptuous presence and seeming interest in the lovelorn Adam lead to several humorous situations.
From this point, when Sarah and the frightening truck enter the picture, "Monster Man" turns into a nail biting turn towards gruesome horror. Our boys start running into a number of local citizens, most of whom are missing either arms or legs or both. Hmmm. The truck reemerges from time to time, becoming more threatening with each appearance. Well, one thing leads to another, and it isn't too long before Harley and Adam are in the fight of their lives with a close-knit clan that looks like a cross between the wackos from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and the loopy denizens from the television show "The Munsters." When we finally get to meet Mister Monster Man (Michael Bailey Smith), the driver of the aforementioned truck, it's no wonder that Adam and Harley express more than a wee bit of fear. Then there's the atrocity that goes by the name Brother Fred (Joe Goodrich), a mouthy lad sporting an injury that no insurance provider in the world would touch with a ten-foot pole. The third member of this lunatic family, a person with the habit of impersonating Yoda at the most inappropriate times, will remain anonymous here to avoid spoiling the movie. It's quite a trio Adam and his pal must overcome if they are to survive. You'll need to watch the movie if you want to see whether or not they make it through this nightmare.
"Monster Man" is a representative of that ultra-rare specimen in the horror film zoo: the gore/comedy picture. Few films attempt to bridge the gap between giggles and grue, and even fewer make the leap. Director Davis goes for both types of yucks here, and he largely succeeds in pulling it off. Witness Adam's experience with "Yoda," or Harley's penchant for the most outrageous lines, or--heaven help us--the most unfortunate union between a tongue and road kill ever captured on film as proof of this assertion. Repeatedly, Davis coaxes guffaws out of his audience even as he soaks the screen down with sauce. Trucks pound limbs into taffy, eyeballs dangle out of sockets, vehicles mulch bodies, sharp objects slice and dice, and a throat or two cracks a wickedly red grin in this truly disgusting movie. Oh yeah! If you love the red stuff, "Monster Man" is your cup of tea. Heck, if you love movies that look like a million bucks, you'll want to give this one a spin. "Monster Man" looks stylish in a way that belies its miniscule budget, and the pacing really picks up after the first twenty minutes or so. Nearly every element of the movie clicks in just the right way, to the point that the viewer really won't mind that they are watching a "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" ripoff.
Extras abound on the DVD. Trailers for "Ju-On," "Death Watch," "Open Water," "Stage Beauty" are here to convince you to spend more money on horror DVDs. Supplements specific to the film include a gory animated trailer; a full film commentary with Davis, Jungmann, and Urich; a gag reel; and a nifty behind the scenes feature that shows us Michael Davis is a way over the top personality. Fun. I'm hearing a lot of noise about two "Monster Man" sequels, both directed by Davis, which might find space in our DVD players in the future. I'm looking forward to seeing more from this director. I'm also expecting more gore and more laughs.